Sporting personalities with Ken de Joodt
Sprinter Summa -fastest man in Asia
Sporting personalities: When stones are thrown at luscious
mango-laden trees, the intention is clear that the stone-thrower's
desire is to strike the delicious fruit down and devour it. An
unproductive, fruitless tree may go untouched or unnoticed.
Thank God, many outstanding sporting personalities who can compare
with these luscious-looking fruit trees, have survived the
'stone-throwers' of jealousy, envy and anger, because of their
determination to overcome obstacles and had their eyes fixed on the
goals of success in life.
In the 60's, sprinter Summa Navaratnam dubbed as the "Fastest man in
Asia", could well be considered one of these 'fruitful trees' who has
'weathered many a storm' and sailed on in great style to be a "Winner"
on the sports field. He is today identified as one of the finest
sporting personalities, Sri Lanka has ever produced, both in Athletics
and in Rugby.
Last year, Summa was felicitated by the Royal College, (Colombo), Old
Boy's Associations, in a few countries around the globe, to show their
appreciation to this 'Royal' product - the one time "King of the
He entered Royal Primary at the age of four years and remained
throughout up to 1943 - and is still going strong, coaching at Royal for
over 50 years, at different levels.
Summa Navaratnam, Sri Lanka's magnificent athlete and brilliant
Ruggerite, of over five decades ago, still stands 'tall, dark and
handsome' - fit and sturdy at 81 years of age.
Through the years of competing from 1940, Summa became the Champion
Junior Athlete at Royal College, Colombo, winning the under 14, under 16
and Best Performance Cup at the Public Schools Meet and Schools AAA in
At the early age of 15, he was awarded Colours for Athletics in 1940
.. and to-date, he is the youngest to achieve this at Royal College, for
his superb performances. His list of achievements are distinguished and
numerous, obtained through good disciplines, determination and
To focus on the highlights of his star-spangled sporting career,
Summa recalls fascinatingly the year 1941, when Royal Captained by Minoo
Jilla, beat Trinity College Kandy, for the first time in Rugby, by 11
points to 3, at Reid Avenue, Colombo. Trinity was always referred to as
the "Cradle of Rugby in Sri Lanka" and had a string of victories to
Once again, in 1943, to make it a 'second' first time, Summa was in
the Royal team that defeated Trinity in two matches for the first time !
In the match played in Colombo, Royal triumphed at the Police Grounds,
Colombo by 6 pts. to nil.
Following this, Summa's moments of glory, in the Royal - Trinity
fixtures, came in the 'second leg' when he deputized as Captain (for the
regular Captain, Dr. Larry Foenander, who did not play due to injury -
and clinched a victory for Royal, by using his 'speedy' legs to sprint
down over 60 yards, to score a 'dream gift' try under the posts and beat
Trinity by 5 pts. to 3.
In passing, Summa took a 'head-count' of the members in the 1943 team
who have 'passed away' and was happy to say that from the fifteen, at
least five are still alive and 'kicking' - namely - Mahes Rodrigo (Sri
Lanka's Rugby Captain and Scrum-half), Dr. Larry Foenander (Fly-half,
Havies, and Army's brilliant Coach), Hugh Aldons (a brilliant All-round
Sportsman), St. Elmo de Silva and Summa himself.
Summa left Royal to join the Royal Air Force in 1944 and that year,
it was Trinity who won both games convincingly (15 pts. to 0 in Colombo
and 17-0 in Kandy). In 1945, the Royal Principal E.L. Bradby presented
the "Bradby Shield" and based the award on the aggregate of scores in
Trinity captained by Dr. Robert Sourjah in the first game, lost by 3
pts. to nil - but in the second game in Kandy, S.B. Pilapitiya captained
to lead Trinity to an exciting win by 6 pts. to nil. Thereby, Trinity
won the "Bradby Shield" in the inaugural year, 1945 - and later on in
1948, Royal won it for their first time, with Ashey Cader as Captain.
Pursuing his Athletics prowess, Summa won the 100 and 200 Metres in
1946 at the Sri Lanka Athletic Nationals Championship. He then
represented Sri Lanka at the 2nd Indo-Ceylon Athletics Meet and was the
fastest link in the 4 x 100 yard Relay, beating India's best Sprinters
and breaking the Asian Record ! In the same year, Summa was chosen for
the Trials, to form a National Squad for the 1948 London Olympic Games.
