by Reemus Fernando
Soldier Pradeep Sanjaya proved his coach Jansz Dissanayake’s prediction right, when he won the bronze medal in the T46 400 metres at the 2012 Paralympics in London on Wednesday, to become the country’s first Paralympics medalist.
There were many doubters, when Jansz predicted that his unassuming protege would be a prospect at the Paralympics, nearly a year ago, in an interview with ‘The Island’.
“His medal makes me very happy because he has proved the doubters wrong,” Jansz told ‘The Island’ in a telephone interview from London, yesterday.
“This is a result of lots of hard work he put in,” said Jansz, whose success as a coach was largely associated with the success of the (able-bodied) Maha Maya Girls’ School sprinter, Akshana Maralanda, until yesterday.
When he was able-bodied, Pradeep’s involvement in sports was only limited to inter-house meets when he was attending his village school, Delwala MV.
Life changed dramatically for Pradeep one fateful night, in December 2008. He was hit by a blistering piece of artillery. He was a soldier on the frontlines when Sri Lankan troops were closing in on Kilinochchi.
Pradeep rose to his feet with an indelible mark of the war, a smothered left hand which would later categories him as a T46 for Para Sports.
After nursing his injuries for months, he took up sports as a remedy. And it did not take long for Pradeep to produce results, as he won the gold in the (T46) 400 metres at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Para Games. Early morning yesterday (Sri Lanka time), when Pradeep won the bronze in the same discipline at the 2012 Paralympics in London, he only kept his promise.
Pradeep had trained for just nine months when he won the gold at the Asian Para Games.
The country won nine medals in Guangzhou, and Pradeep was the only gold medalist in the Sri Lankan contingent.
After the Asian Para Games medal, Pradeep worked hard with a dozen other Para athletes at Bogambara Grounds, where Jansz was also coaching his able-bodied athletes.
Though his Asian Para Games feat was not nationally recognized, Pradeep was garlanded and given a hero’s reception at Meerigama, his native place.
According to what Pradeep said then, a similar ceremony had taken place to welcome him when he returned home as an injured soldier, in 2008.
Now with Sri Lanka’s first Paralympics medal around his neck, he deserves a hero’s welcome back home. courtesy: The Island