Yoga: Forgotten but remembered | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Yoga: Forgotten but remembered

Yogananda Wijesundara with former athletes Thilaka Jinadasa, Jayamini Illeperuma, Manjula Rajakaruna and Ranjith Subasinghe at his daughter’s residence
Yogananda Wijesundara with former athletes Thilaka Jinadasa, Jayamini Illeperuma, Manjula Rajakaruna and Ranjith Subasinghe at his daughter’s residence

Most people know him as the unassuming, knowledgeable and forthright coach who became a true expert on track and field sports.

Today Yogananda Wijesundera, now 73 and lovingly known as Yoga, is somewhat of a forgotten man as he sits in his humble residence at Makola in Kiribathgoda as the Sunday Observer caught up with him.

His eyesight is not hundred per cent as it used to be but Yoga’s heart still yearns for the sport he loved best, athletics. He was a respected figure in the corridors of Sri Lankan athletics and always worked according to his conscience and did the right thing.

When he served as the Sri Lanka coach and later as the director of the Sports Science Institute, athletics was in a healthy state than it is today.

But Yoga will not hide the fact that he is a very disappointed man in retirement especially if he was asked about the sports management set-up.

“Today most of the coaches are without a proper knowledge and they can do very little. This is a very dangerous sign for the future of athletics,” said Yoga.

“We have to move forward and give thought to the physical fitness of athletes and ensure they are in a good mental state and these are the areas we have to focus on.”

Yoga was a man who never hesitated to reach out to athletes. He was a proven hurdler and never abused his position or status for self gain.

His main grouse is that some of the officials calling the shots today in athletics are what he calls “selfish” and are there more to promote themselves.

“I have to say that most officials get in there for their personal gains and have never truly committed themselves for the sake of athletics and the men and women who take to the sport”, said Yoga.

He also rued the fact that not a single sports minister was able to settle down in the position to do anything constructive as they, in Yoga’s words, “come and go” although they come up with good ideas.

“The problem is that some of them don’t spell out their plans on time which cannot be made practical. Some officials are very selfish and are very keen on foreign tours. Look at the number of sports associations that have to face allegations of financial mismanagement. It seems no one is prepared to tackle the problem,” rued Yoga.

He is also well aware of the National Olympic Committee, Sports Ministry and Education Ministry not able to see eye-to-eye for the good of sport in the country.

“These are very serious problems for Sri Lanka’s sports,” he declared.

Yogananda Wijesundara was never afraid to express his views as he also served as Sports Minister’s advisor even though he was in the post for a short period of time as he found the conduct of some responsible officials extremely appalling.

Ex-athletes Thilaka Jinadasa, the former Olympian hurdler, middle distance champion runner Jayamini Illeperuma and two other hurdlers Manjula Rajakaruna and Ranjith Subasinghe recently paid a courtesy call on Yoga to inquire about his welfare while at the same time showing their gratitude to a person they see as a great and honest man.

Jinadasa was the coach of the Sri Lanka netball team that recently won the Asia Cup and she did not hesitate to visit Yoga who also had a special visitor in the form of Arjuna Ranatunga.