Archive | July, 2021




Posted on 24 July 2021 by admin

Published 1 month ago on 2021/06/20


We go back in time over 50 years to remember the feats of an outstanding athlete who dominated track events in national and school athletics. Ranjit Wijeyesekere of St.Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya, by outclassing formidable rivals in the most glamorous events in the sport, 400 metres, 200 metres and 100 metres, developed an aura of invincibility in the 1950’s and 60’s. Unfortunately, he left Sri Lanka for greener pastures at a relatively young age. He was thus lost to athletics prematurely. He is presently domiciled in Ontario, Canada.

They were times when honour and respect for high standards characterized the conduct of those excelling in sports. They competed partly to earn personal milestones, but mainly to bring credit and glory to their schools and the country. Ranjit was one of such ilk. There were countless others in numerous games. They had to sacrifice time spent on studies in order to labour at sports practices; and the only reward they earned for their efforts was recognition. This contrasts sharply with the culture today where sport is a profession, with lucre and lucrative offers baiting performance. Not that today’s stars are to be faulted, but they were fortunate when compared with those of Ranjit’s day who competed only for recognition. But where money mixes with sports, disagreeable influences could also follow, giving rise to a different culture to what it was in those halcyon days. In this context, Ranjit and others in the 50’s and 60’s epitomized pristine values.


Sports aficionadoBob Harvie, commentating at a national meet, described Ranjit’s style of blazing the track as the best he had seen. This was not an exaggeration. Accumulation of places and records in any game has to be admired, but what leaves indelible impressions in the observer is the elegance that accompanies performance. Taking cricket to prov

e the point, David Gower’s poise and silken grace had a telling impact on crowds. We had our own wristy stylists: Stanley Jayasinghe, Michael Tissera, Aravinda de Silva, Madugalle, Tennakoon and Roy Dias. There were many others in diverse games.

The style of Ranjit Wijeyesekere in the most glamorous events of athletics, the 400,200 and 100 metres, was unique and incomparable. Ranjit stood tall, 6 ft. 2 inches and lanky, but was well developed in the shoulders and legs. He had exceptionally long legs. To have seen those long strides with shoulders and legs generating rhythm and speed, was an awesome sight. There was a feline grace about him. He dazzled crowds. His run was a melody in motion. He was the glamour ‘boy’ of athletics in the 1950’s. Ranjit was a synonym for grace and rhythm, a gazelle in full throttle, and a connoisseur’s delight. I could stand testimony, having seen many of his triumphs. These are impressions frozen in time. It was a pity that modern technology was not available at the time to capture his elegance for posterity.

The Public Schools Meet of 1957 at the Colombo Oval and Ranjit’s feats are yet etched in my mind. At that time, at virtually every meet they competed together, JC Fernando of Royal College and Ranjit Wijeyesekere of St Peter’s College had to be at their best to attempt outdo the other. It was amidst such fierce competition that Ranjit Wijeyesekere won the 440 yds and 220 yds events. It was possibly because of the formidable challenge of JC Fernando that Ranjit ran the race of his life to win and break the Public Schools record in the 440 yds event. He was the acme of elegance as well as a superlative achiever. This unique combination made him the darling of crowds. It was therefore not a matter for surprise that Bob Harvie was inspired to pay him the highest accolades. As a person, Ranjit was unspoilt by achievement and reputation, modest, unassuming, friendly, softspoken, honourable, and disciplined. He was a gentle giant. St. Peter’s College had ample reason to have been proud of their superstar.


The triumphs of Wijeyesekere in the 50’s and 60’s were legion. I succeeded in obtaining a few of his achievements from various sources, despite the passage of over 50 years from the time he blazed the track. The following table captures some of his outstanding performances:

Ranjit Wijeyesekere joined Air Ceylon from school and thereafter migrated overseas. Constant travel and irregular working hours would have restricted attention to the sport he so adored. We can only infer how he would have adorned the national stage if he had remained longer in Sri Lanka and pursued a career which did not hinder opportunities to train and compete. Besides, the kind of patronage and material support now enjoyed by sport stars were not benefits at that time. The quest for employment and a secure future were far more wise and pragmatic options then, than achieving mere recognition. Overall, Ranjit’s loss was also the nation’s loss.

