WINSTON TAMBIMUTTU – ONE OF THREE PETERITE ATHLETES FROM THE FIFTIES WHO WON NATIONAL HONOURS – by Upali Obeyesekere
Source: JOSEPHIAN-PETERITE NEWS
St. Peter’s College has produced numerous star athletes since the early 1930s, a few who later emerged as national champions. As ‘St. Joseph’s College South’, the school by the Wellawatta Canal was established in 1922. The school was re-branded and named St. Peter’s College in 1927. The name change was documented on April 8, 1927, vide Gazette Notification No.7575. Ninety-nine years later, we pay homage to Rev. Fr. Maurice Le Goc, Rector of St. Joseph’s College for his foresight and vision in establishing this great seat of learning. Rev. Fr. Nicholas Perera was consequently appointed Rector of St. Peter’s College in 1927, and due to his inspired leadership sports was introduced. Athletics commenced in earnest at St. Peter’s after the expansion of the picturesque College grounds, which was opened on 13th September 1930. Subsequently in 1934, St Peter’s college under the captaincy of Shirley de S. Illesinghe and ably coached by Mr. Herbert Wittahachchi won the Tarbat Trophy and Jefferson cups at the Public Schools Athletic Meet.
This write up is to recognize an extraordinary athlete who had his baptism to track and field at his alma mater – St. Peter’s College in the mid-fifties. Winston W. Tambimuttu stood 6’ 1” in height and was blessed with a super physique suited for any sport. Tall and lanky, Winston had the necessary attributes to go in any direction of sport – be it basketball, cricket, or athletics. He represented college in Basketball, went for practice as a pace bowler who played 2nd eleven cricket with a possibility of securing a place in the first eleven team. But in hindsight, he picked Athletics and came under the tutelage of one of the best in the coaching business in schools at the time – Jackie Van Twest. It must be said that St. Peter’s College was endowed with a coterie of top-notch athletes when Van Twest took over coaching assisted by Terry Louis, another spirited member of the coaching team. Mr. Van Twest’s tenure as Athletics Coach at St. Peter’s College ranged from 1954-1966.
1957 – BANNER YEAR FOR PETERITE ATHLETICS
Affixed herein is the SPC Athletics Team of 1957. This was the golden era of resurgence of Peterite athletics. With due respects to Peterite athletic teams in the last six decades, the 1957 Athletic team was perhaps the best team ever produced by St. Peter’s College in its 99-year history – both Seniors & Juniors. This may be a profound statement, but I confidently stand by it. Kudos to Jackie Van Twest and Terry Louis for making this happen. They turned ordinary athletes into extraordinary ones – with a few tipping the scales to clinch the national crown and/or create Ceylon records. Three athletes in this dynamic team later became ‘National Champs’ in their respective events. Winston Tambimuttu was one – in the 400M Hurdles. The other two were Ranjit Weerasena (Discus) and Ranjit Wijeyesekere (400M). St. Peter’s Juniors were led by versatile sportsman Anton Perera who dominated the ‘throws’ and excelled while the Seniors led by Ranjit Wijeyesekere came close to winning the coveted John Tarbat Trophy. A blunder by the officiating referee in the Javelin throw, deprived St. Peter’s of winning the trophy. The Peterite Relay team in the 4 x 400M was dynamic and comprised of Ranjit Wijeyesekere, Winston Tambimuttu, Nissanka Dharmatileka and Neville Salvador. The 4 x 100M Relay team comprising Ranjit Wijeyesekere, Winston Tambimuttu, David Van Dort and a 4th member competed well at Group/Public Schools Meets.
Winston Tambimuttu trained hard with a passion for excellence under the expert guidance of Jackie Van Twest. He took his height, stature, and long strides into good effect to become a formidable athlete. His events were 400M, 110M Hurdles, Triple Jump, High Jump and the two relays – 4 x 100M & 4x400M. He was a star and well regarded in athletic circles. After an intense career in Athletics, Basketball and bit of cricket, Winston left school in September 1959. Six decades may have lapsed since but the name of W.W. Tambimuttu deserves recognition as history of Peterite Athletics is lost in time. Winston had a brother Stafford Tambimuttu who was also an athlete and member of the SPC Fife & Drum Band. His sister Kerina Tambimuttu continued the family tradition in athletics at Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. Winston’s stepbrother Nihal Gunewardene was a popular sportsman representing college in cricket (1967 – under Tony Opatha), rugger (1966 under Hamzee Hameed and 1967 under Rodney Paternott). Nihal did the triple jump in athletics and qualified for the Group Meet at Police Park. Incidentally, Nihal’s late father Villers Gunewardene is also a Peterite having secured colours in 4 sports – Rugby, Cricket, Athletics and Soccer, which he captained.
A bit of trivia about the 1957 team members.
