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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.

Summa Navaratnam

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 Tracks".

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 1943.

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 dedication.

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 their name.

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 both matches.

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 Team.

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 Metres Relay.

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 Junior levels.

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 Champ).

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 Lanka.

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 believe"!

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 and knowledge.

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 !"


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service

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