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Sprint Sensation – Jabir Junaid

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Early Years

Jabir Junaid was born on 24 December 1946, in the small town of Thihariya (Gampaha District) not far from the hometown of former Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranaike.

His father, Mr. Junaid was a self-made wealthy enterprising industrialist, owning eleven businesses at the height of his career. At one time he was the fourth richest Muslim in the country. He was a renowned philanthropist and compassionate humanitarian.

His generosity and kindness included personal loving care for his staff of 500 workers. For the poorest he purchased forty perch of land and built small mud houses with bamboo sticks for their dwelling, along with wells supplying fresh water for drinking and other use. He provided for many marriageable daughters a dowry and often paid for their wedding expenses as well. All his staff were paid two bonuses a year!

Mr. Junaid wanted Jabir at an early age to obtain a good education and a high level of self-discipline and so, Jabir was enrolled at STC Bandarawela as a 7-year-old in 1954.

He was admitted to the Junior Dormitory as a boarder so that he would learn the precepts of personal responsibility, discipline and independence at a tender age.

Junaid did a bit of running while in Primary, but his raw talents were still to be discovered when his parents moved Jabir from STC Bandarawela to STC Gurutalawa in 1961, as a 14-year-old joining the Lower 6 class, again as a boarder.

1962 – Discovery of a Hidden Talent

In 1962, STC Gurutalawa used to conduct ‘Standard’ Tests for students in a variety of athletic disciplines to check their abilities and potentials. Having not done any serious form of athletics previously, Jabir was completely surprised when he won, quite easily, the class race. A pleasantly surprised Sports Master J. de S Jayasinghe (popularly known as “Uncle J”) ordered, soon after, a race between the junior sprint champion L.G.A de Silva and Jabir. Jabir took off and at the halfway point as he glanced around, could not see his rival and went to win the race by at least five yards! An astounded Mr. Jayasinghe immediately saw the potential in Jabir and next, pitted him against the school senior sprint champion, I.A. Munasinghe in a 100 yards sprint, which Jabir proceeded to win convincingly, by a couple of yards!! Following the race, a highly jubilant Mr. Jayasinghe, overcome by emotions, lifted Jabir and embraced him; he knew a ‘Star was Born’!

Jabir’s father was also thrilled to hear of his son’s newfound talent and wanted to buy him a very expensive pair of ‘Puma’ running spikes which cost Rs 175 in those days.

However, Mr. Jayasinghe advised him to initially get the cheaper Indian spikes that cost just Rs 35! Soon after Jabir was a member of the Junior Athletics Team and at the 1962 Public Schools Championship he finished a creditable 3rd in the 220 yards, just behind Josephian Shantilal Fernando and Thomian (STC Mount) junior champion and college 220 record holder, Rabin Mendis.

1963 – Stellar Rise

Seeing the great potential in Jabir, Mr. Jayasinghe with the help of Mr. Lafir who ran the Tuck Shop, bought him a track suit and a set of starting blocks for the 1963 season. With some focussed training, Jabir began dominating the track in competitions against the local schools in the Uva Province, including Uva College and St. Bedes Badulla. As a 16-year-old competing in his first year as a Senior
(under 19) at the Public Schools Championship he did remarkably well in the 100 yards and 220 yards. Jabir remembers quite well being placed 2nd in the 100 yards in a very close finish between him and Royalist Sellayah.
(* Both Sellayah & Junaid recorded 10.5s in winning their respective 100 yards heats on Day 1. In the Finals Sellayah clocked 10.8s. Jabir came 5th in the 220 yards)

Move to STC Mount Lavinia

Rabin Mendis as a competitor of Jabir was so impressed with his opponent’s sprinting talents at the 1963 Pubs, urged coach Mr. Brookie D’Silva to bring him over from STC Gurutalawa to STC Mount, to strengthen the relay team and improve the chances of success against other strong rivals. While both Jabir and his father were over the moon
at Brookie’s invitation (or rather persuasion) and accepted it gratefully, Mr. J de S Jayasinghe was fully distraught and broke down in tears on hearing the news. Understandably, he was more than sad to lose his star athlete!

