Chinthana Vidanage, hailing from Polonnaruwa, is a true hero. Vidanage, who will represent Sri Lanka is weightlifting at the Beijing Olympics, has not had an easy rise to the top. His is a story of struggle, of overcoming obstacles… and happy endings, although Vidanage’s tale is far from over yet

Born 31st December 1981, Vidanage’s father died when the boy was only five leaving Vidanage’s mother as the sole breadwinner. The second of four brothers, Vidanage tasted the bitter tang of poverty early. Educated at the Swamunna school, Vidanage received a Grade Five scholarship to the Royal Central College, Polonnaruwa. At thirteen, Vidanage’s interest in weightlifting was piqued. Coached by his friend Kumudukumara de Silva, Chinthana began his weightlifting career, becoming National Champion in his customary 62kg category

After school, Vidanage joined the Sri Lanka Air Force before moving out to concentrate on his weightlifting: the young man found himself in Kandy where he took part in special training for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, with only a meager training allowance to sustain him. When he could not afford the adhesive powder used for weightlifting, he used raw cement. Yet Vidanage was not deterred. He was never deterred: his passion for the sport, combined with his inherent resourcefulness and determination ensured his success.

Thus it was in 2006 that Chinthana Vidanage made Sri Lankan history, becoming the first weightlifter to win a gold medal for the country at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne where he competed in the men’s 62kg category. It was an instant catapult to fame and glory for the impoverished young man from Polonnaruwa. Earning the country’s admiration and praise, Vidanage became a hero overnight, and one many could look up to. Despite the numerous struggles he faced – and there were many – Vidanage never let the burden of a difficult life weigh him down. He faced each obstacle and conquered it, slowly and steadily making his way to the top. A true athlete. A true hero