It may be apt to name the galaxy of outstanding runners of the 50’s: J.C. Fernando, O.K Hemachandra, Denzil Fernando, C.S. Fernando, Yohan and D.W. Rajaratnam, W.W. Tambimuttu, Ivan Boteju, R.A.F. Perera, Nimal Fernando, Lakshman De Alwis, Senaka Wijenaike, Lorenz Pereira, R.J Reid and Darrel Lieversz. I must surely have overlooked many others, my memory after so long being hazy. St Peter’s College which was captained by Ranjith Wijeyesekere in 1957 alone boasted many stars: W.W. Tambimuttu, Nissanka Dharmatillake, Anton Perera, Errol de Silva, Vandort, Ranjith Weerasena Roger Wright, Neville Salvador, Chesley Jayasinghe and Ranjith Perera. They emerged champions at the Public Schools Meet in 1957.


It is an axiom of life that achievements and reputations in any field or sphere are extremely ephemeral. We remember and admire sportsmen so long as they entertain. We may speak of them with nostalgia for sometime after their retirement, but it is not in our nature to admire them with the same enthusiasm after lapses of time. There is an inconstant or fickle nature in humans. But should we push superstars like Ranjit into total oblivion? Have we not consigned them to the distant limbo of history? They in their prime had, making many sacrifices, toiled to bring fame to the country and their schools. It is arguable that they should later be felicitated, recognized and appreciated for their unique feats and fame, a reminder that we will remember them with gratitude.

It may be appropriate to consider the arrangement of elaborate felicitation ceremonies for at least former national champions as a demonstration of gratitude. The focal point for such arrangement may be the school, for they can manage limited numbers unlike national sports bodies which may have to cater to much larger numbers. But if schools are to evolve a system to plan and hold such functions to felicitate their former national stars on a systematic and regular basis, they should establish archives to store data so that some deserving will not be overlooked. Archives may be necessary for any organization or organized activity. They provide flesh to history and heritage which in turn become fundamental props or prerequisites to enable those in the present to emulate the past and inspire the future. Any organization could exploit it’s heritage as an impetus to improve standards. Archives therefore link the past to the present and the future.

In a mail sent to me last month, Ranjit, referring to his participation at a meet in India, had stated that he represented “BELOVED Sri Lanka”. His intense patriotism yet for a country he left 50 years ago is amply evident in this expression. One can only imagine the patriotic feelings that would have gone through his mind when, 50 to 60 years ago, he constantly mounted the rostrum to receive trophies for his triumphs. I think a conscious effort to show these former national stars in the sunset of their lives that we owe them a deep debt of gratitude through felicitation ceremonies is the least that could be done to demonstrate that we have not forgetten them.





Posted on 24 July 2021 by admin

Passion for Excellence!

By: Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, Josephian-Peterite NEWS NETWORK

St. Peter’s College has produced numerous star athletes since the early 1930s, a few who later emerged as national champions. As ‘St. Joseph’s College South’, the school by the Wellawatta Canal was established in 1922. The school was re-branded and named St. Peter’s College in 1927. The name change was documented on April 8, 1927, vide Gazette Notification No.7575. Ninety-nine years later, we pay homage to Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc, Rector of St. Joseph’s College for his foresight and vision in establishing this great seat of learning. Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera was consequently appointed Rector of St. Peter’s College in 1927, and due to his inspired leadership sports was introduced. Athletics commenced in earnest at St. Peter’s after the expansion of the picturesque College grounds, which was opened on 13th September 1930. Subsequently in 1934, St Peter’s college under the captaincy of Shirley de S. Illesinghe and ably coached by Mr. Herbert Wittahachchi won the Tarbat Trophy and Jefferson cups at the Public Schools Athletic Meet.

This write up is to recognize an extraordinary athlete who had his baptism to track and field at his alma mater – St. Peter’s College in the mid-fifties. Winston W. Tambimuttu stood 6’ 1” in height andwas blessed with a super physique suited for any sport. Tall and lanky, Winston had the necessary attributes to go in any direction of sport – be it basketball, cricket, or athletics. He represented college in Basketball, went for practice as a pace bowler who played 2nd eleven cricket with a possibility of securing a place in the first eleven team. But in hindsight, he picked Athletics and came under the tutelage of one of the best in the coaching business in schools at the time – Jackie Van Twest. It must be said that St. Peter’s College was endowed with a coterie of top-notch athletes when Van Twest took over coaching assisted by Terry Louis, another spirited member of the coaching team. Mr. Van Twest’s tenure as Athletics Coach at St. Peter’s College ranged from 1954-1966.


