The plight of an Olympian

30 August 2016 10:16 pm - 9     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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She doesn’t mind losing the marriage now, but her biggest worry is the lack of recognition as an Olympic and World Championship medallist.   


“It’s over for me,” she says, referring to her marriage. “I have gone through hell to be what I am today. So, looking after my two children is not a big deal but what is hurting me most is the lack of recognition.”   
“If this is how I am treated despite getting the highest award one could, you can imagine the plight of others. It’s so disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. I am not asking for money here, I am saying give me some position where I can share my knowledge and experience and help the next generation of athletes. After all, I am an Olympic medallist,” she said, during an interview with the Daily Mirror at her Narahenpita flat.  


Susanthika Jayasinghe won the 100m silver at the 1997 Athens World Championships before returning to clinch the country’s first Olympic medal in 52 years at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Seven years later, when many had written her off, she defied all odds to win the 100m bronze at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, becoming the country’s most decorated sprinter ever. She also won a silver at the Athletics World Cup in 2002, in addition to a host of other medals at Asian level.   


“It’s no secret how my life panned out during the early years. It was a journey through tough terrain but I reached the pinnacle through sheer dedication and hardwork. When I was on the top of the world, I was looked after, but today, I am reduced to a wastrel. This is why I am sad,” she explained, hugging her two-year-old daughter whom she hopes would one day emulate her.

  
She had tried to secure a permanent position at the Sports Ministry and ran unsuccessfully for political office. But she got a raw deal each time. Critics argue that she had dug her own grave and must take responsibility for her own life. She disagrees.   


“What can I do? I have told successive Ministers of Sports. I have told Presidents of this country. But nothing has happened. Look, we don’t have many athletes, just a handful. Why can’t they do something for these people? Get their services back to the country. Can’t they offer us permanent jobs in the ministry? Don’t Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darsha, Sriyani Kulawansa and Sugath Thilakaratne have anything to offer this country? This is why I tried my hand at politics. Not that I knew anything about politics but to find a way to give something back to the country and to secure a better future for my children. But that didn’t work either,” she said.  


She cries foul against a backdrop of dismal performance at the just-concluded Rio Olympics in Brazil, from where nine athletes and a huge contingent of officials returned empty handed. The team of officials included cronies close to National Olympic Committee and the Sports Ministry and found no place for the country’s only living Olympic medallist or, for that matter, Sugath Thilakaratne -- President of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka. Such is the plight of sportsmen and women in this country.  


“There are over 40 people who have gone to Rio for the Olympics but there was no place for the Athletics President this time. Don’t you think there’s something deeply wrong in this system? Don’t you think the Athletics President deserves to be there for having got the highest number of qualified athletes into the Games? This is the sad truth in this country. There’s an underlying mafia in sport which is ruining our sports. For them, this is a goldmine. As long as this mafia runs the sport, there won’t be any future. Sadly these people are being sponsored by the Sports Ministry,” she stressed.  


It’s not easy for a Sri Lankan to achieve world class feats in sports, barring cricket which has a solid infrastructure, public and corporate support as well as unmatched financial clout.   
This is not to belittle what cricketers have achieved in branding Sri Lanka’s image around the globe. Why, however, is nobody canvassing for a National List seat for Jayasinghe in Parliament?

Why is no one talking about a Deshabandu for the country’s only living Olympian?  

She doesn’t mind losing the marriage now, but her biggest worry is the lack of recognition as an Olympic and World Championship medallist.   

“When the Sri Lanka team was introduced at the opening ceremony, they talk of Susanthika Jayasinghe. It’s because I have won a medal for my country. But today I am treated like a wastrel. Will sports prosper in a system like this? No, it will never,” she added. Susanthika has fought many battles with cynical, self-serving sports administrators heading often corrupt bodies that have consistently ignored athletes’ impecunious circumstances, heroic struggles and battles.   


“When I criticize officials, they say I have a bad mouth. But I know I have spoken the truth. I have exposed these corrupt institutions and the people running them in order to make a better future for us, the athletes. Everyone ignored me and, instead of looking into these issues and rectifying them, they insulted me,” she said.  


Jayasinghe, a single mother of two, has now taken to coaching to pass on her knowledge to the next generation and, more importantly, to eke a living.
 “I tried to do this more professionally through the academy I was trying to set up, but that, too had to be abandoned due to lack of support. This will at least keep me 
going,” she said.  

There are over 40 people who have gone to Rio for the Olympics but there was no place for the Athletics President this time. Don’t you think there’s something deeply wrong in this system? Don’t you think the Athletics President deserves to be there for having got the highest number of qualified athletes into the Games? This is the sad truth in this country. There’s an underlying mafia in sport which is ruining our sport. For them, this is a goldmine. As long as this mafia runs the sport, there won’t be any future. Sadly these people are being sponsored by the Sports Ministry

  Comments - 9

  • dexter Friday, 02 September 2016 11:02 PM

    All...truly SL not place to leave..for any one .....i dont t what got after BRITISH independence what we have get @ end.....

    sathees Saturday, 03 September 2016 06:41 AM

    Our Gov. is busy taking care of ministers on tax payers money. Don't expect any good from which ever party is ruling. Sri Lanka need a miracle to come out of this cycle.

    Sangaralingham Saturday, 03 September 2016 08:55 AM

    Yes athletes work very hard. Some country reward them well. Some countries tax them for all income gathered with sponsorship etc. Some you have done what you wish like all others on e you finish what you done good bye. SriLanka is one of them so all athlete prepare to live and earn after your glory days over.

    tishan Saturday, 03 September 2016 09:42 AM

    Dunken white is not a real Sri Lankan.He realy was a British.So Susanthika is the only Sri Lankan Olimpic medalist.No other Lankan is not to get an Olimpic medal in this millennium.

    fan Wednesday, 31 August 2016 01:54 PM

    lot of things what she say is rightonce a group of effected athletes visited sports minister to ask to correct some misdeeds of a sports body, he requested them to first go to media and make a case and then he will act.what susanthika say is true in most cases

    gdj100 Wednesday, 31 August 2016 02:22 PM

    This is unacceptable by all means. I still believe political stage for her was never her forte, but yes she still can do a world of good if given a proper appointment to train the young athletes which may help them to be more competitive.

    Dayawathie Wednesday, 31 August 2016 04:46 PM

    Susanthika please migrate to Australia. I am sure you will be recognised over here and your children will have a better future.

    Dayawathie Tuesday, 06 September 2016 04:49 PM

    Tishan, don't be a racist

    Ranjith Saturday, 03 September 2016 07:43 PM

    i am agree with your comment


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