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Badminton’s message of hope to war-torn Ampara



by A Special Sports Correspondent

Sport is a wise tool to use in reconciliation activities. It comes in handy when participants are less affluent and have physical and mental scars; in this instance due to a civil war that concluded. Representatives of Sri Lanka Badminton (SLB) were in Ampara a few days ago to conduct a coaching session for coaches, but nothing could stop some children also ‘getting inside’ and participating in the two-day event held at the Ampara Public Indoor Stadium. The camp was held on March 20 and 21.

The coaching camp was organised by the Coaching and Promotions Committee of the SLB. What really caught the eye of the organisers was the physical conditioning of participants. The people present are used to hardships and they commute long distances on foot or by bicycles. “Hence the physical qualities needed for badminton are already there,” said Chintaka Fernando who conducted the coaching programme.

It’s after many years that Ampara is picking up in civil life activities. There is little facilities for sports and this programme was certainly a boost for the people in this town and those who also came from far away areas like Dehiaththakandiya.

Amapara knows more about a civil war than sports. Ampara was once ravaged by the civil war and history reveals how the Gonagala massacre took place in 1999 where 54 people were killed. There were many children among them and the killers were largely women LTTE cadres. But during the war too the town produced gems in the sports field who went on to represent Sri Lanka. Medal winners Damayanthi Darsha and Dileema Peterson are from Ampara and later continued their sports by coming to Colombo.

Once inside the hall and attending the camp the participants were eager to learn new things. It’s not that there was clear tunnel vision for them during the sessions. But according to Fernando what really pulled the heart strings of the participants was the technical part of the game.

According to Fernando the mission of the camp was to create a sports culture in Ampara and to educate coaches so that they know how to impart true knowledge. Thanks to the President of SLB Rohan de Silva sports equipment was distributed to participants. But the most valuable possession they got from the session was the ‘certificate of participation’ which they were entitled to after sitting for a written exam.

Some of the participants at the coaching camp held at the Ampara Public Indoor Stadium on March 20 and 21 pose for a photograph

The message that was given to participants from the SLB representatives was that ‘nothing comes easy before it’s hard’.

Nothing in success comes without the role of volunteers and philanthropists. The camp in Ampara was largely successful because of the contributions of parliamentarian Dr. Tilak Rajapaksa who hails from Ampara. All what he did was to a village where he schooled at initially before shifting to Colombo to continue his studies. Mention must be made of his coordinator Lakshan de Silva and the efforts of Sri Lanka Badminton’s Coaching and Promotions Committee Chairman Deepal Madurapperuma and its Secretary Lalith Perera and Trevor Rackerman the CEO of SLB. For the record this camp was the second in the series following the first one in Colombo.

This is an era where individuals, especially young ones, ask the question ‘what’s in it for me’ before undertaking any venture or project because we are living in a ‘me era’. Individual returns have top most importance and selfishness reigns in life, politics and sports. But many of the organisers who were involved sacrificed a lot, especially their time to stay at home with their loved ones, to give rural fork a real badminton experience.

These folk who participated in the coaching camp needn’t be given lessons on how to make their focus sharp. They are from an area where the human elephant conflict is a daily occurrence. People in the area know the best times to move around and avoid facing the wrath of the jumbos. The organisers of the coaching camp were housed at the Irrigation Bungalow. While at the bungalow these representatives were reminded that there was an elephant corridor close by and no one should park his or her vehicle and block that passage. Not very long ago a van had been damaged because it was parked in a way that it blocked the corridor.

Something that would be a cause for sadness is that there were no Tamil participants at the camp. Ampara has Tamil citizens who didn’t have the best of life due to the armed conflict that concluded in 2009. The organisers of the coaching camp had taken a Tamil citizen, Sivalingam Kethees, who was ready to translate the content in the sports literature that was distributed and what was said by officials at the camp. The absence of Tamils makes the orgnisers of the camp ponder whether there was lack of coordination among the sports officials of Ampara and the citizens of this Eastern Town.

The coaching camp was loaded, but the participants found enough energy and enthusiasm needed to last and absorb the content of the two full days coaching. When the dusk was setting in on the final day and when it was ready to bid goodbye the best thing that the organisers heard from participants, where the majority were coaches and sports officials, was that they would target to produce medal winners at badminton in the future.

They also made a request for the SLB representatives to visit Ampara again; possibly to show results from what they have learned and to strengthen the bridge that Colombo build with the Eastern Province thanks to badminton.

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First sprinter to run 100m in under 10 seconds dies




Jim Hines held the world record in the men's 100m for nearly 15 years (pic BBC)

US sprinter Jim Hines, the first man to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, has died at the age of 76.

He broke the record in 1968 when he recorded a hand-timed 9.9 seconds at the US Championships. Hines then broke his own record shortly after while winning gold at the 1968 Olympics, where an electronic timer in Mexico City recorded him at 9.95. His record held for nearly 15 years until Calvin Smith ran a time of 9.93 in 1983.

That is the longest length of time an athlete has held the record for the men’s 100m since the International Amateur Athletic Foundation began keeping track – 110 years ago.

His death was announced in a statement by World Athletics. The organisation said it is “deeply saddened” by the news. Both the Olympics and USA Track and Field shared tributes to Hines on Twitter. “The sport has lost a legend,” USA Track and Field said.

Hines was born in the state of Arkansas in 1946 but was raised in Oakland, California.

