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“You can’t take a break for education”-Lalith Priyantha

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A table tennis legend speaks

by A Special Sports Correspondent

Table tennis was one of worst affected sports due to the pandemic. One reason for this could be that most players are also engaged in some kind of coaching; hence there being a loss in income.

Table tennis legend and veteran’s player Lalith Priyantha was one such player. He said that he survived a difficult period.

We can’t sometimes fathom as to how Priyantha stays in shape and contests the veterans’ events. Times were hard during the past one year without coaching and Priyantha looks back and can send a sigh of relief.

He coaches two schools and Methodist College, one of those schools, was good enough to release his salary in full despite table tennis activities coming to a standstill in the country. Life for table tennis coaches looked bleak for almost a full year because health authorities banned all sports in the island.

Exactly after March last year the table tennis players got an opportunity last February to access their growing skills when they contested the All Island Ranking Table Tennis Tournament conducted by the Western Province Table Tennis Association for the year 2020. Afterwards they played in another All Island Ranking Table Tennis Tournament in Kegalle which was conducted by the Sabaragamuwa Province Table Tennis Association, also of these being events in the table tennis calendar for year 2020.

Priyantha is one person who sought media attention for the sport during the pandemic. He organised press conferences and said table tennis would be one of the safest disciplines to conduct because the players positioned themselves at a safe distance during matches. He is of the opinion that the Table Tennis Association of Sri Lanka (TTASL) must be innovative and shouldn’t wait till the government or the Ministry of Sports clears the path for them.

The sport over the years lacked the involvement of former national players as administrators. The reason for this is a rule brought by the Minister of Sports that individuals involved in coaching can’t hold office in national sports associations. That literarily ruined the chances of Priyantha serving the TTASL; which he once did in the capacity of president. But he states that he is willing to serve the TTASL in an advisory role if he along with past national players are drafted into a committee to help the sport. He states that much can be done to take the game to schools which have not had the table tennis experience.

One thing that is to his advantage is that he still plays competitive table tennis and contests all the veterans’ tournaments. “This helps me to be in touch with the players. I can also relate to them because I also coach schoolgirl table tennis players. A coach must be able to be the sparring partner of players and play his shots” said Priyantha who is still fit for a 55 year old veteran player. For the record he is the present singles champ and has won the doubles and mixed doubles events at the national veterans’ table tennis tournaments.

Priyantha is happy about the present facilities the players enjoy. Most tournaments are now played on carpet and the players play with the best rackets and shoes. But it was not so many years ago. Priyantha remembers wearing t-shirts which were not stretchable; which made playing shots all the more difficult. But the sun shone on him in 1987-1988 when Butterfly company (Japan) sponsored him offering him rubbers, rackets and t-shirts. That was a boon, but he had other advantages. He was squint-eyed so opponents struggled to read his movements. He finished off his opponents with his forehand play; hence his backhand rubber was rarely wasted.

If there is one word that describes this man it’s ‘versatile’. Of course during his playing days he was known by the press by a gamut of names: Piranha, Dark Horse, King of Ping Pong and King Kong of Ping Pong. But after retiring in 1993 after the national players’ tour to Germany he stepped on his coaching and also served the association as an administrator and Sri Lanka coach.

Describing his career in table tennis he compared it to following a map and not as a venture where he was achieving one goal after another. He enjoyed playing table tennis and one of the benefits or fringe benefits he received was winning medals. He won on most days he played, but there were also days where he lost. Winning a tournament and waiting anxiously overnight to read about it in the newspapers the next day destroyed his sleep.

He is a coach who creates bridges so that the younger generation of players can reach him. Apart from coaching the players at the two schools he is coaching Priyantha also undertakes private coaching. He would be mindful when talking with youngsters and avoid saying, at any cost, words like, “During my time things were different and we did things differently’. That would, according to Priyantha, burn the bridges that would connect the present generation with the past. “I never compare people in different eras because the present generation wouldn’t relate to that. I just appreciate and acknowledge their skills and effort” said Priyantha who during his youth was rated as the island’s number one player and also became the Sri Lankan male player with the highest world ranking.

He wants the present players to do well and bring glory to the country. According to Priyantha winning a medal outside South Asia is extremely difficult for Sri Lankans, but not unthinkable if the right contributions and exposure are provided for the players. In one rare instance of comparing eras Priyantha said that players during his time played in about 10 domestic tournaments while the present generation players are contesting as little as 3-4 domestic tournaments per year; hence lesser opportunities for the present players to grow and much easier to secure player rankings.

