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Making Olympic dream a reality

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After Duncan White won an Olympic medal in 1948 in London, Sri Lanka had to wait for 52 years to end their medal drought. Susanthika Jayasinghe in Sydney in 2000 became the second Sri Lankan to win a medal.

by Rex Clementine

After Duncan White won the nation’s first Olympic medal in London, it took Sri Lanka 52 years to win their second Olympic medal in Sydney. If you believe in law of averages, our next medal should come somewhere in 2052. If you are over the age of 40 now, there is a good chance that you would be dead by the time the nation wins the next medal in Olympics. But then, there’s also something called if there’s a will there’s a way.

Perhaps, you don’t have to wait for as many as 52 years to win an Olympic medal if you can come across a genius like Susanthika. It is a well documented fact that she was a rare talent and she was destined for greatness from the moment her skills were spotted as a teenager. All what you need is someone with immense skill to break all the barriers and she remains an inspiration to millions of Sri Lankans.

But you tend to remember Arjuna’s words. Some players come along once in 50 years; Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan are the examples that he gives. The same is true with Susanthika.

However, some countries seem to be doing it with limited resources. Look at New Zealand. Despite a population of five million, they are among the top ten in the medals tally having already won six golds. Well, they have the sporting infrastructure, one may say. Fine, but what about Philippines, a developing country like us. They have already won two medals including a gold. Well, they have over 100 million population another may say. Then what about Cuba? With a population less than us (11 million), and an economy not so great, they have so far claimed 11 medals including four golds! Fabulous.

What prevents our athletes from reaching greater heights is an interesting question our readers may ask. One of the main issues that sportsmen in our country face is that the games they play are not professional. Except for cricket, all other sportsmen are amateurs. A good majority of them, thanks to their sporting skills find employment in the private sector and then instead of fine tuning their sporting skills, they do 8 – 5 jobs as business establishments are under pressure to perform constantly.

Businessmen who loved sports like Rienzie T. Wijetilleke, Hemaka Amarasuriya and late R. Rajamahendran are a rare breed who wanted their employees to train morning and evening and told them not to turn up for work. They will of course have an axe to grind if their sports stars didn’t perform up to expectations.

This is where the Sports Ministry needs to step in. Usually, the Ministry steps three months prior to a competition requests mercantile establishments to free the athletes to compete in global competitions. But sportsmen and women in other parts of the world are training six hours a day on a daily basis for four years.

Is there any possibility that the Sports Ministry identifies around five sports where there are medal prospects – ideally individual sports – and then offer these athletes annual contracts and ask them to train without worrying about earning a living. Surely, it’s not going to cost them an arm and a leg.

There’s three years for the next Olympics and with expertise coaching, the nation can have some hope of not waiting for half a century to win an Olympic medal. If there’s a will, there’s a way.



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Dialog powers Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s

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The speed and power of 7’s rugby action is back this month after a lapse of more than a year due to the Covid 19 pandemic, as Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC in partnership with the steering committee, which comprises of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force and Police will kick-off the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s at 9am on October 30 at Police Park.

The commanders of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force together with the IGP of the Sri Lanka Police have assured the fullest support in making this event a success. The Warrior Trophy will also perform as a platform for national selectors to pick the squad for the Asian Rugby men’s 7s series that will be played on November 19 and 20 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The tourney will be played behind closed doors. However, it will be broadcast live on the terrestrial channel Supreme TV (Dialog Television channel number 20) and will also be available via live stream on ThePapare.com and Dialog VIU mobile app. The grand final will be played at the same venue on October 31 from 4 pm onwards. The tourney will be officiated by the Sri Lanka Society of Rugby Football Referees.

Sri Lanka Club Rugby 7’s giants CH & FC and Havelock SC will field their best teams, while Army SC, Navy SC, Air Force SC and Police SC will play with two teams each for the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s 2021 powered by Dialog.

The Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s will be played in accordance with health and safety guidelines mandated by government health authorities to minimize the risk of spreading of Covid 19. Teams will practice in isolation via a bio bubble set up in advance and will undergo regular PCR checks and rapid antigen tests to ensure safety.

“Sports is an integral part of Sri Lankan lives and I’m pleased for the initiative taken by the Steering Committee of Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s to restart rugby in Sri Lanka and the support given by the National Team and Club Rugby sponsor, Dialog Axiata to meet the challenges of organising a tourney of this magnitude in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic,” Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth and Sports said. “A tournament of this level is critical for selection and to prepare players before a grueling tourney like the Asian Rugby men’s 7s series. I wish the Steering Committee and Dialog the very best for two days of excellent 7s play,” he added.

“I’m indeed pleased that one of Sri Lanka’s biggest supporters of national sports, Dialog Axiata has once again come forward to support the game of rugby,” Senior DIG Ranmal Kodituwakku, Chairman, Steering Committee of the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s said.

“With the assistance and guidance of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sports, the Steering Committee of the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s will ensure the tourney will be played in keeping with the health, safety and wellbeing of the participating teams,” Kodituwakku further added.

