The Sunday Leader

Catching Up With Ghefari Dulapandan

by Tia Goonaratna

@tiabuffy

Ghefari Dulapandan, one of the greatest swimmers Sri Lanka ever produced, completed his Bachelors in Science and MBA in Colombo, Master of Arts in the UK, and successfully read for his Doctorate in Business Psychology. He’s currently living in England, and working as the Chief Executive Officer at Goldenex Group creating new opportunities, partnerships, and adding value to the company as a strong leader.

Ghefari’s major contribution to the Sri Lankan swimming arena is dotted with records, medals, and leadership. He captained the Sri Lankan swimming team for eight years from 1992 – 2000. In 1991 SAF Games in Colombo, Ghefari was the youngest winner of a medal in any sport at the young age of 16 by winning a silver in the 200 metre Butterfly, and a bronze in the 200 metre Individual Medley. He was also the first school boy to captain the Sri Lanka National Team at the age of 16.

In 1997, Ghefari Dulapandan created history as the first Sri Lankan to qualify for the World Championships as well as the first Sri Lankan swimmer to go under the one minute barrier in the 100 metre Butterfly event in 1996.

Tell us a bit about your work now

Working in the space of finance and physical oil trading looking after the interest of a family office. Trustee in Bantuan Foundation, a U.K. based charity set up after the tsunami in order to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate the orphans and youth. Having helped many orphans and communities in the Hambantota area, we are currently undertaking a project to build a community centre and vocational training centre to help the youth in the region.

Appointed to serve on the Advisory board of Communities Without Boundaries International Inc. seeking to re-articulate the challenges and opportunities for championing justice, equality within people to take charge of their lives, and the life of their communities through nonviolence, peace and development. CWBI works closely with the White House in the USA

What was your experience captaining the Sri Lankan swimming team for eight years?

I am honoured to have captained the team for over eight years. It taught me leadership and interpersonal skills, having the opportunity leading different personalities within the team. We had many obstacles as a team, but I was so proud of all my swimmers as we were one big happy family. I remember once I had to make a stand and tender my resignation of captaincy to the then Minister Of Sports because he was not willing to help a few poorer swimmers from Ambalangoda and Panadura to compete in an international competition. No sooner I tendered my resignation he tore my letter of resignation up and signed off the relevant funds for the swimmers to travel with the rest of the squad. We were one family and I hope that the swimmers nowadays are the same.

What would you say is your favourite memory from those days?

Winning the silver in the South Asian games in Colombo, finishing behind Julian to earn Sri Lanka the gold and silver. The Asia Pacific games winning the only goal for Sri Lanka, and 1996 games winning the gold in the 4×100 meter relay swimming – the last leg I remember surpassing the Indians and touching ahead to win the first gold for Sri Lanka at the games.

In 1992 beating Julian in the butterfly was an achievement I still remember. Being the first Sri Lankan swimmer to qualify and represent my country at the 1998 world championships was an honour.

I still fondly remember the 5.30 morning swims and our coach, the late Mr Rizvi Zain, putting us through our paces. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for all he did for Sri Lankan swimming and it was one of the saddest days in my life when he died in my arms at the Asian games in Bangkok. I am still thankful to the Thai Federation and Sri Lanka officials who assisted me in bringing his body back to Colombo for burial the next day. It was the saddest day of my career more than losing a race. I would also take this opportunity to thank my first coach Mr Asela Jayampathy and my parents and sister for all the support they gave me during my illustrious career. I would like to mention also my uncle and aunty in London who have helped me immensely here they are my parents in London and most of all without God I would have not achieved anything in my swimming, personal and professional life. All praise be to him.

Currently, a lot of sportspeople take supplements such as whey protein and creatin etc. At the time you were swimming, do you think people relied on these or were they more on training itself?

During our times it was pure hard work and good nutrition. Our coach, Mr Rizvi Zain, would always advise us of the ABCD diet – Ala bathala koss dhel diet :D

Regards to the extra supplements available, I have no qualms with the sportsman and women consuming them as long as they listen to their bodies. Technology and training methods are improving daily, and it could only be for the betterment of sport. If it helps with performance and you listen to your body, it’s a plus. The important message is listening to your body. Sport is to develop a sound mind and body, and if you cross that line you start going down a slippery slope.

A note to all sportsman and women remember that you are all unique within yourselves. We are all born winners. You and I, and all of us in this world. None of us are losers. You were born and came to this earth because you won the first race in your life, the race of life, when you incremented your mother’s ovaries out of the millions of sperm swimming you won the race hence you were born to this world. So do not ever think that you are a loser, you are a winner! Let me finish by saying that no matter what great height you achieve in your sport or in life never forget your beginning and where you came from. Don’t forget your roots, stay humble, and God will always be standing right next to you.

The world has forgotten humanity. Let us, together, treat every human being with love respect and goodness be good and God bless you all.

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