He is also concerned about education clashing with table tennis in a country like Sri Lanka. “Players in this country think very differently and take a break from the sport to pursue exams. This is an unhealthy practice and something of great concern. In other countries players manage both table tennis and education and this method of balancing sports and studies continues throughout their sports careers till they complete their degrees,” reminded Priyantha.

The veterans table tennis player wishes to work with the younger generation of players for many more years. He wants a player to come up from the present set of players and make Sri Lanka proud. He wishes them to be better players and at the same time be educated individuals. But he wishes them to see the thin dividing line that separates those who receive an education and end up as average performers and those who receive the same education and become extremely successful and to be in that second group he wishes his chargers to cultivate intelligence.



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Spoilsport

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Bombay Don hiding in Maldives

While Big Tom, 800 man and the Load of St. John’s Wood have all returned home from the neighboring country after the cash rich event abruptly ended recently, the Bombay Don has fled to Maldives instead. It is said that he is avoiding the seniors. The seniors are believed to be having an axe to grind with the Bombay Don for having used manipulative methods to keep them away from coloured clothing encounters. He cannot be hiding for too long and when he returns home all hell will break loose, seniors say.

It’s pay back time for toe-crusher

Fitness seems to be the buzz word these days and many are those who are licking their wounds unable to earn their living having failed to meet minimum standards. In that context, many are wondering the motive behind bringing the toe-crusher making startling exceptions. It is said that the
toe-crusher is the one who got Bombay Don his current job having recommended him to the richest family in the region. Now that Bombay Don is all powerful here, it is pay back time. A friend in need is a friend indeed, they say.

Why Crown Prince favours former boss?

The Crown Prince is doing all within his means to bring the former boss back to the hot seat. All logistics during international games have been given to the Crown Prince’s father-in-law by the former boss. Although many would consider it conflict of interests, the Crown Prince doesn’t think so. He has said that his father-in-law was in this business even before he had become the authority for all games. The Crown Prince has gone to the extent of backdating a gazette to save the former boss. Insiders say that having been responsible for his illustrious father’s political defeat in 2015, the Crown Prince is sealing the fate of his uncle too.

Sailors pulling out a concern

The nation had three brand new international venues after the sport’s showpiece event in 2011. With maintenance costing an arm and a leg, the authorities at that point reached an agreement to let the tri-forces look after the three stadiums. The sailors were in charge of the new ground in the hill capital and for ten years they had done a terrific job looking after it very well. However, now that the sailors had been moved out and maintenance given to a private entity, there are concerns that it will not receive the care that was once given. All in all, it was a good job by the sailors.

Kandy Mandela chases cops away

The man who was the ultimate authority on games ten years ago is politically ambitious. The name he has given himself is Kandy Mandela. (Nelson must be spinning in his grave). He had recently made a big noise claiming the famous 2011 final was fixed. But after Dubai issued a statement that they have no reason to doubt the result of the game, Kandy Mandela has been left with egg on his face. The skipper who is the Lord of St. John’s Wood now and knows his law is not taking it lying down. He wants action taken against Kandy Mandela and together with his colleagues has made a complaint to the newly established police unit that is investigating corruption in games. When cops had visited Kandy Mandela to record a statement, he had chased them away threatening them with transfer

Good job curator

The curator who was given such a hard time after the drawn first game is in good moods these days after the second game produced a result. The curator has been getting lot of criticism but he seems to have done a fair job in his role overall despite the surface receiving not so complementary rating by the game’s big bosses. Despite perceptions and appearances, the curator is said to be a good man.

Election by video conference

While many elections in games are postponed due to pandemic, those running the richest game want the election held on schedule. Efforts are underway to hold the election through video conference now. A sports body known for rigged elections and individuals voting against the mandate of the club, it remains to be seen how this year’s election will be conducted.

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Oneli wins Online Under 18 Chess Championship

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Oneli Vithanawasam of Lyceum International School, Wattala won the Online Under 18 Girls’ Youth Chess Championship as she scored six points to clinch the top award.

Vithanawasam played exceptionally well to beat Prasansa Premanath in the fifth round and drew with Esandi Newansa and Piyumi Uthpala in the last two rounds to finish the event with six points.

During the first four rounds she beat Hasandi Akuratiya, