Vinoj Suranjaya, sprint superstar in the making

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Vinoj Sanjaya

The heroes of the recently concluded South Asian Games returned triumphant to the Island a couple of weeks ago.

The excitement surrounding Sri Lanka’s performances were palpable, none more so than about the achievements of Sri Lanka’s fastest men, Vinoj Suranjaya and Himasha Eashan, who won the 200m and 100m events respectively.

 Suranjaya wins 200m; others settle for Silver & Bronze – #SAG2016 Day 6 

Fresh off his 200m triumph, Suranjaya sat down with ThePapare’s very own Navod Wijewickrama to speak of his journey so far.

“I started school at Balapitiya Revatha Maha Vidyalaya. Actually I started off playing cricket, Chamila De Silva Sir is the one who pushed me towards athletics. From then on for my A Levels I attended Sri Devananda Vidyalaya, Ambalangoda. While I was there I qualified for the national and youth squads, where I was coached by Gurusinghe Sir and Majeed Sir. Under their guidance I qualified for the Junior National Championships. During that time I met Chaminda Sir and he has coached me at the international standard.”

Vinoj Sanjaya
Vinoj Suranjaya just before the start of the event -(National Sports Festival)

Suranjaya’s rise to the top really began just a couple of years ago and once he started hitting his straps, the titles began streaming in. Just last year, he caused a major upset when he clocked a personal best of 10.45 seconds in the 100m and shattered the 17-year-old meet record to turn the tables on Himasha Eashan and become the fastest man at the Athletics Championship 41st National Sports Festival. He also clocked an amazing 21.02 seconds in the 200m, which was also a new meet record, before completing the sprint double. He erased the 100m record of 10.47 sec set by Chinthaka de Soyza back in 1998.

Vinoj Sanjaya
Vinoj in action (Natioal Sports Festival)

“Last year at the National Sports Festival I set new games records in both the 100m and 200m. The records were previously held by Chinthaka de Soysa, who came from the same school as me. I think it was a 15 year old record that I broke so I was very happy.”

Going into the South Asian Games, Suranjaya, who trained together with the South Asia’s Fastest Man, Himasha Eashan under the same coach Chaminda Perera, was already a pre-meet favourite for the 200m going into the games after his amazing time of 21.04s clocked in the SAG Trials in December.

“I have been training for these games over the past year – we started last year, targeting this meet. There wasn’t really a big challenge in the event itself, after the qualification rounds, I felt like I would win.”

Going into the competition, Suranjaya was confident of securing the Gold, therefore his focus was more on improving on his timing. He was disappointed that he could not break the 21 second barrier at the games, even though he clocked an impressive 21.00s in the final of the 200m event.

Vinoj Sanjaya
Vinoj passing Himash Eshan (National Sports Festival)

“We (the coach and I) had a goal to achieve Olympic qualification timings during the South Asian Games – I couldn’t achieve the timing I was aiming for, with the conditions there. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the timing I wanted.”

He expressed that being employed by the Sri Lanka Army was the main reason he was able to find the funds to compete at the international level.

“I have been able to come this far because of the support I get from the Army. Army General Palitha Fernando, Major Muthumala Sir, Tharushi akki, my parents, all gave me a lot of support.”

Although he failed to achieve his target of reaching Olympic qualifying standards at SAG, he still has a couple of months to reach his goal. It will be no easy task however as he will have to shave off at least half a second off his personal best timing of 21.00s. “My biggest goal right now is to achieve the Olympic Qualification standards in the upcoming months for the Rio Olympics that are going to be held later this year.”

We at ThePapare.com wish him all the very best as he looks to qualify for the Olympic Games.