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Remembering the pioneers of Sri Lanka Athletics

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by K.L.F. Wijedasa

The Sri Lanka Athletics is celebrating its centenary this year. It is pertinent to remember the people who pioneered the track and field governing body.

The Amateur Athletic Association was born as a national sports organization in 1896 when Col. G. R. Savage and Wilton Bartlet and other enthusiasts in the European community and the predominant European clubs joined together to form the A. A. A. and it was affiliated to the British Amateur Association. Initially, the Ceylon A. A. A. catered primarily to the Europeans. The ‘natives’ were not privileged to participate in these meets. It held regular meets until 1912. The First World War of 1914-1918 brought all sports activities to a grinding halt.

After the World War the standard of athletics among the schoolboys was improving and there emerged several promising young athletes. This prompted one of Sri Lanka’s foremost sports writers, S.P. Foenander to convene a meeting of all sportsmen interested in schools and club athletics to form an Association with the view of staging a National Athletic Championships. The inaugural National Athletics Championship was held on September 24, 1921 at the CH and FC grounds in the Colombo Racecourse. This meet incidentally led to the revival of the then defunct Ceylon A. A. A. and since the year 1921 the annual Championship was held regularly to date.

Birth of the AAA of Sri Lanka

In 1922 Col. T.Y. Wright was selected as the first President of the Ceylon Amateur Athletic Association. Robert W. Cammack the Physical Director the YMCA was elected Honorary Secretary, served the association for three consecutive year. Cammack comes from a family well known for their community services. Cammack was the son of the founding fathers of Whittier College. Cammack attended Whittier College and played as quarterback in the College team, was the captain of the Track team and the president of the YMCA. His involvement with the YMCA took him to Sri Lanka for 10 years, where he introduced physical education and volleyball in the schools and gymnastics and basketball. The Western Province Association initiated a competition for the Basketball clubs in the Colombo city and the Cammack Trophy was installed.

S.P. Foenander was selected as the Hon. Assistant Secretary. The Association became affiliated to the International Amateur Athletic Federation on the 18th of January 1922. Therefore the Amateur Athletic Association of Sri Lanka considers that its inauguration as duly recognized controlling body of sports was only on the 18th of January 1922.

Presidents who served the governing body for long periods during the first half of the centenary were V.R. Shockman 1931-32, 1935-38, B. Ingran 1939-43 and Carl. T. Van Geyzel 1952-1966.

W. D. H. Perera who rendered a dedicated service to sports in Sri Lanka served as the Hon. Secretary of the Sri Lanka AAA for 22 consecutive years from 1926. P. Julian Grero took over from him and held the post of Hon. Secretary for seven years. P. Don. Victor became the Hon. Secretary in 1986 and served until 1991.

RESULTS of the 1st National Athletic Championships

22nd September 1922

100 Yards:

1. G. H. Karunathilake 10.6 secs, 2. E. H. F. Layard, 3. W. W. M. Fernando.

220 Yards:

1. G. H. Karunathilakee 25.0 secs, 2. E.H.F. Layard, 3. E. Skinner.

440 Yards:

1. A. H. R. Joseph 56.2 secs, 2. C. F. C. Jayathilake, 3. G. Senaratne.

Half Mile:

1. G. J. Holbeche, 2. A. Mayanga, 3. H. M. J. Cassim.

1 Mile: 1. A.W. Pinder, 2. K. D. W. Soysa, 3. H. M. J. Cassim.

120 yds Hurdles:

1. T. H. Mendis, 2. Anthony Abeysinghe, 3.C. W. F. Perera.

High Jump:

1. C. R. Joseph 1.57m, 2. J. A. Kadramathamby, 3.Otto Honegger.

Pole Vault:

1. R. C. Jayathilake 2.75m, 2. J. A. Kadramathamby, 3. C.R. Joseph.

Long Jump:

1.G. L. Jayawardene 6.21m, 2. Otto Honegger, 3. L Nagel.

Shot Putt:

1. Sait Ali Jonbhoy13.14m, 2. C. R. Joseph, 3. V. B. Paulickpulle.

Javelin Throw:

1.B. Weerasinghe 35.06m, 2. J. H. Mendis, 3. O. S. Wickwar.

Cricket Ball Throw:

1. A. M. Caldera 90.76m, 2. J. B. C. Rodrigo, 3. S. Edwin Silva.

Inter College Relay:

1. S. Thomas’ College, 2. St. Joseph’s College.



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All Seeded players through to semis

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P & S Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championship

The P&S Sri Lanka Junior Golf Match-play championship, sponsored by P&S Bakers group, entered the knock-out stage, with the quarter-final matches worked off with the seeded players moving through comfortably bar the thrilling cliff-hanger match between Jacob Norton Seeded 3 in the Silver Division and Varun Fernando (6th Seed) who fought all the way to take the match to the 20th hole, where Jacob prevailed.

Jacob Norton will meet second-seeded H.D. Adithya Weerasinghe (A’pura) who beat T. Deshan 6 & 4 comfortably. The top-seeded Reshan Algama beat Kaiyan Johnpillai convincingly 7 & 6, and will face fifth-seeded Jevahn Sathasivam who defeated fourth Seeded Keshav Algama with an easy 7 & 6 victory.

In the Gold Division, second-seeded Yannik Kumara withdrew after the qualifying round as he was scheduled to play in a tournament overseas and was not included in the match-play draw.

