Wimaladasa dazzled with 400m gold in 1974
Sri Lanka turned a new leaf in their athletic history when Wickremasinghe Wimaladasa overcame all odds to claim the gold medal in the Men’s 400m event at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, Iran.
This was the first time that Sri Lanka had won a gold medal in the sprint events at the Asian Games as the rural athlete from Nugawela, Alawwa shot into fame with an outstanding performance. Even then, Wimaladasa was under tremendous pressure going into the final because it was Iran’s Mohammed Reza Entezari who had the best timing of 46.77s in the heats.
However, in the final, Wimaladasa came out all guns blazing as he dashed his way to finish the race with a new Games record of 46.21s while pushing his closest rival Entezari into second place.
Another favourite Japan’s Yoshibaru Tomonaga had to settle with the bronze medal with a time of 46.77s. Altogether, this was sweet revenge for Wimaladasa as he narrowly missed out the gold medal in the same event at the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand where he eventually had to settle for the silver medal. Wimaladasa received his early education at the Narammala Central College and at school, he displayed his prowess in the 100m and 200m events and won the Kurunegala District Championship in these events.
He joined the Army after leaving school in 1963 and there he was able to improve on his natural talents. He won the 100m and the 200m races in the Army Meet in 1966 and entered big-time athletics. That year he won the 100m sprint and the 200m sprint events.
In the 200m race he equalled Duncan White’s record and in 1968, he recorded a time of 49.4s for the 400m and bettered the record of 49.8s set by Lakshman de Alwis in 1964. Wimaladasa went on to better this timing to 47.3s setting up seven new records in the process and had the honour of participating in the Asian Games in 1966 and in 1968. In 1969 and 1970 he participated in Athletics Meets held in India, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and his first major international triumph was winning the Silver Medal for the 400m at the Asian Games in 1970. In 1970, Wimaladasa was awarded a scholarship to East Germany and there he participated in over 25 competitions and ran against internationally reputed athletes.
Wimaladasa won a bronze medal at the first ever Asian Athletic Championships held in Seoul, South Korea in the 4X100m relay event along with Dervin Perera, Bandula Jayasinghe and A. Premachandra. He also won a gold medal in the second Indo-Lanka Dual Meet and was honoured with the Deshabandu Award for his distinguished service for Sri Lanka athletics.