1964 Season – Joining Force with Brookie D’Silva

Joining STC Mount Lavinia in March 1964, Jabir was taken under the protective wing of coach Brookie D’Silva who began working with him. Brookie immediately recognized not only Jabir’s immense raw potential but also a few areas of weakness that needed ironing out – one was his start where he tended to come up too early.

To ensure that Jabir kept his body angle quite low (gradually increasing to 45 degrees) as he built speed, Brookie had a string tied to two ends of a pole at the 30-yard mark under which Jabir had to run. When Jabir was struggling to master that technique, Brookie threated to tie a ‘barbed wire’ instead of a thin string. That corrected Jabir
pretty quickly!

The other area that Brookie focussed on was to smoothen Jabir’s running action as he tended to wobble side to side from his highly intense running action. To correct that Jabir was made to run with a high knee action while holding a ‘GI Pipe’ behind his neck and across his back shoulders.

On one occasion Jabir somehow got involved in the rugby practice under coach Quintin Israel. He collected a high kick and raced past everyone, past the goal post, past the dead ball line – and stood not knowing what to do next! As he stood bemused he heard Brookie’s booming voice blasting Quintin for allowing Jabir to join the rugby
practice and told him, in no uncertain terms, that Junaid not be allowed ever again onto a rugby field.

Brookie did not want any of his sprinters playing rugby and was not afraid to taking the matter to Warden Davidson if it necessitated the Warden’s intervention!

Soon after, Brookie having warned Jabir of ending up bow-legged if he learnt to sidestep or deke playing rugby, purchased a rugby ball and got Junaid to take it to the beach, kick it towards the sea and then run and catch the ball. By making him run in the water he consciously made Jabir develop a nice high knee action. Brookie also introduced him to some of the unorthodox training methods by the Australian Legendary Coach Percy Wells Cerutty.

There was no hiding that Jabir was one of Brookie’s favourites from day one and soon began to enjoy a very special reputation and preferential treatment! Brookie made sure Jabir was well fed and hydrated at the tuck shop with his favourite cocktail fruit juice and ‘Tono’ hot chocolate. In addition, Mr. Sam Jiffrey (in whose house, on de Saram
Road, Mt. Lavinia, Jabir was boarded), was given implicit directions about providing Jabir with highly nourishing special meals. As if this was not sufficient, Jabir, during his early morning fitness runs would help himself to ‘milk bottles’ from various homes in the neighbourhood for his morning sustenance! To avoid being caught, he nicked
the milk randomly from different houses on each occasion! With all the support, encouragement and hard work Jabir went on to easily win the sprint double at the 1964 House Meet winning the 100m in 11.6s. At the Dual Meet
with Trinity, he won a notable treble – 100m (11.6s), 200m (23.8s) and the Long Jump (20’ 7”). He excelled at the Group Meet and AAA Junior Nationals……(*awaiting Results)

At the 1964 Pubs he won the 200m in 23.4s and helped win the 4×100 relay as STC regained the Senior Tarbat after a gap of eleven years. However, the biggest disappointment for both Jabir and the Thomians was the blatant false start by Taxila MMV’s Amaradasa that led to Jabir, who hesitated thinking the starter would bring them back, narrowly finishing 2nd in the 100 metres. There was total disbelief that the starter did not recall the runners! Such awful bad luck indeed! The next day papers headline read “Amaradasa gets a flyer”! All three top finishers – Amaradasa, Junaid & Shantilal Fernando (St. Joseph’s) were credited with the identical time of 11.5s.

1965 Season – One of Highs & Lows!

Junaid began the 1965 Inter-House Athletics Meet in grand style by winning the Under 19 100m (11.8s), 200m (23.2s), Long Jump (20 ft 3 ½ inches) and anchoring the 4x100m Buck House team to win in 48.2s. The 200m timing of 23.2s was very impressive for early season and not far from Royalist Star, Darrell Liversz’s 1961 Public Schools Record of 22.9s.

The season progressed well with outstanding performances at the Colombo South Group Meet and the Dual Meet with Trinity College. However, extreme bad luck denied STC victory in both the 4×100 (dropped baton) and 4×200 (disqualification despite winning, for being pushed off the track) at the Relay Carnival.

