Champion Rohan Jayawardena has heart of gold

HE’S the youngest champion who captured a world’s imagination with a gold medal — including two records on championship final.

It may have been the ‘World Karate Championship’ final but it certainly wasn’t the prettiest. At least in the after-glow of victory we got to see another side of Rohan Jayawardena that was much more attractive than the one he usually reveals. He showed himself to be a caring, appreciative person and also a patriotic one for whom winning a gold medal for Sri Lanka this year in Okinawa would mean even more to him than anything else.

One of the first texts congratulating him on his first World Championship success may have been from a Japanese — but it hasn’t made him forget Mother Sri Lanka as his took the phone and called his mother to tell about his great victory right after winning the final.

Jayawardena was unquestionably the best fighter in this championship and negotiated the trickiest of paths to the final. However, it must have hurt the most senior fighters in the tournament — Masheyata — to know that Jayawardena was there to be beaten. If only the experienced Lasri had been able to bring his best game to the Hinashi Koshata, which was more than could be said for the familiar fights from the opposite end.

One of the significant moments in the championship was, Rohan Jayawardena dedicated his victory to a loved one who had passed on, in his case his coach Thakahero Okayama, who was his mentor in last year record breaking season. “It was hard to motivate myself because Karate just didn’t seem important in those moments,” he remarked.

“It’s strange because my career, though amazing, has brought us a lot of downfalls,” he admitted. “My parents, friends and family helped me right throught the championship, it it’s wasn’t for them I will not be here today. It was a hard task winning the first place. But I achieved alot more valuable things than winning a world title.”

A much more compelling image, from a sartorial point of view, was that of Jayawardena as a national team captain staying up late to watch the Sri Lankan team players walk past at the opening ceremony of the Championships and then wearing the Sri Lankan jersey — “because that’s what they were wearing” — while he marched around the dojo. Gold medal at World Championship or another international medal? It was a tough call. “I think because I already have lot of international medals I’d take the World Championship gold medal.” Spoken like a champion.