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Dr. Cyril’s journey in Taekwondo has been fruitful

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All invitees and students who were felicitated by the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association pose for a photograph with Dr. Cyril Antony

by A Special Sports Correspondent

Taekwondo in Sri Lanka has made a tough and challenging journey after it was introduced to the islanders by Deshamanya Master Dr. Cyril Antony to the island back on December 12th, 1976.

Those were the days when Bruce Lee’s films were sown in Asia and there was a great following for martial arts. The same environment prevailed here in Sri Lanka as well. After Dr. Antony picked up the rudiments of Taekwondo in Canada-where its founder General Choi Hong Hi was residing-he decided to make a quick return home and spread the sport island-wide.

However, Dr. Antony’s beginnings in martial arts had more to do with Kyokushin karate; a martial art where its players resorted to heavy blows and full contact fighting. According to Dr. Antony, Taekwondo is a much safer sport than karate due to its rhythmic and circular movements. “I respect karate because I cut my teeth in martial arts by learning it. But I realised that my future was with Taekwondo once I learned it in Canada,” said Antony in an interview with The Island.

There was a large following for the sport when he introduced it. But the numbers wanting to try it shot up largely because he had a successful stint as a referee at the World Championships in 1978. He was just 30 years old then when he achieved this feat.

At the inception, he started classes in Colombo, Kandy, Badulla, Wattala, Ratnapura, and Kuliyapitiya. “I used my personal contacts to promote the sport. There was much help for me because there was no politics involved with the sport back then,” he recalled. All these activities were made possible through his ‘club’-the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association (SLTA).

As the sport gathered momentum here in Sri Lanka he registered the SLTA as the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation with the Ministry of Sports in 1984. Before that, exactly two years earlier, he registered Taekwondo as a national sport with the Ministry of Sports. All this was done with the good intention of promoting the sport and not with the aim of basking in personal glory.

However, things fell out of place when, in the year 1996, the then Minister of Sports took steps to suspend the registration of the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation. No reasons were given for this harsh action. The Sports Minister appointed an interim committee to oversee the administration of the federation and included his name among the list of administrators. But Dr. Antony soon fell out with the rest of the interim committee, so decided to go on his own.

Dr. Cyril Antony’s students perform during a Taekwondo demonstration

Reflecting on the suspension Dr. Antony said, “I think they wanted to benefit from the aid sent to us from South Korea for the purpose of promoting the sport here. I don’t think the Ministry of Sports had any legitimate right to suspend our registration because we didn’t receive any government funding or support.”

So between the years 1976 and 2021 the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association, functioning in the capacity of a club promoted the sport in the island and served this nation in silence. To date there are as many as 200 committed students and eight qualified instructors there to promote the sport.

On December 12 last year the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association held a ceremony to mark the occasion of the sport being present in Sri Lanka for a period of 45 years. It was held at the residence of Dr. Antony; the event was well attended by his students, teachers, his close associates, and the few representatives of the media.

Looking back at the hard journey made thus far Dr. Antony said, “I think we did better as an association that functioned without ties with the Ministry”. For the record his son Uditha and daughter Nayanajeevi are also full-time students training under him.

He added that Taekwondo being an Olympic sport was an added advantage to those practising it. “Our suspension took away the glory from the sport practised here,” he said.

Speaking further on the matter he said when he visited the archives of the Sports Ministry he had been told that there were no documents there to show that the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation was suspended. However, the federation is at present functioning under an elected body; in which Dr. Antony plays no role.

As things are Dr. Antony will continue to function through his Association which is serving the sport well. He has a great following in the sport and the name Dr. Cyril Antony is interwoven with Taekwondo in Sri Lanka. The sport owes a great deal to him because according to Dr. Antony he has spent the best years of his life promoting Taekwondo. He has grown old in the sport and he cannot even dream of divorcing himself from the sport he loves so much.



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Nestomalt presents sponsorships to marathoners

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Top performers of the National Sports Festival Marathon (front row- from left), W.M.S. Kumara, Muththusami Sivarajan, Thissa Gunasekara, Velu Krishanthini, Madhushani Herath and Samanthika Dilhani pose with officials after they received Nestomalt sponsorships. Officials in the back row are (from left) Madura Perera (Coach), Amal Edirisooriya (Director General – Department of Sports), Anuradha Wijekoon (Secretary – Ministry of Youth and Sports), Ruwan Welikala (Vice President, Ambient Dairy – Nestlé Lanka PLC), Sugath Sajeewa (Senior Manager, Sponsorships and Activations – Nestlé Lanka PLC) and Sajith Jayalal (Director – National Institute of Sports Science).

Nestlé Lanka’s flagship brand, ‘Nestomalt’ presented sponsorships to six national marathon champions at an event held recently. As a brand that has inspired many Sri Lankan athletes, Nestomalt offered financial assistance, athletic training kits and a year’s supply of Nestomalt to help power the winners of the marathon race at the 46th National Sports Festival held in March 2021.

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Let Test cricketers develop

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by Rex Clementine  

After half a decade of struggle in white-ball cricket, the national cricket team is gradually showing signs of coming out from the slump and they should be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s T-20 World Cup in Australia. The IPL allowed several Sri Lankans to showcase their skills and leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was the biggest draw. He is Sri Lanka’s best hope when they take on Australia in the upcoming series.

There are several other players who have benefited from the IPL stint like Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, and Chamika Karunaratne. It’s pretty certain that they will form the nucleus of the bowling attack as Sri Lanka will be using the series as preparation for the Asia Cup and the World Cup that is to be followed. The bowling in white-ball cricket looks settled and a lot of credit should go to former coach Mickey Arthur who through some tough times built up a competitive unit.

