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Big dreams inside a ‘small’ basketball court

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Basketball player Praneeth Udumalagala has come a long way in his chosen sport

Interview with Praneeth Udumalagala

by a Special Sports Correspondent

Praneeth Udumalagala has come a long way in one of his chosen sports basketball and is a hot prospect when he turns out for Sri Lanka in tournaments here and abroad. He is a rare sportsman having represented his country in swimming and basketball. But the latter is what has given him so much recognition and a clear view of what he loves to do in the future. He is engaged in business and manages to dedicate time for competitive sport as well. In an interview with ‘The Island’ Udumalagala spoke about his love for basketball, his work engagements and future plans.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q- How is your busy life as a player dedicated to basketball?

Well, it’s a full schedule just like any other dedicated athlete. The time revolves around training, strength and conditioning and other aspects of the game. My love for the game is such I enjoy every moment as a basketball player.

Q- You say you are looking at playing professional or semi-professional basketball in the future? Please elaborate on that a bit.

At this stage in my basketball career, I want to consistently reach to higher standards outside of Sri Lanka. If any overseas league gives me an opportunity to play professionally or as a semi-professional I would be ready to take up the challenge. I was able to play in the Nepal basketball league in 2019 and I am looking forward for the next.

Q- You are a national athlete and have represented Sri Lanka at many international tournaments. How is the feeling to represent Sri Lanka in your chosen sport?

I was able to represent my country in two sports. As a youngster during school days, I was able to represent Sri Lanka in both swimming and basketball. The pride of representing your country is the ultimate feeling for any athlete in his or her chosen sport. Once you wear the national jersey and step on the court you just want to give your 101% to make your people proud and bring glory to your nation. That feeling is hard to express in words.

Q-What is your best performance for Sri Lanka at an international tournament?

I think the toughest tournament I played in for the national team was the FIBA Pre-qualifiers 2021 in Bahrain. I believe that was my best performance where I was able to average 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and three assists throughout the tournament. Apart from that winning the SAG silver medal in 2019 is a great moment where we were able to create history and I’m glad I was able to do my best for the team and country.

Q-Tell us about your experience in representing team Times International Basketball Club which became champions in the Nepal Basketball League

It was such a memorable experience. The league was a month and a half long. By the time I joined the team the league had already begun, and my team had played a couple of games. There was little to no time to see how I fitted in best in the team format, but everyone in my team was excited to have me as much as I was to play in the league. From the league organization, my team management, competition level to the fan base the whole league was such a hit. It couldn’t be any better as we were able to win the league and I was on top of my performance.

Q- Being adjudged as the Sri Lanka Basketball Player of the year in 2015 must have made you feel proud. Do you think you were able to continue the momentum and win more honours in the sport?

It was indeed a proud moment. More than winning more or any honours to be frank the focus was always to be on the top of my game. No matter the situation, when my name is called, I always want to be ready to deliver more than what’s expected. Once I’m able to do what I do best, the rest will fall into place naturally, the recognition and honours will come.

Q- You played your part in Sri Lanka winning Silver at SABA championship 2011 in India. Can you compare how these two nations have progressed in the sport from there onwards?

Yes, that year was a memorable one as it was my debut year paying for Sri Lanka. As unfortunate as it sounds, India has since been improving and making strides in basketball while we struggle to go forward. The biggest difference I see is that India treats basketball as a professional sport while that is not the case in Sri Lanka. The national players here have their full-time jobs to take care of, then comes basketball. Saying that, I’m hopeful that many good things are ahead for Sri Lanka basketball and its players as we have a new leadership in the Sri Lanka Basketball Federation.

Q- You’ve been a regular in the Sri Lanka national team since 2011. How do you see yourself being there for contention when other promising youngsters are also knocking on the door for a playing slot?

The current national team is full of youngsters and promising talent. I am delighted to be playing alongside them to share my experiences and hand over the baton as we go forward. It is important I be on top of my game immaterial if I’m playing with experienced senior players or with talented youth. The playing minutes in a game are based on who’s the best inside the lines and as long as I play in the level I’m playing now it’s safe to say the youngsters could learn a lot and we can get better as a team.

Q- Are you employed and tell us something about work in office and how you manage to engage in competitive sport as well?

I play contract basketball for FairFirst insurance Ltd. I work with my father-in-law and help manage the production process at Shisasa Holdings International Pvt Ltd. I am also a part of the coaching staff at my alma mater St. Joseph’s College Colombo 10.

I have my own company IImpact Hoop Lab Pvt Ltd. Under IImpact Hoop Lab I run my own basketball skills training programme, produce basketball rims and backboards in Sri Lanka.

Q- The COVID pandemic was a challenge to everybody. How did you cope?

The COVID pandemic was a very difficult time period for me, and it still is as we speak. But just like any other challenge we can’t give up on our dreams. My goal was to survive these tough times and hope it will pass by soon. The training programme came to a halt, but we manage to do few online trainings and individual home visits for some of our athletes. Things are looking positive now and I am hoping to return to the programme as soon as I can.

Q- What are your future goals and plans in life and sport?

My goal is to continue to work hard and grow my company IImpact Hoop Lab. I want to work hard, create a dedicated basketball skill training centre for my training programme and help athletes to reach higher levels in the game of basketball. Through my company we produce affordable, high quality basketball rims and backboards that are made in Sri Lanka and we are also scaling into court construction. I will continue to play basketball as long as I can all the while I grow in other aspects in life. At the end of the day I want to be an exemplary role model for every basketball player out there.



