It was the year 2017. A 13-year old Weightlifting record was broken quite easily and effortlessly by a fresh Management undergraduate in the Novices Championship of University of Ruhuna, creating a big buzz amongst the university community. This lad with a strong physique then went on to influence the university authorities to introduce powerlifting to the university with the help of Mr. Palitha Weerasinghe, the Director of Physical Education of the University.
Powerlifting, which is not yet a very popular sport in Sri Lankan universities, is different from the more popular sport weightlifting in several aspects. Weightlifting is an Olympic sport whereas powerlifting is not. Powerlifting consists of 3 types of lifts named squat, bench press, and deadlift while weightlifting consists of two overhead lifts named snatch, and clean & jerk. Powerlifting requires tremendous amounts of hard training and dedication according to the star of this article Vikum Perera, the exact bloke who broke the 13-year old Novices record for Weightlifting in the University of Ruhuna with no fuss at all.
Even though the opportunities for university students to excel in powerlifting are so minimal in Sri Lanka where even inter-university competitions for powerlifting do not exist, Vikum Perera has used the few opportunities he got to perform exceptionally well, achieving so much as a powerlifter while engaging in the sport in parallel to his studies. However, his best achievement in powerlifting to date is securing the 14th place at the World Classic Powerlifting Championship 2019 which was held in Sweden. In addition to that, he has won two gold medals and a silver medal at the Asian Pacific Classic Powerlifting and Bench Press Championship 2019, and one bronze medal each at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships held in 2018 and 19.
Hailing from Isipathana College Colombo, Vikum has been interested in powerlifting from his teen years. We conducted a brief interview with this talented guy to discuss his past, present, and future as a skilled and hardworking sportsman.
“When I was in grade 10, I too was body-conscious and wanted to build a strong and good looking body with huge muscles and all, just like the other teenagers. That’s when I started weight training, back in 2010,” stated Vikum, when he was asked how he started powerlifting. “I live in Bandaragama, which is home to Maithree Hall where most of the high profile powerlifting tournaments in Sri Lanka are conducted. So powerlifting wasn’t an alien game to me. I have seen Sri Lanka’s best powerlifters in action at the Maithree Hall. It was Ransilu Jayathilake whose performances inspired me to take up powerlifting.”
Ransilu Jayathilake is arguably Sri Lanka’s best powerlifter and Vikum has been fortunate enough to represent the country along with his role model. From a fan of a professional of whose performances mesmerized him to a team-mate of that exact professional, Vikum’s journey has been an incredible one.
“After starting powerlifting seriously in 2016, I took part in my first recognized powerlifting competition in the same year. It was the All-Island Open Powerlifting Meet in which powerlifters from all over the country competed without any age category. Despite being an inexperienced competitor, I managed to finish 7th. I won my first medal in the Sri Lanka Junior Powerlifting Championship 2017 and that was a Silver.” Interestingly, Vikum managed to achieve these with no proper guidance in the form of a designated coach for himself and he was mostly self-taught.
“I met my current coach Mr. Dulanjana Shivanka Ekanayake in 2018 at the Gampaha Power Fighters Club. He is currently the assistant coach of the Sri Lanka National Powerlifting pool and also a member of the Sri Lanka Army Powerlifting pool. Power Fighters Club is the club that I’m still representing. However, before meeting him in person, he had been guiding me virtually and we were already connected.”
Vikum’s first-ever gold medal performance happened in the same year (2018) in the Sri Lanka National Novices Powerlifting Championship. What makes it even more special is the fact that he participated in that competition representing the University of Ruhuna. This became a major break in the process of introducing powerlifting to the university.
Even though Vikum was medaling in the Inter-Faculty Weightlifting meets and also representing the University Weightlifting team in the Sri Lanka Intermediate Weightlifting Championship, powerlifting was his one true passion. He is the current powerlifting captain of University of Ruhuna and is deeply concerned about powerlifting in the context of Sri Lankan universities.
“If we consider University of Ruhuna, powerlifting is still a fresh sport. It requires a lot of financial support as students involved in the sport should be looked after and very well taken care of. It’s not like any other sport that depends solely on skills and training. This also requires players to have a proper diet and this is a sport where players get injured often; so efficient mechanisms to treat them should be always ready and good to go. I have injured my back 4 times thus far. It’s not easy.”
Vikum himself had to go through quite a hassle to continue the sport he had been doing even before he entered university. “It’s difficult to maintain the diet I should maintain while I am at the university. Equipment for regular training was also a concern. Being in a different geographical location from where your coach is located is also not a practice which can sustain long. However, with my international achievements, I was lucky enough to attract the private company Access Group to sponsor me.”
Vikum, who is now a leading powerlifter in the country, expects the authorities to include powerlifting in the annual inter-university games. “Certain Sri Lankan universities, both private and state, compete in powerlifting tournaments registering as clubs under the particular university’s name. That’s how I also represented Ruhuna in the National Novices Championship in 2018. University powerlifting teams need to have a competition in the annual inter-university games. I think it’s a must! We should target the World University Powerlifting Cup!” stressed Vikum.
As Vikum suggests, powerlifting amongst Sri Lankan universities definitely needs a boost. However, when asked about the future of powerlifting as a whole in Sri Lanka, Vikum’s answer was full of hope and positivity. “Powerlifting is growing in popularity here in Sri Lanka. It’s attracting a lot of youths. Even the support given by the government for the sport is commendable. I’m happy about the talent we have now. We can actually expect to medal in the World Powerlifting Championship in the future.”
A national powerlifter and a university undergraduate – both are tough jobs; the former is obviously tougher but when you’ve given both roles to play, it takes a big toll out of you. Vikum Perera is a rare iron-man who has the potential to pull off both successfully. “The journey so far has been hard. The future too might bring so many obstacles; that’s for sure. Anyway, I would like to thank my University, the students and staff of the Faculty of Management & Finance, my team-mates and finally to Mr. Sadeera (Weightlifting coach), Mr. Palitha and everyone working under him for being the pillar of strength throughout the university journey of a full time powerlifter. I’m grateful for all of them.”
Asked about his future goals in powerlifting, Vikum did not hesitate before claiming in a voice full of hope and determination, “My next target as a powerlifter is an Asian Record!" We as the crew at MoraSpirit wish him all the very best to achieve all his dreams in the field of sports and also in his academics.