Hamstring Injury

Junaid’s season took a nasty turn when he tore his hamstring muscle at College while practising the Long Jump under the watchful eyes of Brookie’s assistant Peter Wise. Brookie’s strict instruction was only to do three jumps and no more. Jabir was jumping well that day each with each of his first three jumps being over the 21 ft mark. Jabir recalls the long-standing Public Schools Record at that time was 22’ 2” set by another famous Royalist, N.A. Weeratunge. Wise who was quite excited with Jabir’s form, really wanted him to have a serious crack at that record and urged him, against

Brookie’s directives, to go for a fourth attempt. As Jabir hit the take-off board, which was basically a slab of wood from an old railway line, his spikes got jammed causing a major tear of his hamstring. Jabir was in agony while Brookie was extremely upset with Wise for disobeying his instructions. Couple of days later a distraught Brookie took Jabir in his famous ‘Peugeot 203’, along with close friend and teammate Rabin Mendis, to the residence of premier surgeon Dr. P.R. Anthonis who could do no more than give Jabir cortisone pain-killer injections.


Dr. P. R. Anthonis – surgeon extraordinaire to whom Brookie rushed Junaid for a Miracle Cure!

Dr. P. R. Anthonis – surgeon extraordinaire to whom Brookie rushed Junaid for a Miracle Cure!


Unfortunately, the hamstring injury plagued Junaid for rest of the season, and he had to sadly pull out of the 1965 Public Schools Meet causing STC to miss out on both the Tarbat Championship and Jefferson Relay Trophies.

Unique Challenge from National Champion Bernard Atwell


Bernard Atwell

One of the most memorable experiences Jabir recalls is the day national sprint champion, Bernard Atwell, turned up at the College grounds, unannounced, in a track suit, and his running spikes, and challenged Jabir to a 100m race. He offered Junaid a 3-metre handicap which Junaid flatly refused as he accepted the challenge. Brookie who was happily smoking his ‘3 Roses’ was quietly confident that Junaid would give Atwell a good run for his money. He gave Junaid the go ahead and soon the word got around that a dual was to take place between the national champion and the college champion. Before long a crowd, presumably the boarders and others who were at the grounds, gathered around to watch the race. To the sheer thrill and excitement of everyone watching, Junaid ran like the wind beating Atwell comfortably. An embarrassed Atwell quickly disappeared from the scene, as Brookie was beaming ear to ear with delight. Such was the exceptional sprinting talent of Junaid who, most unfortunately, was unable to fully realize his absolutely amazing potential as a result of recurring hamstring injuries and bad luck. Such is sports and life!

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Jabir Junaid – The Sprinter! (training at STC Gurutalawa in 1963)

A gracious Junaid however is eternally grateful to Mr. Brookie D’Silva and STC for his precious few years at Mount. Along with the blessings of his loving parents and the Almighty, Jabir, with typical Thomian grit and determination not only became a successful architect but has displayed real strength of character to deal with several adversities he encountered in his life – all in excellent spirit!


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Jabir’s Parents – Father A.R.M. Junaid & Mother Ummu Latheefa AbuSalih

On becoming an Architectural Assistant with Visva Selvaratnam and Leon Monk (later known as Selvaratnam & Perera) Jabir made a pledge , to donate as much of his skills in architectural design to as many Mosques and Islamic Religious Institutions. He is happy to have honoured this pledge having designed thirty-four such places of worship
and study around Sri Lanka

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Jabir as the Model Making Expert worked with Sri Lanka’s Leading Architect
Geoffrey Bawa, in the design of Sri Lanka’s New Parliament in 1978. He was
specially acknowledged and complimented for this excellent work by both President
Hon. J.R. Jayawardene and Prime Minister Hon. R. Premadasa.


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Jabir was honoured as the Chief Guest at the STC Inter-House Sports Meet held in Year 2000. His wife Gnei Suffiya presented the awards. They were both given a special welcome and Jabir gave an inspiring speech on the importance of ‘SS’ – Studies & Sports! He urged the young athletes never ever to feel that one is a ‘loser’ for not winning but they were merely ‘non-winners’ with victory just around the corner provided they trained harder with greater determination and discipline. The speech was very well received by everyone including the Acting-Warden Mr. D.A.Pakianathan.

*Awaiting Results from Group Meets and Junior Nationals to confirm the Official Results of Junaid’s Accomplishments. Sadly, like many, he has lost all his paper cuttings, photos & certificates following the Tsunami – Ravi Rudra

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