For Mahinda Ellepola who was appointed, a few days back, Sri Lanka's National Table – Tennis coach, a lifetime of labour and love has finally brought forth recognition.
Ellepola, who took to coaching in 1977, had to abort a promising career as a player because of the constraints of time. A science teacher at Trinity College, he decided, wisely, that coaching was his calling and he has had no regrets.
He coached St Anthony's for seven years and in that time Christopher Arnolda and Umesh de Alwis emerged National champions. Thamal Udumulla, Mushid Mahroof and Manzil Muthalib achieved the feat at Junior level.
Trinity also benefited from his services, but apart from the Karaliyadde brothers (Janaka, Dhammika and Sidantha) who became Junior National Champions, he did not enjoy conspicuous, success. He puts it down to the fact that the glamour sports - rugger and cricket – hogged the attention of the students. TT was a distant third cousin.
Mahinda obviously has 'a way with the ladies' and has been responsible for a multitude of national champions. He has been coaching Girls High School since 1980 and Mahamaya from 1982. Alumini Direckze, Ghazala Muhajireen, Savika Atapattu, Sheevani, Warnakulasuriya, Sepali Hanwella and latterly, Klpani Herath were a credit to the country. From the Mahamaya stable came Deepika Rodrigo whose name is a household one.
Ellepola is a great believer in the formation of on going pools. The benefits of having such a pool were evident at the last SAF Games, where the men gave stiff competition to the Indians and the women were unlucky to lose. He points out that at Junior level our players can beat their Indian counterparts on a good day. However at senior level, the gulf is tremendous.
A much traveled man, Ellepola toured Bahrain, New Delhi, Macau, Chennai and China as coach of the Sri Lanka Junior team. He underwent Intensive Table Tennis coaching for three months at the Physical Education University in Budapost, Hungary. He was numero uno among the 57 coaches that attended. He was in Greece for two weeks to attend a seminar on Advanced TT Techniques.
Ellepola's dedication, love for the game and technical know-how augur well for the development of the game in Sri Lanka.