My island nation woke up on Wednesday 13th day of October with an air of expectation . "The boxer is in the final "...yes he is, did you miss the semi-final?. Where have you been??? The bantamweight finals at the XIX Commonwealth Games just turned the country into 20million boxing fans, or at least those how were clued up on the progress in Delhi.
Manju Wanniaarachi in action
India finished second in the overall medals , the host nation stepping up quite well, only to be second to Australia!!!!
The consistent form of the team from "Down Under" has done it again, to take all our compliments - they have created such an amazing standard of high performance, its now almost a magical formula.
Only because sports is a matter of national priority - they take it seriously and invest accordingly -.add the Aussie institute of sport, and the picture just got real !!!!
But how will we remember the Games, how will the islanders, and our mighty neighbours, soak this all in? I am trying to imagine a more satisfying feeling on this earth. Especially since it was crafted here in Sri Lanka ......with a lad from Kandy...Manju Wanniaarachi, ending the 60year wait...goodness!!!!! A boxing gold at the Commonwealth, and in such dramatic , heart breaking, style that only Manju could have scripted...7-all on points at full time , his last punch ..A left to the head, that in slow motion was easily the winner on the stroke of the bell.
But fate, history and destiny...easily drawn in retrospect, had already been writ, the judges gave the bout to our lad, the blue corner, 16 / 14: "from Sri Lanka , the bantamweight champion " Manju Wanniaarachi - the slow motion too made much impact as a nation celebrated.
The rest , as they say is history, and all we can do is contemplate the magic of his achievement ...the fury of this victory and the steel conviction of his mentor Dian Gomes.
Vision and incredible positive belief in Manju's skill from his SAF games eleven years ago., gave him his best chance , the investment , time , training , experience gained fighting all over the world ..most times from the " pure belief coffer " of Dian's relentless ambition for the elusive World Class contender..
Anuruddha Ratnayake coming through, finishing top 5 in the World championships which gave him a shot at the Olympics was the catalyst for boxing in this small but tenacious island nation.
This fight game has mythical possibilities for us, from historic reference to the 12 foot giants that crafted Sigiriya, centuries ago, to the path cleared by Anuruddha, to Dian still believing, the Cuban factor in his corner, to Ruwan Keragala. .Mr Finance and a new found love for boxing that sets this whole story as a perfect script for Hollywood!!!!
Kamal Sameera narrowly missing Olympic qualification with Manju, was perhaps almost impossible to accept...for my time with all 3 boxers, encouraging their pride to stamp through courage, belief and reason in their skill. -an intravenous mind energy session plan that gave the boxers a reason to stand up under the darkest and hardest moments...then again , that is the fervour, that the Gomes " dream and vision " factory facility at Pannala is all part of.
Pride and tears of joy as Manju sank to his knees, knowing that the years of blood-sweat-tears, disbelief in loss, sacrifice and the hardest road ever, never dimmed his desire to win for his country.
Thank you for making this nation proud , thank you for the future inspiration, but most of all for true spirit and blood energy, of what it means to be a son of the soil - " A proud Sri Islander" , hope for a nation on the brink for sure.
For all of those who know.... " Nama, Gama and Adambarakarakama, " just became so real, the flag , the lion and the belief .... victory for all of us.
Cheers Manju, top class, like we always say ..Its what you do and how strong the head and the heart. Now enjoy your time in the sun, bask briefly with your loved ones and then ..focus on the Asian Games - its all back to the skills and ability.. but now .......INSPIRED !!!!