Affixed herein is the SPC Athletics Team of 1957. This was the golden era of resurgence of Peterite athletics. With due respects to Peterite athletic teams in the last six decades, the 1957 Athletic team was perhaps the best team ever produced by St. Peter’s College in its 99-year history – both Seniors & Juniors. This may be a profound statement, but I confidently stand by it. Kudos to Jackie Van Twest and Terry Louis for making this happen. They turned ordinary athletes into extraordinary ones – with a few tipping the scales to clinch the national crown and/or create Ceylon records. Three athletes in this dynamic team later became ‘National Champs’ in their respective events. Winston Tambimuttu was one – in the 400M Hurdles. The other two were Ranjit Weerasena (Discus) and Ranjit Wijeyesekere (400M). St. Peter’s Juniors were led by versatile sportsman Anton Perera who dominated the ‘throws’ and excelled while the Seniors led by Ranjit Wijeyesekere came close to winning the coveted John Tarbat Trophy. A blunder by the officiating referee in the Javelin throw, deprived St. Peter’s of winning the trophy. The Peterite Relay team in the 4 x 400M was dynamic and comprised of Ranjit Wijeyesekere, Winston Tambimuttu, Nissanka Dharmatileka and Neville Salvador. The 4 x 100M Relay team comprising Ranjit Wijeyesekere, Winston Tambimuttu, David Van Dort and a 4th member competed well at Group/Public Schools Meets.

Winston Tambimuttu trained hard with a passion for excellence under the expert guidance of Jackie Van Twest. He took his height, stature, and long strides into good effect to become a formidable athlete. His events were 400M, 110M Hurdles, Triple Jump, High Jump and the two relays – 4 x 100M & 4x400M. He was a star and well regarded in athletic circles. After an intense career in Athletics, Basketball and bit of cricket, Winston left school in September 1959. Six decades may have lapsed since but the name of W.W. Tambimuttu deserves recognition as history of Peterite Athletics is lost in time. Winston had a brother Stafford Tambimuttu who was also an athlete and member of the SPC Fife & Drum Band. His sister Kerina Tambimuttu continued the family tradition in athletics at Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. Winston’s stepbrother Nihal Gunewardene was a popular sportsman representing college in cricket (1967 – under Tony Opatha), rugger (1966 under Hamzee Hameed and 1967 under Rodney Paternott). Nihal did the triple jump in athletics and qualified for the Group Meet at Police Park. Incidentally, Nihal’s late father Villers Gunewardene is also a Peterite having secured colours in 4 sports – Rugby, Cricket, Athletics and Soccer, which he captained.

A bit of trivia about the 1957 team members.

Nihal Fonseka was a specialist in the Pole Vault – better known as the international tenor with a world-class voice. Errol de Silva won the Public Schools Championships in the Javelin throw. Ranjit Wijeyesekere specialized in the 400M and 200M. Nihal, Errol and Ranjit are retired from their respective jobs and have made Canada their adopted home since the late 60s or early 70s. All three live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Anton Perera was a household name in the late 50s as a cricketer, athlete, and tennis player. He was considered one of the fastest schoolboy bowlers at the time.  Anton lived in San Fernando Valley, Southern California for almost 50 years. Rontjen Perera is also retired and lives in Los Angeles, California. Nissanka Dharmatileka joined the Ceylon Police, not sure where he is today. Winston Tambimuttu migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1973. Sadly, Ranjit Weerasena, Anton Perera, Linus Jayawardena, Desmond Moraes, are no more. May they rest in peace! 

Winston’s sporting career after leaving school

Sixty-three years ago on March 4, 1958, seven track and field visionaries – Carlton Seneviratne, Jackie Van Twest, Harry Jayawardena, Terry Louis, Lazarus Jayasekera, KLF Wijedasa and schoolboy Vijitha Wijeysekara set out to form the “Ceylonese Track and Field Club” a.k.a CT&FC, with a logo of a gazelle in flight.   Athletics is complex and wonderfully varied, but it also embodies passion, hard work and self-improvement. Athletics is education and entertainment, respect for the rules and self-expression. Athletics is also like life itself, with challenges and obstacles, triumphs, and defeats. Many champion athletes have emulated the courage, commitment, and joy inherent in the sport.