“As the sponsor of the National Rugby team and Club Rugby, Dialog is pleased to see the progressive steps taken by the Steering Committee of the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s to organise a tournament of this magnitude,” Harsha Samaranayake, Senior General Manager – Brand and Media, Dialog Axiata said. “Rugby is one of the most followed sports in Sri Lanka and the fans are looking forward to see their clubs back in action. I wish the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s for a successful tourney.”

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Vaas proud of fast bowling strength at Sri Lanka’s disposal

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Rex Clementine in Sharjah

Former fast bowling great Chaminda Vaas has done well to develop a potent fast bowling attack since being roped into the role. The pace that Sri Lanka possess at the moment is quite formidable with three bowlers clocking over 140kmph. While Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have clocked above 145 kmph during the ongoing ICC T-20 World Cup, this week, the third seamer Chamika Karunaratne broke the 140 kmph barrier.

“What we have seen is three guys bowling over 140kmph in tandem. We right now have two guys bowling at 145kmph and Chamika Karunaratne slightly slower than them. Great to see that. I am looking forward to see how they will fare in Test cricket as well. We will have a good time moving forward and exciting times are ahead,” Vaas told a group of Sri Lankan journalists.

Lahiru Kumara was a late addition to the squad but has been quite a handful. He used to be erratic despite possessing raw pace, but right now has got his act together bowling with more accuracy. He also has added a new weapon to his armoury, bowling deadly yorkers.

“Lahiru was in the pool but wasn’t in the squad of 15. We have been doing a lot of work with him trying to develop his skill. He was desperate to get a few things right. His stats in T-20 cricket were not good enough for his immense talent. To his credit, he put in the hard yards. Did a lot of work with our trainer Dilshan Fonseka. I guess those things have stood in good stead during the tournament,” Vaas explained.

The strategy to include Kumara seems to have stemmed from the fact that Sri Lanka realized that teams playing the qualifying round like Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia had not faced extra pace and Kumara had got a last minute nod. “That was the plan. We know these teams play medium pace bowlers lots of the time. So once you have extra pace it can be quite handy. What I am impressed is not just the pace but the control they are showing with the pace. The accuracy has been spot on and I wish they keep doing it as we move forward,” Vaas pointed out.

Vaas has done a few technical adjustments to Kumara’s games and it is paying dividends. “Did a few changes like his run-up and wrist position and especially he trained a lot on bowling yorkers. Just keep a cone and try hitting that. He’s been terrific to be honest. The more you do this stuff as a fast bowler you keep improving. Glad to see Lahiru having that desire to get his act together and the results are there for everyone to see”

Dushmantha Chameera is the leader of the bowling unit and some impressive performances in the home series against India and South Africa earned him an IPL contract. “He has been terrific in the last eight months. He has learned the art of swinging the ball and when you do that with his pace that can be quite handy. He is another guy who works hard on his bowling. You have got to give him credit. He is a very passionate guy who wants to see Sri Lankan cricket doing well.”

Traditionally, your quickest seamers share the new ball, but in T-20 cricket there is a whole lot of new dimension that has come in and it is not so anymore and instead Sri Lanka have opted for Karunaratne. “Chamika can bowl at any point. We used him early because one-side of the Abu Dhabi ground is smaller. When you give him the first over, you can make the best out of Dushmantha and Lahiru. We can keep them for the middle overs and the death overs which is vital. That’s the thinking behind. When we want a wicket we try to bring in the extra pace of those two,” Vaas elaborated.

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Badminton players to fight for half a million rupee prize bag at WPBA Open Championships

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The tournament, organized jointly by WPBA and SLB, will see events conducted under 31 categories, including open men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles as well as age group events for several categories including Under 17, 19, and over 35. 

A total of half a million rupees will be on offer for the winners of the Li – Ning Western Province Badminton Association (WPBA) Open Badminton Championship, which will take place at St. Joseph’s College Indoor Stadium from November 11-14, Sri Lanka Badminton (SLB) announced.

The high profile tournament, organized jointly by WPBA and SLB, will see events conducted under 31 categories, including open men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles as well as age group events for several categories including Under 17, 19, and over 35.

All events will contribute towards national rankings and will be based on SLB Rankings published on the official web portal of the badminton governing body. The shuttlecocks to be used during the matches will be Li Ning, the official partner of the event.

Apart from the lucrative cash awards, all winners, runners-up, and semi-finalists of the Championships will be awarded certificates and trophies/medals.

The Championships will run on a knock-out basis and all matches will be played according to the rules and regulations approved by the BWF and as adopted by SLB.

SLB said that all entries should be handed over to Sri Lanka Badminton, Maitland Place, Colombo 07. According to them, no postal entries would be entertained. Entries close on November 3 at 7.00 pm and accepted entries can be viewed on the SLB website and displayed on the notice boards at SLB from November 5.

The draw will take place on November 8 at SLB Headquarters at 11.00 am and will be published on the SLB Notice Board and the website (www.srilankabadminton.lk) and their facebook page.

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