Simultaneously, Summa was also selected to play Rugby for the Colombo
Rugger Club as their "Star' Wing Three-quarter and in 1947, the CR & FC
re-started Rugby after the 2nd World War and produced their first team
with Fred Kellar captaining the side. Summa played with great success
and was seen as the fastest Wing Three-quarter !
Summa's turn of Captaincy came in 1954 and 1955, when he led the CR &
FC to victory in the Clifford Cup Tournament. Many outstanding players,
helped in this success and won positions in the Sri Lanka teams, such as
Dr. Trevor Anghie, Norman Gunawardena, A.B. Van Twest, S. Bambaradeniya,
Ago Paiva, Yenfoo Pakstun, Devaka Rodrigo - and a fabulous third row
consisting of Geoff Weiman, Ashey Cader and H. Numan.
His finest moments in both sports, Rugby and Athletics were in 1950,
when Summa was chosen to play for Sri Lanka against the touring British
Lions Rugby XV. Only three Sri Lankans were selected to play in an
otherwise "All-white" Sri Lanka Team - and they were Summa, Leslie
Ephraims and Clair Roeloffsz.
Although Sri Lanka lost by 44 points to 6, the British Lions Manager
paid Summa Navaratnam a great compliment, by saying that he is the only
player who would be given that position, to play in the British Lions
In the same year, Summa was selected and competed in the Commonwealth
and Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand, with Duncan White (Olympic
Silver Medallist 1948), Oscar Wijesinghe and John de Saram, in the 100
During his lifetime Summa has always kept himself disciplined, fit
and occupied in various forms of work, not only taking 'top'
responsibility in Trading Organizations, but also in coaching Rugby in
Clubs (CR & FC and Police), Schools (Royal and Isipatana), and then at
His coaching stints extend over a 'record' period of over fifty
years. He still coaches the under 10s and is presently the Royal Rugby
Co-ordinating Coach. Apart from Rugby, he has also coached five classy
Athletes in the 1960s namely, Darrell Lieversz, (200 & 400 Metres
National Champ), Lakshman de Alwis (Sri Lanka's current National Coach),
Nirmala Dissanayake (Women's 200 Metres), Lorraine Rutnam (100 Metres
Champion 1960 Asian Games), and Jilska Flamer-Caldera (80 Metres Hurdles
In 1953, Summa was dubbed "Asia's Fastest Human" and the "Fastest Man
in Asia" when he broke the existing 100 Metres, record at the Indian
States Olympic Meet in Madras (re-named Chennai), running neck to neck
with Lavy Pinto, the best of the Indian sprinters.
His astonishing time of 10.4 seconds surpassed both the Indian and
Asian records and compared well with the 1948 London Olympic record of
10.3 secs. and the, 1952 Helsinki Olympic record of 10.4 secs.
This was all achieved through hard and tough disciplined training in
his school days at Royal College, where he 'burnt the cinders' with
blistering runs in his pet events of the 100, 220 and 440 yards.
Summa was 'worth his weight in Gold', having won many "Golds" in the
years gone by - and used his talents, experience and knowledge for
administrating in Rugby Committees of Royal College, CR & FC and Sri
Another unique 'record' was that he was elected President of the last
CRFU (Ceylon Rugby Football Union) Committee in 1972 and was re-elected
as President of the newly named Sri Lanka RFU Committee, in 1974.
In times of trouble and fear he looked to God as his Helper, to seek
strength, guidance, encouragement, solace and craved for love or a kind
gentle word, to soften 'panic-times' and 'hard blows'.
Summa, though a fast runner, said that in times of trouble or "unsporty"
predicaments, he could not 'run away' fast enough to save himself ! As
it sometimes seemed humanly beyond his capacity and ability to handle,
he said he trusted, with a firm belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and
quoted his favourite stanza, "More things are wrought by Prayer, than
this world dreams of" and "All things are possible with God to those who
In his eventful 'run of life' which covers over 81 years, a
'youthful' minded Summa Navaratnam still runs around coaching youngsters
and those under 10, at the Royal Complex, sharing his immense experience
He strongly believes and says "Start them young, get them fit first.
Teach and drill the basic skills into them until it is perfected !" ...
Yes, many try to 'run before they can walk'! It is not only the running
but the basic skills that are a priority in any sport ! Great patience,
understanding and true dedication is required to carry it through.
As Summa concluded, "Being active and 'on the ball', has done him
good - and nothing works good, without faith in God !"