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‘Jackie’ Van Twest – Champion Coach who made Champs

Posted on 01 June 2013 by admin


Courtesy: DSPC LOGO 2013unstan Fernando – Daily Mirror Sports

It is with a deep sense of sorrow, that I record the passing away of our teacher and coach George Alexander (Jackie) VanTwest on January 2, 2005 after a brief illness.

'Jackie' as he was affectionately known was born on 15th December 1928 and had a brilliant career at St. Sylvester's College, Kandy where he excelled in both studies and sports. He won the 440 yards at the Public Schools' meet held in 1946. At that meet, two of his great friends who also became top sports administrators and coaches, Harry Jayawardena (St. Joseph's) won the high jump and the late Carlton Seneviratne (St. Peter's) was placed third in the long lump.

After passing the Senior Schools Certificate examination with distinction, VanTwest joined St. Peter's College for higher studies. He entered the university of Ceylon and obtained a degree in Bachelor of Arts.

After a short stint as a teacher at St. Anthony's College, Katugastota, he joined the tutorial staff of St. Peter's College, Bambalapitiya in 1954 when Rev. Father Basil A. Weeratunge was the Rector. He taught history, geography and economics to the university entrance students.

VanTwest was also appointed coach of the college athletics team and met with instant success. He produced some top athletes who went on to win public schools and national titles. Some of them were Roger Wright (Throws), Felix Schokman (Pole Vault), S. Nadanasabapathy (Javelin), Ranjit Wijeyesekera (Sprints), Ranjit Weerasena (Discus), Errol de Silva (Discus and Javelin), Desmond Moraes (Sprints), the Gunatilleke Brothers, Andrew and Godfrey (Sprints), W.W. Tambimuttu (Sprints), Kevin Ruberu(Throws) and Didacus de Almeida (Pole Vault and Javelin). Ranjit Weerasena who first won the national discus title as a schoolboy in 1959 successfully defended the title for ten consecutive years. In 1957, a blunder by the referee in the Javelin throw, deprived St. Peter's of winning the coveted tarbat trophy.

In 1966 VanTwest left St. Peter's and proceeded to Nigeria for employment and returned in 1968. After that, he was employed at J. Walter Thompsons, Reckit and Colmans and finally at Glaxo from where he retired and formed his own company, Quest Advertising where he served as the Managing Director.

He was the Assistant Secretary of the Public Schools Athletic Association and was an official of the schools team which toured Australia in 1960. His two friends Harry Jayawardena and the late Carlton Seneviratne and he were founder members of the Ceylonese Track and Field Club and VanTwest was its first treasurer.

His son, Jan, present GM/Director of Tangerine Beach Hotel and Royal Palm Hotel, Kalutara too followed in the footsteps of his illustrious father and was a 400 metres champion at St. Peter's.

Undoubtedly, the late VanTwest was one of the most knowledgeable and greatest coaches the country had, although he gave up coaching after leaving St. Peter's. What I learnt from him, helped me to become a successful athletic coach. In my early days of coaching, I used to get his advice. I was able to produce national champions in every event except Pole Vault and Hurdles as we did not have the equipment at the training grounds, and also international athletes. When I was employed at the Telecommunications Department's Regional office in Badulla, for two years, I was able to produce three national champions in the late Col. G.H. Ariyaratne, M.A. Abeyratne and R. V. Weerasundera. Although Vantwest is no more, he will be remembered by his pupils and friends as a gentleman to the last word.

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