Athlete Ethirveerasingam was a revolutionary in the high jump event | Daily News
Sri Lankan Olympic stars of yesteryear

Athlete Ethirveerasingam was a revolutionary in the high jump event

Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam
Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam is another Sri Lankan athlete who had the rare opportunity of participating in two Olympics in 1952 and in 1956.

He was also an athlete who reached great heights through his own efforts. Several champion athletes were making a strong bid to shatter the public schools high jump record at the Public Schools Athletics Meet in 1940. The existing record had been established by V. G. George of Jaffna College clearing a height of 6 feet 0.1/8 inches.

At this time a young boy about 12 years of age was practicing the high jump using his self-made high jump equipment in the cool shades of palmyrah trees in North Ceylon.

None would have anticipated this boy who daily cleared a height of over four feet would be a superstar in the years to come. This young boy entered competition shattering the junior high Jump record at the Public Schools Athletics meet in 1946.

He then cleared six feet and three inches and shattered the 12-year record of V. G. George. He proved himself once again by shattering the Ceylon Record clearing six feet and four inches at the National Championships held in 1952 at the P. Sara Oval.

The same year he participated in the Invitation Sports Festival held in Pakistan and shattered the Pakistani record. By this time Ethirveerasingam was a student of the Central College, Jaffna.

These victories enabled Ethirveerasingam to qualify for the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He was the youngest member of the Sri Lankan Team to participate in the Olympics. In 1954, at the second Asian Games held in the Philippines, he cleared six feet and four inches. This was equalled by four athletes and Ethirveerasingam was placed fourth.

However, Ethirveerasingam was not discouraged and he continued to practice hard. In 1955, he left Jaffna Central College and entered St. Joseph’s College, Colombo with a view to improving his athletic skills.

Under the guidance, of Duncan White, P. E. Rajendra and Anthony Abeysinghe he changed the style from the usual Western roll to the straddle jump.

At the athletic meet of St. Joseph’s College held in the same year he cleared a height of six feet and seven inches.

Although he participated at the Melbourne Olympic Games he was not placed. He came for these games from the USA where he was engaged in studies.

In view of his success in the high jump, he was voted as the Sports Star in 1956 polling 79,894 votes.

At the third Asian Games held in Tokyo, Japan in 1958, he won the Gold Medal while establishing a new Asian record of six feet and 7.7/8 inches.

This was the first time that Sri Lanka won a Gold Medal at the Asian Games in 1962.

Ethirveerasingam was a revolutionary in the field of athletics and his National record of six feet and 6 ½ inches remained unbroken till 1989.