Sri Lanka pulled out the stops in celebrating its first ever Paralympic medal winner, Pradeep Sanjaya who won a bronze medal in the 400m at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Sanjaya, 26, an Army Lance Corporal with the Sinha regiment, was severely injured on his right arm when troops were advancing to Kilinochchi in 2008. The Sri Lanka Army gave him a double promotion and the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who invited him over to his official residence, Temple Trees here, gave him a third, out-of-turn promotion. He is now a Staff Sergeant. “He deserves it. He has worked very hard. He has set an example for others,” Mr.Rajapaksa told The Hindu.
His brother and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also in charge of Urban Development, ensured that a plot of land is given to Sri Lanka’s historic paralympian in the Western Province. “In due course we will also aid him in building a house,” said Maj.Gen.Jagath Alwis, General (G.S.), Sri Lankan Army Headquarters. Cash incentives to the soldier topped LKR 4.5 million.
Earlier, on his arrival from London, he was welcomed by the country’s Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamge. He travelled in an open jeep from the airport with a convoy in tow and was cheered along the way to the city, about 35 km away. Later, junior athletes dotted the kilometre long Independence Avenue and waved Sri Lankan flags as he made his way to the Sports Ministry premises for a reception.
Sanjaya is the Asian record holder for both 200m and 400m events. He had won two gold medals in 200m and 400m events at the 2010 Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, China.
National Paralympic Committee President, Brig Rajiv Wickremasinghe said that the medal has fuelled hopes for the next meet. “We need to train with the other athletes as is done in many other countries. We then hope to bring home more medals,” he added.
In South Asia, apart from Sri Lanka, only India won a medal at 2012 London Paralympic Games. The Indian athlete was felicitated by his State Government.