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Yoga offers rugby players an escape route



by a Special Sports Correspondent

Yoga is used in many sports as a therapy, but hardly do we hear of such a combination between yoga and rugby, especially in Sri Lanka.

It did happen recently when the head coach of Rugby Promotion Foundation Ajith Fernando thought it apt to hire the services of a yoga teacher and send his chargers through some yoga drills.

Fernando, an accomplished rugby coach and an ex-employee of Sri Lanka Rugby, has observed over the years that rugby players in the island do little to put their lives in order. Most of them are good players, but very few eat right and organise their lives properly.

To put these lives in order Fernando invited yoga teacher Yoga Siromani Kelum Sri to take the boys and girls at his rugby academy through some mind relaxing yoga activities.

“I realised that these rugby players are stressed out and they needed to relax because when you are stressed you tend to get injured. Rugby is a game where there is so much physical contact and falling, so it’s important for players to have relaxed muscles and a clear mind. Yoga helps condition both mind and body,” said Kelum who is armed with a Diploma in Yoga Therapy from the famous Shivananda Ashram in India.

Kelum is not a person who has spent a sedentary life and has limited himself to a light exercise form like yoga. He had his moments during his youth as a kick-boxer and has also done drama and accepted acting roles. Hence he can easily understand how demanding rugby can get and the importance for rugby players to try yoga.

So the boys and girls from Rugby Promotion foundation made a journey to his yoga studio named Sri Aoura Yoga Retreat and situated in Anuradhapura.

“Yoga helps reduce sports injuries and reduce pain in existing injuries. If you continue with yoga you can cure these injuries permanently,” said Kelum.

The participants at the session were taken through sessions where they were taught breathing techniques and stretching. They were also taught the three qualities (Gunas) of how yoga categorises all things in the word including food. According to Kelum all things including food are categorised into Tamasic (dull/heavy), Rajasic (energetic/strong) or the Satvic (pure) quality. “When you consume vegetables and milk which have Satvic qualities they digest fast compared to meats which will take a long time to digest and dull the mind and slow down activity till digestion is completed” explained Kelum.

He said that he was concerned that the present generation sportsmen and women consume much fast foods; sometimes taking them even as their main meals. Rugby coach Fernando chips into the conversation and says that his academy has programmes to feed participants with nutritious food after a training session. “It’s vital that a rugby player has a solid healthy meal within half an hour after his workout,” Fernando said.

Yoga dates back to more than 5000 years and was used widely in Northern India by Yogis and Rishis. Then India’s yoga teachers started to travel the world and conduct sessions; hence its promotion and gaining global popularity. Some of the international sports stars who have made yoga a part of their lifestyle are Shaquille O, Neal (Basketball), Ray Lewis (National Football League), Kevin Love (Basketball) and Evan Longoria (Baseball). They were all bowled over by yoga’s ability to relax, rejuvenate and train the mind to focus sharply at a task at hand.

The Rugby Promotion Foundation has regular sessions with Kelum. “Once when they were here I organised a drama session for them after the yoga training. I use yoga and drama in my relaxation programmes. Most of these rugby players were so taken up with the drama session that they wanted more of it. All this goes on to show that sports people are so stressed out and need a mode to release that stress. After the yoga session and stretching there were children who said we’ve had enough. But when I introduced them to drama those who wanted to call it a day in training went on for a few more hours,” said Kelum underscoring the therapeutic benefits and using relaxing techniques with sportsmen and women.

Kelum says that yoga offers a catalogue which is loaded with techniques that are helpful in maintaining the human body. But he says that with rugby players, who are children, the target is to make them release stress, be supple and be free of injuries.

Rugby coach Fernando used to take his chargers for regular beach training sessions and make them be with nature. “We had our sessions till recently where the players wore masks and followed health guidelines specified for combating COVID-19. But all that has stopped because of the third wave of the pandemic,” said Fernando.

But these rugby players now know of a way out of this stagnated position they are in life due to the pandemic. They only have to refer to the tutorials they were offered by yoga teacher Kelum. Yoga can offer a total body workout and keep you fit, strong and focused till the state authorities make the announcement that they’ve lifted travel restrictions and it’s safe to go and play rugby again.

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Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka



by Rex Clementine

India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.

India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.

India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.

Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.

In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.

India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.


1st ODI

– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

2nd ODI

– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

3rd ODI

– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

1st T20I

– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm 

2nd T20I

– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm 

3rd T20I

– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm


India’s squad:

 Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya 

Net Bowlers:

 Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh. 



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Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place



Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.

Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.

Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.

Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.

FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.

The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.

The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.

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Yupun set to climb up Road to Olympic rankings



Yupun Abeykoon would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.


by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka’s top ranked sprinter Yupun Abeykoon did well to finish fourth at the Rome Diamond League meeting on Thursday. Brushing shoulders against some of the world’s fastest sprinters, the national record holder clocked 10.16 seconds.

The fourth place finish will augur well for the sprinter as he aspires to earn a Tokyo Olympic berth. The 26-year-old is currently placed 65th in the Road to Olympics rankings and needs to secure a spot within the first 56 positions as only 56 athletes are selected for Tokyo Olympic 100 metres. To earn a direct qualification Abeykoon has to clock 10.05 seconds.

With Diamond League competitions guarantying more points, analysts believe that Abeykoon would secure a better position in the Road to Olympic rankings when the World Athletics update the rankings.

To secure the fourth place Abeykoon edged out some leading athletes who are placed higher in the Road to Olympic rankings.

He would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

US World Relay champion Michael Rodgers who is ranked 15th in the Road to Olympic rankings was placed fifth in a time of 10.25 seconds.

South African Akani Simbine clocked 10.08 seconds to win while Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah finished second in a time of 10.10 seconds. Emmanuel Matadi was placed third in 10.16 seconds.

None of Sri Lanka’s male athletes have reached qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics so far while Nilani Ratnayake is the only Sri Lankan athlete who is within the required ranking positions to book a berth. The steeplechase athlete is currently ranked 37th in the Road to Olympics rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is also closer to an Olympic berth in the men’s category. The javelin thrower is currently ranked 43rd in the list. High jumper Ushan Thivanka who has produced a superb 2.30 metres is ranked 51st in the list.

At the Rome Diamond League on Thursday one of the highlights of the night was Dutch long-distance star Sifan Hassan’s performance in the women’s 1 500m. The 10,000 metres specialist showed her prowess in the 1,500 metres, beating Olympic 1 500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya in a new meeting record of 3:53.63. It was also a world lead. Kipyegon was placed second in a personal best of 3:53.91.

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