Nihal Fonseka was a specialist in the Pole Vault – better known as the international tenor with a world-class voice;
Errol de Silva won the Public Schools Championships in the Javelin throw;
Ranjit Wijeyesekere specialized in the 400M and 200M;
Anton Perera was a household name in the late 50s as a cricketer, athlete, and tennis player. He was considered one of the fastest schoolboy bowlers at the time. He migrated to California in the sixties and lived in the San Fernando Valley. Sadly, Anton passed away in 2014, at 72, from medical complications in a Southern California hospital;
Nissanka Dharmatileka joined the Ceylon Police, not sure where he is today;
Rontjen Perera is also retired and lives in Los Angeles, California;
Winston Tambimuttu migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1973;
Nihal, Errol and Ranjit are retired from their respective jobs and have made Canada their adopted home since the late 60s or early 70s. All three live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA);
Sadly, Ranjit Weerasena, Anton Perera, Linus Jayawardena, Desmond Moraes, are no more. May they rest in peace!
Winston Tambimuttu’s sporting career after leaving school
Sixty-three years ago on March 4, 1958, seven track and field visionaries – Carlton Seneviratne, Jackie Van Twest, Harry Jayawardena, Terry Louis, Lazarus Jayasekera, KLF Wijedasa and schoolboy Vijitha Wijeysekara set out to form the “Ceylonese Track and Field Club” a.k.a CT&FC, with a logo of a gazelle in flight. Athletics is complex and wonderfully varied, but it also embodies passion, hard work and self-improvement. Athletics is education and entertainment, respect for the rules and self-expression. Athletics is also like life itself, with challenges and obstacles, triumphs, and defeats. Many champion athletes have emulated the courage, commitment, and joy inherent in the sport.
Behind every great athlete is a masterful coach that inspires athletes to evolve into the strongest performer they can become. The intensive coaching Winston received from Jackie Van Twest prepared him for bigger and better things later in life. Winston joined the new club soon after he left college. This was the turning point of his athletic career that led him to break the Ceylon record in the 400M hurdles. His level of endurance and easy style in the shorter hurdles prompted Winston to train for the arduous 400M hurdles event under the watchful eye of Jackie Van Twest and Harry Jayawardena. This event was not included at Public Schools level. In 1964, Winston broke the Ceylon Record for the 400M hurdles event. In addition, he was a member of the CT&FC Relay Team that broke the Ceylon record in the 4 x 400M event that included Winston, E.L. (Leslie) Lokubalasuriya, Senaka Wijayanayake and Nimal Fernando. Affixed herein are a few photographs that compliment Winston’s journey in athletics and basketball. Another image shows Winston skimming over the hurdles to create a Ceylon record in the 400M hurdles.
Employment at J.D. McLaren Co. Ltd.
After leaving school, Winston joined J.D. McLaren Co. Ltd., a reputed service provider for many international liner shipping companies frequenting the port of Colombo. He indulged in many sports while at McLarens, but it was Athletics that he shone. Winston took his athletics prowess to another level leading the team to win the All-Ceylon Mercantile Athletic Association Championships in 1967. He created Mercantile and Ceylon records in the 400 meters hurdles. He was a member of the strong McLarens team that became Mercantile Basketball Champions in 1967, in a team that had two players of national fame – Percy Perera and Sam Lovell.
Winston worked at McLarens for 10 years prior to leaving the shores of Ceylon in 1973, to migrate to Melbourne, Australia. He is retired now after working many years as a Senior Executive in the Shipping Industry and lives in Melbourne. Winston enjoys fishing on his boat in retirement. This writer lived at Bambalapitiya Flats during school days and knew Winston, his brothers Stafford and Nihal and only sister Kerina who lived at the Flats – J Block. Winston was my idol along with Ranjit Wijeyesekere at school. It is therefore a pleasure to put pen to paper to relive the journey taken by a simple, unassuming, dynamic athlete like Winston Tambimuttu who had the honour of holding on to two Ceylon records at a given period in the 400M Hurdles and 4 x 400M Relay. Winston has always been a proud Peterite!
Winston’s late father Walter W. Tambimuttu was a record-breaking Ceylon athlete
From father to son, the legacy goes on. Winston Tambimuttu’s story does not end here. It would be remiss if I overlook the outstanding legacy left behind by Winston’s late father, Walter W. Tambimuttu. He was a product of S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia during the time of the great Warden W.A. Stone. Judging by his athletic history given below it is safe to conclude that Walter Tambimuttu would most likely be a contender to be the most outstanding athlete of the 1930s in Ceylon. This honour belonged unreservedly to Ceylon’s Olympian Duncan White in the 1940s.
The achievements of Walter Tambimuttu are listed below:
- Member of the Ceylon team at the 1934 Western Asiatic Games in Delhi
- 1st in High Jump
3rd in Pole Vault
- Member of the Ceylon team at the 1938 Empire Games in Sydney. Other members of the Ceylon team were H.A. Perera, A.C. Dep, Duncan White, W.A. Henricus and P.C. de Niese. Manager was W.H.D. Perera.
Some of his other Achievements were:
- At the Nationals, he won the Pole Vault in 1932, 1933, and 1934 with Ceylon Records in 1933 and 1934,
- At the Nationals, he won the Long Jump with Ceylon Records in 1937 and 1938 and
- At the Nationals, he won the Triple Jump in 1936 & 1937 with Ceylon Record in 1936
Walter Tambimuttu’s Long Jump record set in July 1938 stood for 18 years (one of the longest records on the books) when P. Don Victor broke the record in June 1956