He had an early love of sport, namely baseball, but showed a real talent for sprinting as a teenager. He attended Texas Southern University where he ran for the Tigers track team before competing in national championships and the Olympics.

In addition to winning the 100m at the Mexico Olympics, he was also part of the US 4x100m relay team which won a gold.

He ended his sprinting career shortly after the Olympics and joined the NFL. He spent three years in the league, playing for the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.

(BBC Sports)

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Silverwood promises to address dot ball issue



Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa

Leading up to the World Cup Qualifiers starting in less than two weeks’ time in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Chris Silverwood promised to address the team’s dot-ball woes.

In the first ODI against Afghanistan which the hosts lost by six wickets here on Friday, there were 158 dot balls with the batters struggling to rotate the strike. That is a huge amount coming up to more than 25 overs. Although the number was cut down to 128 in the second game, Sri Lanka would like to do better than that.

“The dot ball issue is something that we are addressing. A lot of people are talking about it I know. We need to rotate the strike better and put the pressure back on the bowlers. The boundary percentage went up in the last game. Getting a balance between the two will help us to score above 300,” Silverwood told journalists.

Silverwood, the former England Head Coach, also welcomed the return of seniors Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne back into the side bringing more stability to the batting unit. Mathews was left out for game two, but that appears to be part of the team’s strategy to give everyone in the squad a go.

“Angelo was brought into the squad to boost the batting lineup and bring confidence into the side. He has experience of playing big matches. The fact is we must prepare the whole squad to cover ourselves to face any situation.

“Dimuth is making a comeback into the ODI side and he played superbly. He had a good Test series against Ireland. His tempo is very good. He gave us something to build on. The openers added 80 plus for the first wicket. Every partnership after that was scored at less than run a ball. It shows what we can do when we have a good start,” noted Silverwood.

Dhananjaya de Silva came up with a match-winning effort in the second game bowling his off-spin so well picking up three wickets that included the prize scalp of Ibrahim Zadran and earlier his less than run a ball 29 had helped Sri Lanka to a match-winning total of 323 for six.

“Dhananjaya is at six and has to adapt to situations whether it be setting a target or chasing one. The first game he played a superb inning. Today we saw him capitalizing after we had a great start. He kept the momentum going. Obviously scored quickly which is exactly what we need to get over 300. We want to keep pushing the barriers. When it comes to his bowling, he has been threatening to do it for a while.”

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Tharushi dazzles with two golds



Sri Lanka’s mixed relay team with their medals. (from left) Jayeshi Uththara, Tharushi Karunaratne, Susantha Fernando (coach and manager), Shehan Dilranga and Vinod Ariyawansa.

Asian Junior Athletics Championship

by Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne won back to back gold medals as Sri Lanka reaped a haul of three medals on day two of the Asian Junior Athletics Championships in South Korea on Monday.

Karunaratne won the gold medal in the women’s 800 metres before running the vital anchor leg for her team to clinch gold ahead of strong Indian and hosts’ teams in the 4×400 metres mixed relay.

Gold medals Sri Lanka won yesterday were its eighth and ninth since the commencement of the biennial championship in 1986.

Competing in her pet event, Karunaratne was hardly challenged as she led from the first 100 metres to finish in a time of 2:05.64 seconds. Karunaratne, had set an Asian (junior) leading time just outside the current national record to earn her ticket to the event in South Korea. “I am really proud of her achievement. I was not expecting her to run close to her personal best as she had given her best in the 400 metres,” Susantha Fernando her coach told The Island after she clinched her first gold. She won the silver medal of the 400 metres on Sunday.

In the mixed relay she started in the third position but when the Indian counterpart who had won the gold in the 400 metres individual event tumbled at the start she grabbed the opportunity to fight for the first place and there was no turning back for her from there on. Jayeshi Uththara who won the 400 metres bronze, Shehan Dilranga and Vinod Ariyawansa were the others to form the mixed relay team.

She finished in a new Sri Lanka record time of 3:25.41 seconds. She was also a member of the team that had set the previous national record at the World Junior Championships. While the country’s senior athletes are yet to run the mixed relay at an international event, the junior athletes’ performances had been considered as National Records.

Kahawatta Central triple jumper Malith Yasiru was the other medallist of the day. Yasiru cleared 15.82 metres, seven centimeters shy of his personal best, to win the bronze ahead of India’s Sukhpreet Singh. Japan’s Miyao Manato who was the only athlete to clear the 16 metres mark (16.08m) and China’s Ma Yinglong (15.98m) won the gold and silver medals respectively.

With the two gold medals won yesterday the country has nine gold medals against her name at these championships now. Sri Lanka’s first gold medals of these championships were won by Damayathi Dharsha (100m) and Susanthika Jayasinghe (200m) in Jakarta Indonesia in 1994. The country had to wait till 2012 when it hosted the event in Colombo to witness the next gold. Dulaj Madusanka and Shivanthi Kumari Ratnayake won golds in the men’s and women’s 400 metres at the Sugathadasa Stadium while also anchoring the 4×400 metres relay teams to bronze and silver.

At the last edition in Gifu, Japan the country won three golds with Aruna Dharshana winning the men’s 400 metres with a championship record time of 45.79 seconds. Dharshana also ran a vital leg to win the 4×400 metres gold. The other gold came in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase when Parami Wasanthi clocked a National Junior Record time of 10:21.54 seconds to win.

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