Former S. Thomas’ College rugby captain and present CH and FC head coach Rohitha ‘Chichi’ Rajapaksa said his father Mahinda Rajapaksa the ex-President and current Prime Minister, was his biggest inspiration and mentor that made him what he was at school and what he is today. He describes himself as a “simple man” ready to reach out to others.
“I am a fan of all sports but my physique made me better suited to be a rugby player”, said Rajapaksa in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer as he recalled his school and club playing days.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: Who or what inspired you to take to rugby and who will you say is your guiding light thus far?
A: My eldest brother Namal played rugby from a very early age and his time at College is what truly inspired me to take up the sport. As for my guiding light, I believe in creating and finding my own path but along the way I’ve been exposed to great inspirations, mainly my father.
Q: What made you enter rugby without playing cricket which is probably the biggest sport at S. Thomas’?
A: I am a fan of all sports but I believe my physique made me a better rugby player, and I grew up exposed to rugby with my brothers.
Q: So what’s your goal in rugby?
A: I’ve won the Knockouts, Sevens and League Championship as a player, so I’d like to win those three championships as a coach working with the CH and FC team.
Q: Is it also your ambition in life?
A: To live a happy, simple and content life. And help people along the way to reach their full potential.
Q: What’s your most memorable performance at a rugby match for school and club rugby?
A: At school, my most memorable performance was defeating our long-term rivals and the unbeaten St. Peter’s College in 2008. We won thanks to a last minute try from a move that was successful. As far as club rugby is concerned, while I was the captain of the Navy team, I took a chance and trusted the place kicker of our team, Nuwan Hettiarachchi with a 70 metres penalty kick which was a far shot but we managed to get it over and won the game. Also, the 70 metres kick was a coincidental shot that became memorable as no one ever kicked a penalty that far before, making this game one of the most memorable occasions in my entire rugby career.
Q: In rugby at your training sessions how were you able to improve your fitness, your strengths and your mental preparations?
A: Regular attendance and consistency are mandatory during any sort of training. A proper periodic plan needs to be set, if not the boys will peak at the wrong time and have a drop in performance when it’s actually needed during the season. The current situation we are in is very tricky and we need to ensure we have a balanced workout to keep our muscles working but not over pushing ourselves as we don’t have an idea around when we will start the games. In order to cope with the mental pressure, we must train our mind to be tactful and calm to think of our next moves. So yoga and meditation can also improve the mental stability as that’s key in any game to lift your spirit and the team mates.
Q: Do you see your self as someone who will want to coach the Sri Lanka team some day?
A: If I should be given the opportunity, yes I would like to coach our boys and see them play. I am sure the opportunity should present itself, if they think I am deserving of the role.
Q: Who has supported you the most ?
A: Always my family, teammates and friends have supported me and I believe that I am very fortunate to have such a system behind me.
Q: Who is your favourite player or players?
A: Jonah Lomu (New Zealand) and Namal Rajapaksa
Q: What is the greatest accomplishment in your life thus far ?
A: The definition of accomplishment varies – from receiving my PhD to becoming a father, all those accomplishments have been great in their own place.