Blind ‘Sri Lankan’ athlete hits a triathlon goldmine | Sunday Observer

Blind ‘Sri Lankan’ athlete hits a triathlon goldmine

Khalid Oshman with his coach Denis Crassier
Khalid Oshman with his coach Denis Crassier

Sri Lanka’s adopted son fights blindness to become the world’s first athlete to conquer three triathlons and two full marathons

Khalid Oshman, a 34 year old adopted Sri Lankan man and an active member of Triathlon Club Colombo took part in India’s first Ironman 70.3 (1.9km Swim, 90km Bike and 21km Run) contest representing the island at Miramar Beach, Goa last October and created world history.

Coached by Denis Crassier (Co-Founder of Triathlon Club Colombo (TCC) and Co-Founder of Endurance Lab), Oshman officially became the first Sri Lankan and only visually impaired athlete to complete three triathlons Ironman 70.3 and two full marathons.

Oshman successfully completed Ironman 70.3 in Goa, guided by his triathlon partner Mithun Liyanage - Co-Founder of Triathlon Club Colombo (TCC) and Co-Founder of Endurance Lab. During their race, the duo of Oshman-Liyanage dealt with two tyre punctures.

Oshman, the blind-triathlete said: “I hope I have made them (Denis and Mithun) proud and continue to do so. Every Ironman I take part in is related to the person I am partnered with. The first Ironman was dedicated to his coach Denis and his colleague and friend Lakmali Kahawatte. This one was dedicated to Mithun. It’s been an uphill climb throughout, but I want to show the world that I (a blind athlete) can compete alongside able bodied athletes and that the world offers opportunities, not just challenges. We just need to be willing to take the plunge.”

The duo were well-received by other triathletes and coaches, including receiving immense media attention in India for their grand feat (including on the cover page of the Times of India, the largest draw in the world.

Mithun Liyanage added: “Khalid has changed our lives. He says we changed his, but in truth he has done more for us than we could have done for him. His story is one that can inspire a nation and it is abundantly apparent as we see how his story and perseverance has changed the lives of so many already. I too am a triathlete (one of the first four Sri Lankan triathletes to take part in Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa, 2018), however, as his acting guide, this may have been the hardest race to date. The discipline, trust and perseverance Khalid has shown in order to compete at this level is no less than outstanding.”

The team of 12 athletes representing Sri Lanka at Ironman 70.3 Goa - aptly named Unity, comprised of Natali de Silva, Puvini Kahandawala, Khalid Oshman, Mithun Liyanage, Denis Crassier, Shifan Thoufeek, Yoosuf Ibrahim, Hussain Shameen, Naveen Goonewardena and the relay team of Dinithi Perera, Hussain Jamal and Shafraz Junaid.

The 113km event (triathlon) consisted of a 1.9km swim along the Arabian Sea, a 90km bike ride passing the city and a 21.1km run along the Miramar beach. The Ironman 70.3 Goa acted as a world championship qualifying race.

Triathlon coach Denis Crassier said: “When I first met Khalid in January 2018, I never expected that he would change my life for the positive, so much. When you get to know his story, you see life from a different perspective. When you learn of all his accomplishments and everything he has had to and will most probably have to overcome, you begin to realise the value in every moment and in determination.”

Oshman who was born in Kuwait and orphaned, was adopted into a middle-income Sri Lankan family at the age of three and continues to reside in Kolonnawa with his foster parents and three siblings. Raised with an agreeable, shy disposition Oshman was working for the Sri Lankan Red Cross as a First Aid Coordinator when he lost his eye-sight due to a medical fault at the age of 26.

The duo will be in Singapore for the Standard Chartered International Marathon on December 1 as well as to Malaysia for Desaru Coast Ironman 70.3 in April 2020.