By Farhan Uvais
I have to buy all the equipment, shoes and clothes, everything from my own salary. I did not get any sponsorship for my training, If we are to get proper equipment and sponsorship, I’m sure we would do much better.
In the 2012 London Paralympic Games, Pradeep Sanjaya made history by bagging the first Paralympic Medal for Sri Lanka in the Men’s 400m T46 class athletic event. With a timing of 49.28 seconds, Sanjaya won Bronze behind Austrian Matzinger Gunther and Brazilian Yohansson.
However, Sanjaya’s achievement was incredible as he managed to defy all odds with the lack of equipment and training facilities back home. His dedication level was indeed extraordinary as he bought his shoes and clothes using his very own salary.
Wounded when LTTE fired a Rocket Propelled Grenade at the Kilinochchi battlefront in 2008, Pradeep Sanjaya was first dishearted but his athletic talent certainly did give him a second chance in life.
Seargent Sanjaya was attached to the fourth Battalion of the Sinha Regiment.
“I was treated for four months at the National Hospital and then transferred to the Army Hospital. After several days it was time for me to come to the clinics for check-ups and rehabilitation and then sent to my Regimental Headquarters,” he said. (Sunday Observer).
After his extended stay at the national hospital, Sanjaya was moved to the Amry Hospital and later transferred to the Regimental Headquarters. During his time there, Sanjaya was inspired as he observed wounded soldiers practice different sports with tremendous commitment and dedication.
Sanjaya who loved sports gladly accepted the attraction and appeal made by one of his superiors. Pradeep went as an underdog but worked very hard to bring back Bronze to his motherland.
“My training with the Army has given me a lot of courage and many disabled soldiers have the courage to carry on with our lives because of that background. In today’s technologically advanced world many things are possible. Even with our limitations as a country we can achieve a great deal,” he added.
Considering the facilities that were available in Sri Lanka, Sanjaya’s achievement was rather remarkable. With minimal training, he was able to overtake athletes from technologically powerful nations across the world. Sanjaya’s potential surprised many and boosted expectation levels as well.
“At the Paralympics, there are many differently abled people who were non-military and seeing their courage I realised that there is great potential in Sri Lankans. Differently-abled people must not lose faith. They must identify their innate talent and put a little bit more effort to achieve success,” concluded Sanjaya.
Nevertheless, Pradeep Sanjaya, unfortuantely, failed to qualify for Rio 2016. Initially, it was assumed that there was a disagreement in his selection but the decision was upheld by the ministry.
From the war-torn North to the Paralympic Games, Sanjaya’s journey has certainly inspired many across the world but gone unnoticed in his motherland. Many who know a thing or two about the Paralympics understand Sanjaya’s hard work and especially the significance of the win.
Most importantly, though, Sanjaya has revealed that a single misfortune or failure certainly isn’t the end but a beginning of a new chapter in the book of life.