Cycling: Boniface turns 67; his career spans 50 years

28 March 2016 - 199   - 0

Renowned cycling champion Boniface Perera who has reached 67 years, will be celebrating half a century of participation this year.
Boniface, who started his cycle racing career as a schoolboy of Wattala St. Anthony’s in Weligampitiya at the Jayalath Sports Club annual race won the event and made his entry into the field of cycle racing in 1966. 

To date he has taken part in 250 races and has triumphed in 225 races up to 1985. 

In recognition to Boniface’s cycling President R. Premadasa awarded a Presidential Award in 1984.

He figured as a sprinter at first and was popularly known as ‘Wattala Bonnie’. 

Those who took part with him at races were the Henderson brothers (HH and GH), A.M. Sumanaweera, L.H. Sarath, former Cycling President and International Judge N. Karunaratne

Boniface Perera has won the Tour De Sri Lanka three times in-a-row. 

They were in: 1980, 1981 and 1982. Prior to that, another famed cyclist - Maurice Coomaravel - winning the race also three times in-a-row during the years - 1964, 1965 and 1966. 

Also A.M. Sumanaweera won the event three times but not together as the event did not take place in one year. 

Sumanaweera triumphed in 1983, 1984 and 1986. In 1985 the race was not held.  

Boniface has represented Sri Lanka at one Commonwealth Games in Canada (1978) and the Asian Championships, Bangkok in the same year, the Asian Games, India in 1982 and several other international cycling events.

He is the first national coach in cycling appointed in 1992. 

He has accompanied cycling teams as coach to Dubai, Malaysia and several other countries.

Recalling a memorable episode in cycling he said that he will never forget the 1982 Tour De Lanka where he finished the penultimate day with a broken wheel and fell unconscious. 

Nevertheless he took part on the final day and won the event in Colombo amidst thunderous applause.
He still continues to cycle even though he is 67 years old. 

He says he cycles about 50 km a day to maintain his fitness. 

He even took second place at an over 55 cycle race in Ratnapura in the year 2006.

Boniface went as coach to the Asian Games in Japan 1994 and brought a black patch to Sri Lanka when he decided to stay back in Japan. 

When questioned why he decided to stay back in Japan, he said: “Even though I took part as the coach. I never got anything in return. I had to spend my own money for events and I had a lot of problems in life and I was forced to quit the Sri Lankan contingent. I spent 10 years in Japan, separated from my loving family and children and I managed to bring up my status considerably. I even managed to spend for my children’s education. I am not sorry about my past.” 

“I heard that I was banned from Sri Lankan cycling. I did not get a letter to that effect from the Sports Ministry. When I spoke about this to the Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and Dr. Amal Harsha De Silva, the Sri Lanka Cycling Federation, I was asked to make an appeal and I was pardoned. Now I am a free man. I am extremely grateful to them for their kind gestures.”

“I have formed a club called Flying Wheel and I have about 35 young cyclists and three amongst them are knocking at the door to be at the national level. I am spending my own money, as far as possible to train them.”

“There are national level coaches but they have book knowledge only. I do not have book knowledge but I have vast practical knowledge on cycling. If the Cycling Federation requires my expertise, I am willing to help them out. However there are two or three individuals who do not like me coming into the Cycling Federation. As far as I can see cycling has been distanced from villages. The main reason for this is that cyclists are being absorbed into the Forces.” 

“During our time if we win a race, it is celebration for the entire village. The whole village turns up to greet the winner. The entire village is present to witness the race. There is no support from the villagers now. Some villagers do not know that cycle racing exists,” concluded Boniface. 

His first coach was H.V. J. Basil, who won the Tour De Lanka in 1969. 

Boniface’s first club was Winged Wheel. 

Tobacco Company had helped him a great deal in his ventures. 

He was also employed at Ceylon Tobacco.

He is the father of three daughters and is now doting grandfather.

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