Nishantha: The coach behind historic Paralympic gold-by Reemus Fernando
A coach plays a vital role in an athlete’s success. When it comes to track and field sports, a coach can make or break the career of an athlete. It is the coach’s specific training plan that helps the athlete peak at the right time to produce his best. A good coach would know where his trainee would end up and what his performance would be like even before the athlete gets into the track for his competition. Former Sri Lanka national record holder-turned javelin coach Pradeep Nishantha knew exactly where Dinesh Priyantha Herath would end up even before he boarded the flight for Tokyo Paralympics as he had been training the thrower with a target of ‘creating history at the Paralympics’.
When Herath threw the javelin to a World record distance in the F46 category to win the country’s first gold medal at a Paralympics on Monday, Nishantha and the other two track and field coaches- Olympian Harijan Ratnayake and veteran coach Sajith Jayalal- witnessing the events from the stands erupted in joy and hugged each other. That was the moment Nishantha was waiting for, and the knowledge that Herath had produced his peak performance for the year and that would decide the contest with two throws to spare made the coach instruct his charge to skip the final throw.
Nishantha had the full confidence in his training regimen, he said in an interview with The Island prior to the event that his charges would create history at Tokyo Paralympics. A gold medal, a Para World record and a bronze medal through Dulan Kodithuwakku’s performance in the F64 javelin proved his prediction right.
With history created now, many are the parties that stake a claim to Herath’s gold medal victory though Nishantha continues to avoid the limelight. It should be recalled that Herath had only thrown a distance of 58.23 metres at the Rio Paralympics in 2016. Undoubtedly Nishantha’s contribution was the vital factor that helped him not only win gold but also produce a world record throw of 67.79 metres.
The success of his trainees at the Paralympics is the latest accomplishment for Nishantha, who is credited for producing world-class throwers to represent Sri Lanka even at the Olympics. Men’s javelin throw has witnessed vast improvements at the World level during the last few years and Nishantha has done his part to produce world-class throwers from Sri Lanka. Sumedha Ranasinghe became the first Sri Lankan male athlete to represent the country in the javelin throw at Olympics under his guidance in 2016. Ranasinghe’s massive throw of 83.04 metres at a local event at Diyagama in 2015 made him one of the best throwers in Asia that year. It was under Nishantha’s guidance that Ranasinghe has achieved success at many international events including the 2019 World Military Games where he clinched a bronze.
Currently, the country has three throwers who have thrown over a distance of 80 metres. All three have been under Nishantha’s guidance at some point in their careers.
Nishantha who is the Assistant Head of Sports and Athletics Coach at Gateway College Rajagiriya commenced coaching in the year 2005. Currently, he has a number of top national-level athletes and several Para athletes training together. They have the potential to excel at international events. It is incumbent upon authorities to take care of the likes of Nishantha and provide them with opportunities to improve their knowledge further.