By Hafiz Marikar - Daily News
Nimal Lewke receiving the
Kreeda Bushana at the Presidential Sports Awards 2017 and 2018 from President
Maithripala Sirisena at the BMICH.
For as long as I can remember, Kandy has meant a lot to me. I always express my love for my home town. For whatever reason, it dawned on me at an early age, how fortunate I am to live in this city. Why should we be proud to be a Kandy product?
Now see the achievement of a Kandy product. Nimal Lewke was awarded the Kreeda Bushana (Lifetime Achievement Award) at the Presidential Sports Awards 2017 and 2018, held on July 17 at the BMICH under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Firstly, this achievement has brought immense credit and honour to his alma mater, St. Sylvester’s College, as Nimal Lewke is the only one to be awarded a Presidential award for sports. It is an honour for Kandy’s sports lovers as he hails from a very humble, simple family from Buwalikada (Malabar Street) in Kandy. His father was a doctor. Nimal in school was an excellent sportsman, having played cricket, rugby and international level boxing whilst being a schoolboy. He went on to win the national fly weight championship and represented Sri Lanka. He represented Sri Lanka in the 1976 King's Cup boxing Championship in Bangkok and TATA Sports Festival in India. He was a stylist southpaw like the famous Malcom Bulner.
He commenced his rugby career at Kandy Sports Club, which was headed by Dr. K.B. Sangakkara, the man who used to go to the ground and personally attend to his basic training, to teach him scrum half passing methods for which Lewke is ever grateful to him. He also remembers with respect great personalities like Kavan Rambukwella, Rudra Rajasinghe and Ana Seneviratne who were his mentors in Police.
As a player he represented the country and captained the Police team in 1980 which went on to win the Clifford Cup Championship. He was the president of the Sri Lanka Rugby football Union in 2007/2008 when they hosted the Rugby Asiad in 2007 where Sri Lanka was runner-up only for the second time in the history.
It was held in trying conditions due to terrorism as foreign teams were very reluctant to come to Sri Lanka. As the Commandant of the Special Task Force, he convinced all teams at the Asian Rugby Football Union AGM held in Hong Kong in 2006, that STF will provide security to all the teams. Due to his assurance, the countries decided to participate. Then President of Sri Lanka personally thanked him for his efforts, Lewke stated. He was the second Sri Lankan to be appointed as the President of the ARFU, in the Asian rugby history.
A Level 2 qualified rugby coach from New South Wales, Australian Rugby Academy, Lewke started his coaching career after he gave up playing rugby in 1983. He started at the school level in 1994/1995. St. Peter's College under his guidance won the President’s Trophy finals for the first. In 2000, he guided the S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia team as head coach, to win the League Championship undefeated, which is a record.
In 1995, he guided the Kandy Sports Club rugby team, as coach to win the triple crown (Clifford Cup, League Championship and the President’s Trophy) for the first time and for a record three consecutive years.
The level of commitment and dedication he portrayed is best shown in 1995, when he was based in Vavuniya as the Senior Superintendent of Police but he used to travel thrice a week to Nittawela to train the Kandy Sports Club team during the conflict period. In 1998, as the Junior National Coach, he guided Sri Lanka under 24 team to win the three-Test series against Hong Kong for the first time in history. National coach of the Sri Lanka rugby team (1999 to 2002), he guided them to victory against China, Taiwan, Thailand, Northern Territory of Australia and Malaysia.
A leading rugby referee
for many years, he officiated key games such as the Bradby Shield, Clifford Cup
Finals and President’s Trophy Finals, etc. He headed the Sri Lanka Rugby
Referees Society in 2003 and 2004.
Although he was in the battlefield during the darkest times of our motherland, he never backed down from contributing to sports in Sri Lanka, on an honorary scale, as it was his passion.
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