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Dimuth on the verge of several batting milestones

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Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will equal the World Record for most consecutive fifties in Test match cricket if he scores a half-century in the first innings of the second Test against West Indies in Galle starting Monday.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne has hit a purple patch this year and the 147 he scored against West Indies in the first Test in Galle this week was his fourth hundred in 2021. The 33-year-old came up with an equally solid 83 in the second essay as Sri Lanka won by 187 runs and a session to spare.

His exploits have seen him accumulating 854 runs this year in Test cricket at an average of 77. Only Joe Root and Rohit Sharma have scored more runs in 2021 although they have played more games with the England captain featuring in 12 Tests and the Indian star appearing in 11 games compared to Dimuth’s six Tests.

Dimuth has now scored six consecutive half-centuries and a 50 in the second Test starting on Monday will see him equaling a World Record shared by six other players. Everton Weeks, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Chris Rogers and K.L. Rahul have all scored seven consecutive fifties in Test cricket.

In the list of most runs in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Dimuth went past former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga this year and he is currently the ninth highest run scorer. He’s on 5406 runs and if he scores 96 more runs in the second Test, he will knock off three more Sri Lankan greats; Tilan Samaraweera (5462), T.M. Dilshan (5492) and Marvan Atapattu (5502). That will see him sitting at number six among the highest run scorers for the country.

Dimuth is hungry for runs and he wants to finish his career with 10,000 Test runs. Only two other Sri Lankan greats have achieved the milestone. Kumar Sangakkara with 12,400 runs and Mahela Jayawardene with 11,814 runs are the only members of the exclusive 10,000 club.

“Scoring 10,000 runs is my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve that, but that’s what I’ve got in my mind. If I can continue this form, I’ll be able to get close to 10,000 runs. I like to improve as much as I can, and whenever I finish a match, I’ll go and check where I am on the Sri Lanka run charts, to figure out how many I need to score to pass someone,” Karunaratne explained.

The Sri Lankan captain was Man of the Match as Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead to retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy. The win also enabled Sri Lanka to collect 12 points in the ICC Test Championship.

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Amasha smashes Susanthika’s Army record, Roshan dazzles with hurdles feat

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Amasha de Silva smashed Susanthika Jayasinghe’s meet record in the women’s 100 metres.(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

57th Army Athletics Championships  

by Reemus Fernando  

Sprinter Amasha de Silva smashed Olympian Susanthika Jayasinghe’s longstanding Army Athletics Championship 100 metres record and Roshan Dhammika Ranatunga came almost close to breaking his national record in the 110 metres hurdles as they blazed the track on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Amasha clocked 11.67 seconds to win the women’s 100 metres final ahead of Susanthika’s niece Medhani Jayamanne in the afternoon. She broke Susanthika’s 1994 hand-timed record of 11.6 seconds. With yesterday’s feat, Amasha has now taken both the 100 and 200 metres records of the Army Championships under her belt. The athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody has a personal best of 10.55 seconds from 2020 and is the fourth fastest athlete in history in the 100 metres behind Susanthika, Damayanthi Dharsha and Rumeshika Ratnayake.

In the morning, Roshan Dhammika produced the second-fastest legal time ever run by a Sri Lankan in the men’s 110 metres hurdles.

Dhammika, who broke Olympian Mahesh Perera’s 24-year-old 110 metres hurdles record at the National Championships four weeks ago, clocked 13.91 seconds to win the gold in the 110 metres hurdles final. The SLEME athlete’s effort had a minus 1.9 wind reading as he finished the event just two milliseconds slower than his national record.

His coach Thiron Gamage was confident that Dhammika would improve his national record once again and he almost achieved the target running against the wind. “He missed the record but with this feat, Dhammika has proved beyond doubt that his national record was not a fluke,” Gamage told The Island after the new meet record performance.

How much he has got to offer was evident from the time Dhammika ran a relaxed heat in the morning. Despite breaking the second hurdle he was still leading when he cleared the last hurdle but slowed down to finish third in the heat.  In the final his only blemish was breaking the last hurdle. Still, he was metres ahead of the rest. With his third sub 14 seconds run (13.97 secs and 13.89 secs at the Nationals) the former Kularatne Central, Godakawela athlete has become the only Sri Lankan to run the distance under that mark legally.

All three athletes who had previously run the distance under 14 seconds, namely Chaminda Fonseka, Supun Viraj Randeniya and Mahesh Perera had wind readings above the legal limit.

Those were not the only impressive track performances as Pabasara Niku produced his personal best with a 46.36 seconds to finish first in the men’s 400 metres final which was minus national champion Kalinga Kumarage and the other leading contender Aruna Dharshana. Dharshana pulled out from the competition due to injury in the semi-finals on Thursday. Harsha Karunaratne who won the 800 metres, finished second behind Niku in a time of 46.83 seconds. In the corresponding women’s event, Nadeesha Ramanayake bagged the gold medal. She clocked 54.54 seconds.

There were two other individual meet record performances from Sarangi Silva in the women’s long jump and Samith Fernando in the men’s shot put.

Sarangi cleared a distance of 6.14 metres to win the long jump. Fernando cleared 16.60 metres to create his record.

Nilani Ratnayake, whose steeplechase feat was adjudged the most outstanding performance in the female category won her third individual gold medal when she clocked 4:25.20 seconds to finish the 1,500 metres. While Samantha Pushpakumara (RMS) won the men’s 10,000 metres in a time of 31:12.28 seconds, H.A.M. Dilrukshi was the winner in the women’s discus throw. Men’s 100 metres winner Himasha Eshan (10.29 secs), who was involved in many victories for the Artillery regiment- the winners of the championship- won the award for the most outstanding performance in the men’s category.

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From the Army Athletics Championships

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The 57th Army Athletics Championships concluded at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday. The five-day event witnessed several record breaking performances by leading national athletes. Here are some action pictures from day five of the championships.

(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi) 

 

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