The top seed Haroon Aslam breezed through to the semi-final pulverizing W.G. Isurur  Shimal 9 & 7 and will meet Pranav Muralidharan the fourth seed who handsomely beat an experienced T. Vikash 7 & 6. In the bottom half of the Junior  Championship  Draw, second-seeded K. Danushan smashed Thenuk Sathnidu 8 & 7. He will play third seed Vinuka Weerasinghe who beat Yehan Kenthula 6 & 4.

In the Girls Gold Division number one seed Kaya Daluwatte will meet Yehani Perera who received a walk-over from Dhanushi Wanasinghe. Third seed Dhavinka Kanag-Isvaran beat R.M. Dinumi Sanjana 7 & 6 to set-up the second semi-final against second seed Sherin Balasuriya who also received a walk over from Sanduni Wanasinghe.

The Bronze Division Semi-Final clash between top seed Thejas Rathis Kanth and Keya Abhayarathne will be the feature battle. Keya Abhayarathne defeated Kaitlyn Norton 6 & 5 to set-up the semi-final match versus the top seed Thejas. In the bottom half of the draw second-seed Mohamed Saqeer Zuhar  will meet third-seeded Yehansa Senananayake.

In the Copper Division played over nine holes, Yuvan Rathis Kanth beat L.G. Anuja Methsara 6 & 4 to meet the second seed Jaeden Sathasivam whilst in the top half of the draw top seed Danik Daluwatte faces Taalia Silva.

The five semi-final matches scheduled for Thursday promise to be thrillers with the youngsters soaking in the pressure and performing well, adapting to the exciting Match-play format, that moulds the character of young golfers.

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Arjuna heads new Sports Council  

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Members of the newly appointed Sports Council pose with the Sports Minister

A new Sports Council was appointed by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday with World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking the reign as the head of the apex body.

The other members of the Sports Council are: Lieutenant General H.L.V.M. Liyanage, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Amal Edirisooriya, Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Dr. Maiya Gunasekara, Shriyani Kulawansa, Ajith Pathirana, Sunil Jayaweera, Chrishantha Mendis, Lasitha Gunaratne, Nalinda Illangakoon, Sudath Chandrasekara, Sujani Bogollagama.

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NH bids adieu to Ladies’ College after 50-year stint as TT coach

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N.H Perera pictured with the Ladies’ College table tennis team players

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Former table tennis National Champion, National Coach and sporting legend N.H Perera probably set a record in the Sri Lankan school sporting arena when he retired from coaching Ladies’ College Colombo in the ping pong ball and racket game after serving this academic institute for 50 years.

NH, as he is fondly known in the table tennis circles, started coaching Ladies College back in 1972 following an invitation made to him by the teacher in charge of sports back then Delita Fernando. When he turns the pages of time the only reason that came to his mind to say yes to this coaching assignment was that he wanted to give something back to the sport. He was quite young then (21 to be exact) and had won the table tennis national singles crown twice (1968/70) by then. He recalled with fondness how the lasses from this school won the National School Games title in 2019.

He produced many outstanding female players from this school and the secret behind his success was him being a strict disciplinarian. At the time he said yes to coaching at Ladies’ College he had laid down a condition for the authorities of the school. That was to arrange practices in the morning. This was because he was gainfully employed in work done outside table tennis. This goes on to show the caliber of players in the golden years of the sport. A good many of them had the capacity to contribute to society using their brains and education unlike today where the players are forced to supplement their income through table tennis coaching. For the record, NH served several companies and institutes in many capacities; proving that engaging in competitive sport and showing commitment to employment are a possibility when the individual has the capacity to manage both. When he finally retired from work he held the post of Marketing Manager at United Arab Shipping Lines.

He had his education at Nalanda College and had the honour of being the first table tennis national captain to be produced by this academic institute.

He rates the 1970s as the golden era of the sport. “I say this because we were invited by the ITTF to contest the Afro Asian Latin American Table Tennis Championship in Peking, China. During his playing days, NH had beaten top players from Russia, China, and also Europe. The picture he sees now in Sri Lankan table tennis is not so rosy. “We even lost to Nepal at the last SA Games. I believe the TTASL must be dissolved and a Board of Control for Table Tennis must be formed instead. Today we see many coaches out there who cannot put the ball over the net,” said Perera.

NH sees more potential in the Sri Lanka female players. According to him, the women’s players from Sri Lanka had finished sixth at the previous Commonwealth Games. “I trust that the way forward would be to bring down a female table tennis coach and male trainer; both from China. This would raise the standard of our playing,” said Perera who many years ago qualified as a coach from the Peking University of China.

He also spoke about the psychological aspects to training players. NH underscored the importance of bringing in psychology to training to help players handle unexpected challenges in the game. “You have to do sessions to develop the minds of the players,” said Perera.

He is at present engaged in coaching the students at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. The school by the sea won the All Island Table Tennis Championships in 2019 under his guidance.

NH maintains high standards for his players and himself. He recalls an incident in the past; which occurred during the time he was young and already the national champion. “I was coming out of the YMCA training hall after training and a photographer asked me to pose for a picture. I was in slacks and this picture appeared in the newspaper. I was summoned to the TTASL and a top official asked me why I had disgraced the sport by not being properly attired for a photograph that appeared in a national newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson in life,” concluded Perera.

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