John de Saram - youngest competitor at 1948 Olympic Games | Daily News
Sri Lankan Olympic stars of yesteryear

John de Saram - youngest competitor at 1948 Olympic Games

John De Saram
John De Saram

At the age of 20 years, John De Saram was the youngest athlete to represent Sri Lanka at the 1948 London Olympic Games.

He was included in the Sri Lankan contingent after some outstanding performances for Police Sports Club where he excelled in several track events.

In 1948, he helped Police Sports Club to clinch the 4X110 yards Relay Championship after having completed a successful school career at Royal College, Colombo.

In fact, in 1940 John De Saram became the Under-12 Track and Field champion at Royal College and he was the Under-14 and Under-16 champion in 1942 and 1944 respectively.

He displayed his skills at All-Ceylon level for the first time by securing the second place in the 100 yards race at the Public Schools Meet in 1945. He also helped Royal College to win the 4X100 yards relay event at the same meet.

He soon grew in reputation to annex the Trophy for the Most Talented Under-16 Athlete in 1946.

John De Saram stole the limelight once again when he established a new Public Schools Meet record with a time of 23.3 seconds in the 220 yards event in 1947.

In the same year, he had the distinction of winning School Athletics Colours and went on to claim the 220 yards event while pushing more reputed athletes of the calibre of W. T. Saunders and S. Krishnarajah into second and third place respectively.

At the 1948 London Olympic Games, John De Saram had the honour of competing in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events. He made it to the second-round of the 200 metres but could not qualify for the semi-finals of this event.

He recorded a time of 51.2 seconds but yet he could not proceed beyond the first-round of the 400 metres event.

In 1949, he displayed his talent and potential once again when he ran the 800 metres in two minutes 01.8 seconds as an undergraduate.

He also had the satisfaction of overcoming a couple of more experienced athletes in the form of Oscar Wijesinghe and H. M. P. Perera in the 220 yards both in 1949 and 1950.

John De Saram was a proud member of the Sri Lankan 4X110 Yards Relay Team which won the fourth place in the 1950 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.

The other three members of the Sri Lanka Relay Team were, Summa Navaratnam, Oscar Wijesinghe and Duncan White.

Thereafter, John De Saram left for the USA for further studies and had the honour of serving as the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations (UN) in New York.