Yogananda: The true servant of athletics | Sunday Observer

Yogananda: The true servant of athletics

Passing away of a Sri Lankan legend:
Yogananda Wijesundara
Yogananda Wijesundara

Sri Lanka’s athletic fraternity was in mourning this week on hearing the news that veteran coach Yogananda Wijesundara passed away.

Most people knew him as the unassuming but knowledgeable and forthright coach who became a true expert on track and field sports and dedicated himself for nearly 50 years.

He worked as the Sri Lanka coach and later as the Director of the Sports Science Institute and was a very straight forward coach who played his part for the good of the country’s track and field sports.

Yoga was a very popular character among athletes from national to Olympic level and never held back anything while making himself available to them at all times for their progress and welfare. He shaped the careers of many top level athletes and some of them reached Olympic standard.

Yoga started his sports carrier as a volleyball player from Eheliyagoda Central College and soon turned out into a fine athlete with his talents as he was drawn into the Asian athletics pool in 1965 to become the 110 metres national hurdles champion.

After he won the National championships in 1970 he retired from athletics to start a new chapter as a coach and was always grateful to his two elder brothers who give him immense support and encouragement.

In 1972 Yoga had the privilege of following a special training course in Germany that was the stepping stone to his success as a mentor of track and field athletes as he saw through seven Olympic Games.

But in later years Yoga was not able to hide the fact that he was a very disappointed man in retirement, especially if he was asked about the current sports management set-up. This writer can recall his last interview with Yoga when he said that most coaches lacked the proper and basic knowledge to guide athletes.

“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 in the interview.

“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,” he added.

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

His lessons were up to the mark as he kept raising the bar with each passing year which brought new challenges for athletes to keep abreast with international demands.

One of the significant characteristics of Yogananda was that he never hesitated to advice the Sports Minister genuinely on crucial and progressive matters and also found out how some officials were abusing their positions disregarding their responsibilities.

He will make his last journey today and given the last rites at his funeral to be held at Pilimathalawa in the Kandy district.

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