Think of an active involvement in one sport or another for 45 years, ‘active’ not in administration or adjudicating but competing. Consider being a decent cricketer and soccer player and also being among the top competitors in bodybuilding, the javelin and discus events. Jayantha Jayalal is certainly ‘quite something’ in terms of achievement but more so in his passion for sports.
This tall, well-built ‘young man’ who turned 54 in November will be representing Sri Lanka at the 22nd edition of the World Masters’ Athletics Championship in Perth, Australia. He will be competing in the Over 50 category in the javelin and discus throw events.
It won’t be the first time representing Sri Lanka. In 2010 he won the Javelin Gold in the Over 45 category at the Asian Masters’ Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In 2014, he competed in the Over 50 category at the Asian Masters’ in Japan but was not placed, but earlier this year in the Singapore edition of the Asian Masters’ he won the Javelin Gold for Sri Lanka in the same category. He had been selected for the World Masters’ 2013 (Brazil) but hadn’t been able to go due to lack of sponsorships.
Jayalal’s long love affair with sports began when he was in school. He played soccer and cricket in various age group categories and as for athletics, he had been happy just taking part in annual sports meet.
After leaving school, Jayalal had found employment in Saudi Arabia as a laborer. There too he played soccer as well as cricket coming back to SL in 1987. The conditions of employment thereafter didn’t allow him to engage in his favorite sports.
This was how, after joining the Colombo Hilton in 1993 he took to body building: ‘It was the only sport after-work for me’. He joined a local Community Centre so he could work out and build his body.
In 1997 the Otters Aquatic Club decided to sponsor him and thereafter he represented in club in various sports including javelin and the discus throw.
From that time, Jayalal recalls with much gratitude, Otters has always stood by him and helped him in various way.
Jayalal puts his heart and soul into whatever he does. He is competitive and wants to win and win he did. He was Mr. Sri Lanka for seven consecutive years (1993-99) in the Middle Weight category. In 1999 he placed 5th at the South Asian body building championship.
He suffered a major setback in 2005 when he broke his right arm at an inter-department soccer match (Colombo Hilton).
Never one to be kept down by the bludgeonings of chance, Jayalal decided to switch disciplines. In 2009 he picked up the javelin again. He had in fact taken part in the SAF trials in 1993 and had been placed 7th. After 2009, he was competing in the masters’ categories.
He’s ready now for Perth. ‘I am ranked 16th in the world and I want to improve on that ranking and bring glory to my country,’ Jayalal says.
He remembers the hard times very well. “I count 45 years in sports. It’s been all about hard work, lots of sacrifices under very trying circumstances. This is the high point. I must tell you that talent, skill and hard work are non-negotiable in sports. But I cannot stress enough the importance of sponsorship, especially for someone like me. I am able to represent my country because people have supported me.
“Hotel Developers Limited provided for the registration fees and accommodation. In fact Otters has always helped and HDL has supported me on each of the six occasions. I represented Sri Lanka in international events held overseas. That was a very kind gesture which I greatly appreciate. Chrishantha Cooray, our Chairman, has been a great source of encouragement and support. He arranged a work schedule that gave me ample time to train.”
Jayalal holds the national masters’ record for the javelin (47.20 m). He had been placed second in the national meet in the discus throw which is a new event for him.
Jayantha Jayalal is grateful. Jayantha Jayalal is ready. Athletics is not the glamour sport it ought to be and masters’ sports do not make headlines. Jayalal knows all this. For him, the passion is fuel enough. He is ready to throw.