Behind every great athlete is a masterful coach that inspires athletes to evolve into the strongest performer they can become. The intensive coaching Winston received from Jackie Van Twest prepared him for bigger and better things later in life. Winston joined the new club soon after he left college. This was the turning point of his athletic career that led him to break the Ceylon record in the 400M hurdles. His level of endurance and easy style in the shorter hurdles prompted Winston to train for the arduous 400M hurdles event under the watchful eye of Jackie Van Twest and Harry Jayawardena. This event was not included at Public Schools level. In 1964, Winston broke the Ceylon Record for the 400M hurdles event. In addition, he was a member of the CT&FC Relay Team that broke the Ceylon record in the 4 x 400M event that included Winston, E.L. (Leslie) Lokubalasuriya, Senaka Wijayanayake and Nimal Fernando. Affixed herein are a few photographs that compliment Winston’s journey in athletics and basketball. Another image shows Winston skimming over the hurdles to create a Ceylon record in the 400M hurdles.

Employment at J.D. McLaren Co. Ltd.

After leaving school, Winston joined J.D. McLaren Co. Ltd., a reputed service provider for many international liner shipping companies frequenting the port of Colombo. He indulged in many sports while at McLarens, but it was Athletics that he shone. Winston took his athletics prowess to another level leading the team to win the All-Ceylon Mercantile Athletic Association Championships in 1967. He created Mercantile and Ceylon records in the 400 meters hurdles. He was a member of the strong McLarens team that became Mercantile Basketball Champions in 1967, in a team that had two players of national fame – Percy Perera and Sam Lovell.

Winston worked at McLarens for 10 years prior to leaving the shores of Ceylon in 1973, to migrate to Melbourne, Australia. He is retired now after working many years as a Senior Executive in the Shipping Industry and lives in Melbourne. Winston enjoys fishing on his boat in retirement. This writer lived at Bambalapitiya Flats during school days and knew Winston, his brothers Stafford and Nihal and only sister Kerina who lived at the Flats – J Block. Winston was my idol along with Ranjit Wijeyesekere at school. It is therefore a pleasure to put pen to paper to relive the journey taken by a simple, unassuming, dynamic athlete like Winston Tambimuttu who had the honour of holding on to two Ceylon records at a given period in the 400M Hurdles and 4 x 400M Relay. Winston has always been a proud Peterite!

Winston’s late father Walter W. Tambimuttu was a record-breaking Ceylon athlete

From father to son, the legacy goes on. Winston Tambimuttu’s story does not end here. It would be remiss if I overlook the outstanding legacy left behind by Winston’s late father, Walter W. Tambimuttu. He was a product of S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia during the time of the great Warden W.A. Stone. Judging by his athletic history given below it is safe to conclude that Walter Tambimuttu would most likely be a contender to be the most outstanding athlete of the 1930s in Ceylon. This honour belonged unreservedly to Ceylon’s Olympian Duncan White in the 1940s.

The achievements of Walter Tambimuttu are listed below:

  1. Member of the Ceylon team at the 1934 Western Asiatic Games in Delhi
  2. 1st in High Jump
  3. 3rd in Pole Vault
  • Member of the Ceylon team at the 1938 Empire Games in Sydney. Other members of the Ceylon team wereH.A. Perera, A.C. Dep, Duncan White, W.A. Henricus and P.C. de Niese. Manager was W.H.D. Perera.

Some of his other Achievements were:

  • At the Nationals, he won the Pole Vault in 1932, 1933, and 1934 with Ceylon Records in 1933 and 1934,
  • At the Nationals, he won the Long Jump with Ceylon Records in 1937 and 1938 and
  • At the Nationals, he won the Triple Jump in 1936 & 1937 with Ceylon Record in 1936

Walter Tambimuttu’s Long Jump record set in July 1938 stood for 18 years (one of the longest records on the books) when P. Don Victor broke the record in June 1956.



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