The same cannot be said of the Test team as they struggled to claim 20 wickets in the Test series against Bangladesh. Kasun Rajitha returning to the side from injury looked a class apart and an improved bowler but spin bowling was disappointing. Leave alone claiming wickets, the spinners were not able to keep things tight, create pressure and then pick up wickets. They offered too many hit me balls.

There are issues with the spin bowling department in Test match cricket and the only way you are going to address the issue is by backing the guys whom you have trusted. Ramesh Mendis and Praveen Jayawickrama had quite a bit of success at home in their short careers but overseas they have struggled.

Usually what we have done is when one set of players do well in one format we take them and let them play in a different format.  That doesn’t unfortunately work that way in cricket as young players need to develop temperament to succeed in other formats. As a result, players lose their bearings. It has happened with so many of them and eventually, they are dropped from the format they are really good at.

Oshada Fernando is a case in point. Barely known to many when he was picked to play the Test series in South Africa in 2019, he came up with some solid efforts against an attack that comprised Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. His efforts helped Sri Lanka win a Test series in South Africa. A classical Test match number three batsman he should have been allowed to play Test matches alone. But he was rushed into the white-ball teams and he was like a fish out of the water.

Oshada is the type of player who will take his time, show patience in abundance, and rarely plays a rash stroke. But suddenly pushed into the T-20 side, he was trying to manufacture shots and as a result cut a sorry figure. Angered by his failure in the T-20 side, he was axed from the Test team too.

Oshada went back to domestic cricket, scored heaps of runs, and made a comeback to the Test side in Bangladesh and did reasonably well. But you do get the feeling that the rashness of the T-20 format is still there in him. Not many players adjust to the formats so quickly unless you are a Sanath Jayasuriya.

So let Test match players develop. We have enough stocks in white-ball format and therefore Praveen Jayawickrama and Ramesh Mendis should only concentrate on red-ball cricket. But selectors rarely agree with those rational thinking. They play by a different set of rules.

We also have the classic example of Lahiru Kumara. He broke down in the middle of the Mohali Test match in March. He has not played any domestic cricket since then and he is in the preliminary squad for all three formats against Australia. First of all, Lahiru Kumara is no Richard Hadlee and then, this bloke has serious fitness issues that need to be addressed.

Every time Kumara plays a Test match, be it Gabba 2019, Centurion 2020, Pallekele 2021, or Mohali 2022, he broke down during the game and it was a massive blow for the team. But we never seem to learn our lessons. Let him go through proper Firsts Class cricket; prove his fitness over four days before being brought into the longer format. Rational thinking is very much needed as arrogance is going to cost us dearly.

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Naseem, bowlers take Pakistan to series win against Sri Lanka

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Pakistan survived an early wobble with the bat to ease to a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, wrapping up a series win with a game to spare. In a game that almost felt like a carbon copy of the first, Sri Lanka won the toss and batted first, only for a tight, disciplined bowling performance from the hosts, limiting them to a sub-par 102. Just like the first game, there was a touch of circumspection about Pakistan’s chase to begin with, losing three early wickets. But a classy partnership between Ayesha Naseem and Bismah Maroof took control of the proceedings, their unbeaten stand yielding 70 runs off 58 balls, and a game that looked like it would get bogged down finished in a hurry.

As in the first game, Sri Lanka lacked intent at the start, and Pakistan were all over them in the powerplay. The first five overs saw just 14 runs scored, and Anam Amin removed Chamari Athapaththu once more. Nida Dar struck soon after to dismiss Oshadi Ranasinghe, leaving Sri Lanka to try and regroup while they were well behind the asking rate.

Last match’s star Tuba Hassan was responsible for the removal of Sri Lanka’s top scorer Hasini Perera, and was the pick of the bowlers once more, allowing just 13 runs in her four overs. As each of the Pakistan bowlers chipped in with a wicket, the Sri Lankan batting began to fall away. In a somewhat insipid, uninspiring innings, the visitors stumbled to 102.

Pakistan lost Gull Feroza early, thanks to a sensational diving catch from Nilakshi De Silva, and for a while, it looked like that might charge Sri Lanka to a spirited defence of a low total. Muneeba Ali, who wasn’t quite able to find her timing, fell trying to sweep Inoka Ranaweera to fine leg, and soon after, the belligerent Iram Javed got a leading edge of Ranasinghe, leaving Pakistan tottering at 34 for 3. The asking rate, too, had begun to flirt with a run a ball, meaning Maroof and Naseem, two new batters, had significant pressure on their shoulders.

They, too, began with caution, aware that taking the game deep would only help the hosts. Once they got their eye in, the pair seemed to have set defined roles for themselves, with Maroof taking a back seat while Naseem took the attack to Sri Lanka. It was after the 15th over that Pakistan really began to move through the gears, a stunning back-foot six by Naseem setting the tone for what was to come. Sloppiness crept into the Sri Lankans’ game, too, epitomised by five careless overthrow runs that brought Pakistan to within ten runs of victory.

The win was sealed with an aerial slap off Ranasinghe by Naseem that landed just inside the rope as she finished with an unbeaten 45 off 31 balls, with the last 28 runs coming off just ten balls. The result means Pakistan have the chance to seal a clean sweep when the sides meet again for the final T20 on Saturday.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka Women 102 for 6 (Hasini Perera 35, Tuba Hassan 1-13) lost to Pakistan Women 104 for 3 (Ayesha Naseem 45*, Bismah Maroof 22*, Achini Kulasuriya 1-11) by seven wickets

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