Sri Lanka Athletics is set to conduct its 98th National Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium from Saturday, as it looks forward to provide the competition-starved national athletes an opportunity to weigh in their strengths after being in the sideline for more than a year due to Covid 19 pandemic. In two years Sri Lanka Athletics will celebrate the centenary year. Today we review a National Championship which was held 75 years ago.
Sri Lanka Athletics which was then called the Amateur Athletics Association conducted the National Championships of 1945 over two days on October 14 and 15 at the Police Ground, Bambalapitiya.
According to Sri Lanka Athletics records, men competed in 15 events while the women’s competition had only four disciplines. Apart from the senior events there had been an invitational school boy event of 440 yards won by G.A. Van Twest of St. Sylvester’s College (56.3secs.)
At a time when distances of track events were measured in yards and miles and performances of field events in feet and inches, a feat of 10.1 seconds in the 100 yards had been adjudged the Best Performance of the meet. Sri Lanka Athletics statistics record 2/Lt. B.C. Henricus of Navy as the winner of the 100 yards.
The event witnessed G.D. Peiris, who would later become a member of the country’s first ever team to an Olympics in 1948, winning both the long jump and the triple jump. The athlete represented Y.M.C.A. and cleared 22 feet for his long jump victory. His performance for the triple jump title is registered as 45 feet and 9 ¾ inches. Peiris who competed unsuccessfully at the 1948 London Olympics long jump improved the National triple jump record thrice (1940, 1942, 1948).
A.C. Dep who later became a vice president of the athletics governing body was the winner of both the 120 yards hurdles (16.8 secs) and the pole vault. It was a time when jumpers would land on sawdust or coir dust pits after clearing. Dep who cleared 11 feet 2 ½ inches to win the pole vault at the 1945 edition held the national record for 26 years from 1936 to 1962. His national record was 12 feet and 7.5 inches.
He was not the only athlete from this competition to have become an athletics official. Upali S Gooneratne who also later became a vice president was placed second in the 100 yards. Gooneratne was a national record holder in the 100 yards. He established the record (10.1 secs) in 1938.
Another athlete of note was Chandra Senanayake who won the Discus throw for Police Sports Club with a feat of 112 feet and three inches. He was placed second in the shot put. Senanayake held the national discus throw record for 28 years, improving it ten times from 100 feet to 130 feet.
H.M.P. Perera who later became a medical doctor was probably the most prominent athlete of all. Perera representing Nemeans Sports Club won both the 220 yards (23.6 secs) and the 440 yards (51.4 secs). Perera held the national record of the 440 yards for 23 years from 1939 and produced Asia’s fastest time of the distance 49.5 seconds at an Indo-Lanka dual in 1946. At the same meet which was held in Bangalore, Duncan White ran an Asian record time of 54.9 seconds to win the hurdles.
The quarter mile specialist Perera was unbeaten at National Championships. His name appears as the winner of nationals in 1938, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45 and 50.
The event was also notable for G.D.H. Karunaratne as he clinched his third consecutive 880 yards title.
The women’s competition was dominated by Shirly Thomas and Olga Walker who won two events each. Shirly Thomas, a national record holder in both the 100 yards and the 200 yards won the sprints, while Walker won the two field events. Thomas’ records in the two sprint events were 12.2 seconds and 28.4 seconds. (Statistics for this story were provided by Sri Lanka Athletics statistician Saman Kumara Gunawardena)
Results of the 1945 National Athletics Championship
100 yards: 1. B.C. Henricus (Navy) 10.1secs., 2. Upali S Gooneratne (Prisons Sports Club), 3. W.T. Saunders (Jaffna College)
1. H.M.P. Perera (Nemeans Sports Club) 23.6secs., 2. W.T. Saunders (Jaffna College), 3. F.H. Brohier (Ace Athletic Club)
1. H.M.P. Perera (Nemeans Sports Club) 51.4secs., 2. J. Xavier (Navy), 3. P. Raymond (Army)
1. G.D.H. Karunaratne (Johnians Sports Club) 2:08.0secs., 2. J.S.L. White (Government Services SC), 3. K.W. Piyasiri (Vidyartha College)
1. J.W.S.T. Gunasekara (Army) 4:50.4 secs., 2. L.A. De Soysa (Ace Athletic Club), 3. M.B. Rathnayake (Prisons Sports Club)
1. L.A. De Soysa (Ace Athletic Club) 16:33.9secs., 2. M.B. Rathnayake (Prisons Sports Club), 3. R. Suithaly (Army)
120 yards Hurdles:
1. A.C. Dep (Police Sports Club) 16.8secs., 2. T.L. Blaze (Nemeans Sports Club), 3 T. Fillil (Police Sports Club)
440 yards Hurdles:
1. A.M. Xavier (Navy) 59.0secs. 2. R.R. Scott (Police Sports Club), 3. T.L. Blaze (Nemeans Sports Club)
1. R.R. Peiris (Ace Athletic Club) 5 ft 10 ¼ ins, 2. E.W. Labrooy (Excise Department), 3. D.J.C. Jayamaha (Excise Department)
1. A.C. Dep (Police SC) 11 ft 2 ½ ins, 2. K. Chelvadurai (Nemeans Sports Club), 3. T.M.T. Gunawardene (Nemeans Sports Club)
1. G.D. Peiris (Y.M.C.A.) 22 ft 0 ins, 2. J.P.K. Fernando (Excise Department), 3. J.V. Wijeratne (Y.M.C.A.)
1. G.D. Peiris (Y.M.C.A.) 45 ft 9 ¾ ins, 2. C.S. Joseph (Old Josehepians SC), 3. J.P.K. Fernando (Excise Department)
1. C.P.O. Atherton (Navy) 38 ft 10 ins, 2. Chandra Senanayake (Police Sports Club), 3. D.S. Thambiyah (Police Sports Club)
1. Chandra Senanayake (Police Sports Club) 112 ft3 ins, 2. L.C. Goonaratne (Ace Athletic Club), 3. C.P.O. Atherton (Navy)
1. B.C. Da Silva (Nemeans Sports Club) 171 ft 1 ins, 2. L.C. Goonaratne (Ace Athletic Club), 3. V.R. Fernando (Silverline SC)
: 1. Shirly Thomas (Unattached) 12.6 secs., 2. Y. Menzies (Navy), 3. Olga Walker (University)
1. Shirly Thomas 28.6secs. , 2. Y. Menzies, 3. Olga Walker
1. Olga Walker 4 ft 2 ins, 2. E.Garrett (W.R.N.S.), 3. Silvia Vanderziel (Unattached)
1. Olga Walker 15 ft 3 ins, 2. Shirly Thomas, 3. M. Nathanielsz (Methodist College)
440 yards (Invitation School Boys):
1. G.A. Van Twest (St. Sylvester’s College) 56.3secs., 2. S. Suntharalingam (Hartley College), 3. Norton Perera (St. Joseph’s)