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Remembering the country’s first Olympic medallist Duncan White



Duncan White preparing the starting blocks.



During this Olympic year it is pertinent to remember one of country’s greatest athletes Major Duncan White on his 23rd death anniversary (July 3). On his way to success, he had to glide over 10 barriers and not break them!

Duncan White was born on the 1st of March 1918 at Lathpandura a rural village 2km from Baduraliya in the Kalutara District

His early education was at Trinity College Kandy. He was the captain of athletics in 1936 when Trinity College won the John Tarbat Challenge cup and the Jefferson cup for the Relays. White won the 220yds establishing a new record, 120yds Hurdles and the Long Jump. He was a member of the Trinity Rugger team which won the Bradby trophy. He was awarded the Trinity Lion for Athletics

On leaving Trinity College, he joined the Medical Department as a Physical Training Instructor and represented the Department at the Government Services Meet. In 1937 he participated in the National Championships representing Ace Athletic Club he returned a time of 52.0 secs in September and further improved it to 50.4secs the same year. Running in the 440 yds Hurdles event he clocked 56.4 secs. In 1940 he returned a time of 56.0 secs in the 440yds Hurdle event at the National Championships. It took 20 long years to improve the record till Nimal Fernando of the CT & FC returned a time of 55.7 secs. In 1944 running for the Ceylon Army Duncan clocked 22.2 secs for the 200m, which was equalled by W. Wimaladasa of the Army in 1964. D.K Podimahathmaya had the privilege of erasing Duncan’s record of 22.2 by .1 of a second after 24 years.

In 1938 he represented Ceylon at the British Empire Games held in Sydney in 1938. He was the only schoolboy in the team. He represented Ceylon at the first Indo-Ceylon dual meet held in Colombo in 1940 and at the second Indo-Ceylon Meet held in Bangalore. At the first Indo-Ceylon Meet he won gold medals in the 400m and 400m Hurdles events and helped win the two relays. In Bangalore he won a gold medal in the 400m hurdles and won a silver in the 110m hurdles.

After breaking records in the National arena he turned to the wider International arena. He was a member of the first Ceylon team to an Olympic Games. That was the 1948 London Olympic Games. There was a special significance for Ceylon as it was in the year 1948 that we gained Independence from the British Empire. Duncan White won the silver medal beaten by Roy Cochran of USA by only 7/10th of a second. While Cochran established an Olympic Games Record, Duncan White too bettered the previous record.

On the strength of his performance at the Olympic Games he was awarded a Government Scholarship to follow a course in Physical Education at the prestigious Loughborough College of Physical Education. At Loughborough, he Captained the College for three consecutive years. During his period the College won the British University Athletics Championships.

At the 1950 British Empire Games held in Auckland, New Zealand Duncan White won the gold medal in the 440yds hurdles event with a new British Empire Games Record which was only 3/5th of a second outside the World record.

On completing his studies at Loughborough College he returned to Ceylon in 1951, took up the post of a lecturer at the Training College Maharagama. In 1960 he took up the post of Athletic coach for the schools of the Department of Education with the approval of the then Minister of Education E.A. Nugawela.

He did yeoman’s service to the young athletes of the schools, especially the Central Schools. R.A.C. Hubert of Piliyandala Madya Maha Vidyalaya was one such athlete who did well in the 400m. I am personally aware that he had gone to Gamini Vidyalaya Benthota on three occasions. He also had helped Harris Manikkam at the Christian College Kotte athletic camps. There he had screened his final run in the 400m Hurdles at the 1948 London Olympics. C.W. Pitigala as a sharp student at that time had asked Duncan why he had looked back while fixing the blocks. He had commented on his observant nature and answered. “when I was nailing my starting blocks someone had shouted “Hey Ceylon you are late” So he had turn back and said “shut up” and nailed his blocks. While nailing the blocks he injured his finger. He ignored the injury and concentrated on the event. And the rest was history. It is a good lesson for our young athletes not to get ruffled for the slightest thing at the start of an event.

In 1964, he left for Nigeria to take up the post of Senior Lecturer in Athletics at the University of Ibadu. Later he settled down in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Duncan White was awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1949 and the Helms World Trophy as the Most Outstanding Athlete in Asia.

Duncan White married Angela Siebel and they had six children Nita, Marilene, Fiona, Daniel, Maxine and Christopher.

His teammates to the British Empire Games held in Auckland New Zealand said that when Duncan White ran the last lap for Sri Lanka in the 4x400m Relay the whole stadium stood up and cheered him because it was a fantastic run. He had overtaken several runners and came fourth. Several officials had asked him why he had not entered for the 400m event.

Late Cyril Gardiner, the then chairman of the prestigious Galle Face Hotel, as a mark of respect to Duncan White adorned his name on a plaque at the entrance to the Galle Face Hotel as a distinguished guest of the Hotel. It was at this Hotel that I had the privilege of meeting the great man on his last visit to Sri Lanka.

In 1991 Major-General Denzil Kobbekaduwa had organized a Peace Relay Run from Vavuniya to Colombo to celebrate the founding of the Duncan White Foundation. When the runners who came to Kurunegala were given T shirts with the Duncan White Logo embossed. One runner while putting on the T shirt had asked another “kawdayako Duncan kiyanne.”

