Never give up your determination in life – Susanthika Jayasinghe | Sunday Observer

Never give up your determination in life – Susanthika Jayasinghe

17 October, 2021

Susanthika Jayasinghe is the best sports woman that Sri Lanka has ever produced. A couple of days ago, the Sports Ministry decided to obtain her services for the country’s sport by appointing her as a sports promotion ambassador. The Youth Observer met her recently to discuss her achievements.

“I am happy to provide my services to sports,” Susanthika said, adding, “I like to share my experience with them.”

Twenty-one years after Susanthika won a Silver Medal at the Sydney Olympics, the Sports Ministry has appointed her as a sports ambassador to encourage youth to take a keen interest in sports.

In this interview she speaks about her beginning in sports and how she developed her sports career.

“I did not have that much of an interest in sports when I was young. However, I could run fast and at school inter-house sports meets I used to win easily and the teachers admired my talent.

“Unlike today when most youths say they hope to represent the country at the Olympics, in my childhood I did not have such ideas. I was never concerned about international meets. When participating in competitions I ran as best as I could without proper techniques or training schedules,” she said.

She participated in zone, district and provincial meets in her school days without even a pair of shoes.

“I always tried to give my best performance,” said Susanthika.

Clear vision

She said that one must have a clear vision to achieve one’s goal in any field. Without a clear mind one cannot achieve any goal in life.

“I was born in a village 60 kilometres off Warakapola town. My parents did not have proper jobs. What they earned was barely enough for our expenses. On some days we did not have enough food. Although we had only a few books, we attended school daily.

“After school we had plenty of time to play. We used to run about, climb trees and eat various types of fruits such as mangoes and guava.

“On some days mother did not cook as we had no money. However, we used to fill our stomachs by eating fruits. In the evenings we used to have a bath and start playing again,” she said.

Her early childhood life helped her to face challenges in later life.

“I began to think of a sports career only after I started winning many events at school level.” That was the turning point in her life.

Then she won the school level all-island meet and entered the national athletics field.

“When I first came to the Sugathadasa stadium I had no idea about it. However, I was not nervous on the tracks and ran normally and for my luck I won every race that I ran. Then I decided to hear my inner voice. Then I put my full strength into sports,” she said.

Then she found success in the city based athletics world. She trained under national athletics coach Dervin Perera.

“Dervin sir is one of the good coaches I met in my life. I learnt a lot under him. I reached national level in sprint events. The 100- and 200-meters races were my pet events. Then I won a medal in the South Asian Games in Sri Lanka in 1991. That was also a turning point in my life and everyone turned their eyes on me,” said Susanthika.

Household name

After she won several international events in several countries, she became a household name. Then, Susanthika started to dream of taking part in the Olympics.

“The South Asian Games did not kindle that ambition in my mind. However, after participating in Asian level meets I targeted the Olympics.

“I won several international meets. In 1994 I won a Silver medal in the Asian Games and three years later I achieved a world level medal in Athens. It built up my morale,” she said.

Then she had to face more trouble in her personal life.

“I faced a lot of problems. As I was from a rural area I was able to overcome them. I then went to America to overcome these problems. There I met an athletics coach Tony Campbell. He taught me several tactics to develop my skills and how to focus at the start of the event.

“He said that the 200m event is most suitable for me. He told me that there was a slight delay in my start compared to top level athletes and asked me to improve it. From then on I concentrated on the 200m.

Sydney Olympics

“I participated in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I won the 200m heats after a stiff competition and was selected to the quarter finals and then the semi-finals. At that time I did not speak with the others, not even members of our athletic team. I felt I was being harassed.

“I practised hard silently. Before the final I always chanted ‘Pirith’. I was so nervous that I could not even eat properly. I was in a daze. I knew that everyone expected me to perform well.

“I kept listening to music to relax. I entered the stadium in Sydney proudly as the first Sri Lankan woman athlete to take part in a final at the Olympics. I was determined to stand on the medal podium.

“When I was on the track I only saw the track and the finish line. I never thought about the competition. I had a good rhythm, and was determined to win a medal, Susanthika outlined how her mind worked at that time.

“Before the start of the race my heart was beating very loudly. Others could hear the lob-dob noise in my chest. However, I had no fear about this race.

“I never thought of Marion Jones or any other competitor. I had only to think about the start clearly and finish the race as best as I could.

“After the starter’s call, I released the block at the best I could. For the first hundred metres I was leading at the curve of the track. Then we reached the final 100 metres. I was in the first bunch. I was sure I came here to win this race.

“This was my final prospect in my athletic life. I put my full strength to my legs and ran as fast I could. I finished third in the race. But, then it was revealed that Marion Jones had been disqualified after it was proved that she had taken performance enhancing drugs in her career.

“The International Olympic Committee decided I was the silver medal winner. That was how I won with determination. I never gave up my ambition even with several challenges and problems I had faced during my young days. I tell youngsters to try harder and never lose sight of their ambition,” Susanthika said.