As the clock tick tocks for the Rio Paralympics to be held in the month of September 2016, ThePapare.com spoke to Sri Lanka`s finest trump card to be drawn at the big event: Pradeep Sanjaya, won the bronze medal of the T46 class 400m event held in the London, 2012.
Pradeep, taking a walk down memory lane enlightened us about his experience in the 2012 edition of Paralympics; “I was in good form and when I left the country I was sure about bringing back a medal to the motherland”.
He crossed the white line in the first heat of his event clocking 49.28sec and he was placed second. With adrenaline pumping in his veins, his confidence skyrocketed with the ambition to book a medal in the final of the event.
“As I finished the heat in the second place I was sure about the medal. I gave my best and finished the final event with the same timing (49.28sec) and won the bronze medal”, thus Sanjaya created history becoming the first para-athlete to win a medal for the nation.
Born in Mirigama a town in the Gampaha district Pradeep Sanjaya was injured when the LTTE fired a rocket propelled grenade targeting his reconnaissance team in Kilinochchi in the year 2008. Lady luck was not on his side but his willpower excelled far beyond the realms of luck.
“I was treated in the national hospital for four months and then for more treatment I was transferred to the army hospital. I got better and then I was discharged. I had to go for regular checkups and rehabilitation after which I was attached to the regimental headquarters”.
As the days passed by he witnessed his fellow comrades who were also injured participating in sports. With the invitation of his superiors, a career that won a million hearts blossomed.
“It was my training with the army prior to my injury which gave me the courage and the sheer determination to come this way along this path”.
He first participated in the inter-regiment meet and from their onwards went on to dominate the international stage. He won a gold medal in the edition of Asian Games held in China clocking 51.28sec.
Sanjaya just kept on climbing the ladder of success as he improved his performance in the next meet he participated. “I won my second gold medal in T 46 class 400m in the meet held in Malaysia as I finished the race in 50.56sec”.
After winning the bronze medal in the London edition of Paralympics, he repeated his performance in the World Athletic Championship held in Doha, Qatar. He won the bronze medal for the 400m event and the silver medal in the 800m in the Asian Games held in Korea.
With tons of experience, he is one of the island nation’s most promising athletes going to the Rio edition of the Paralympics to be held during the latter part of the year. As we questioned Sanjaya about it, he said,
“Well me and my coach are practicing hard for the upcoming Paralympics. I already have experience after participating for the earlier edition of the games. I did win the bronze medals in previous two international meets I participated as well and with that confidence in me I am sure I can move up the ranks and not win a bronze but win a gold medal this time”.
Even with sheer determination, commitment and courage, with his injuries, life is not the easiest for Pradeep in comparison to any other athlete. It was evident that his path to success was not a bed of roses. We asked him about the difficulties he had to face. He laughed.
“I had the courage and determination to survive through a terrorist attack and build my life up from nothing to normal once again. In comparison to that (He laughed again). I consider myself lucky to have been part of the war which brought peace to the entire nation and at the same point to be part of the sporting fraternity to bring back glory to the motherland”.
He is a son to his mother, a father to his son and a husband to his wife; on top of it all, he is a heroic soul who helped win a war and garlanded the island nation with a Paralympic medal; the first of its kind.
We wish you the very best at Rio 2016.