In 1996 the late Luxman Kadirigamar initiated and obtained dual citizenship for Duncan White.

Duncan White was conferred the honour of ‘Deshamanya’ by President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Silver Medal feat at the London Olympic Games.

K.L.F. Wijedasa

(The writer is a former national record holder of the men’s 100 metres)



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Moose signs up as cricket’s clothing partner



Moose CEO Hasib Omar hands over the new Sri Lankan jersey to Dimuth Karunaratne, who will make a return to the ODI side in the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan. SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva and CEO Ashley de Silva are also in the picture

by Rex Clementine  

Singer had been a loyal sponsor of Sri Lankan cricket but a little heard company called Dilmah outbid Singer when the sponsorship was up for grabs in 2002. Singer boss Hemaka Amarasuriya wasn’t whinging and went on record saying that he welcomed local companies coming forward to back the sport.

Within a few years, Dilmah, an entity that was hardly known by most Sri Lankans became a global brand. That exactly is the strategy that Moose have adopted in their bid to become a global brand.

Moose a clothing company that is becoming quite popular among youth for their denims and t-shirts have been associated with cricket sponsorships in the last five years. On Thursday, they announced a four year deal with SLC to be clothing sponsor of the national cricket teams – both men and women.

Moose CEO Hasib Omar is a soft spoken young man who reminds you of the great Aravinda de Silva. But like in Ara’s case, beneath the soft exterior lies a sharp brain.

MAS had been the clothing sponsor of SLC for the last 16 years and Moose has outbid them signing a four year deal that will take them through all bilateral series, ICC events and Asian Cricket Council tournaments.  The partnership brings together two of the nation’s main strengths – cricket and apparel industry.

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Dimuth’s return to ODIs, a welcome move



by Rex Clementine  

After more than two years of stubborn resistance, the selectors have been forced to bite the bullet and admit that their strategies have been faulty and the top order of the ODI outfit needs stability. Hence the return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne for white ball cricket for the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan and he should retain his place for the World Cup qualifiers later next month in Zimbabwe too.

One of the troubles with the 50 over side is that the batting department has been found wanting not able to bat out the 50 overs. Dimuth provides the stability opening the innings with his ability to bat through the 50 overs. Other stroke makers can bat around him.

In 2021 April, Dimuth Karunaratne posted his career best Test score of 244 against Bangladesh. A month later, Sri Lanka’s white ball team was touring Bangladesh and Dimuth was sacked from the captaincy as the leadership of the white ball teams was handed to Kusal Perera. It was a left field choice. That was an experiment that didn’t last long.

Not only was Dimuth removed from the captaincy he lost his place in the side as well. It didn’t dawn to the selectors that the batters will be encountering the same bowlers and in Karunaratne they had a man who was in good touch, having smashed a double hundred against the Bangladeshis. The result was catastrophic. Sri Lanka lost the series and in both games they lost, the batting had collapsed.

It is these senseless moves that has resulted in Sri Lanka being forced to play the qualifying round of the World Cup.  By the time the selectors wisened up, the horse had bolted. The recalling of Dimuth is an admission by the selectors that they had got their act wrong in axing him.

It will be early winter in Zimbabwe in June and with day games teams will encounter some dew in the morning and need to adjust accordingly.  On paper, Sri Lanka should go through, but they are a team that has got everything to lose having won the World Cup once and featured in two other finals. For smaller nations, this is a massive opportunity and if they win, there’s nothing like that but if they lose, they can always try next time. Not for Sri Lanka though, who have featured in every World Cup since the tournament was launched in 1975.

Complacency is the only thing that Sri Lanka need to guard themselves against. A mindset that this is not a tough challenge could see them losing the plot as we have seen it happening to many teams time and again.

In Chris Silverwood the team has someone who knows what to expect in Zimbabwe as he started his coaching stint there having overseen Mashonaland (Harare).  The Head Coach will be tapping into the brains of his contacts in Zimbabwe as to what his team can expect when they travel for the qualifiers.

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Russian doubles player cleared of match-fixing two years after Roland Garros arrest



Yana Sizikova has a career-high ranking of 44 in women’s doubles

Russian doubles player Yana Sizikova has been cleared of match-fixing two years after her arrest at the French Open, according to her lawyer.The 28-year-old was arrested at Roland Garros in 2021 as part of an investigation into match-fixing allegations dating back to the 2020 edition of the Grand Slam.

Sizikova, ranked 50th in doubles, has continued to play on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour since her arrest and will compete at this year’s French Open, which starts today.

“After two and a half years of investigation, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office definitively closed the case on 11 April 2023, considering that criminal proceedings could not be initiated, as the facts of which Sizikova was accused could not be established,” her lawyer Frederic Belot told Reuters.

Officials began investigating in October 2020 after suspicions of “organised fraud” and “corruption in sports”.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC at the time the inquiry focused on a first-round match in which Sizikova and American partner Madison Brengle lost 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.

Suspicions were reportedly raised after betting companies noticed hundreds of thousands of euros had been wagered on a break of serve in the second set.Sizikova was released a day after her arrest in 2021.In July 2022 she and fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova won the Prague Open, while Sizikova reached two other finals last year.

(BBC Sports)

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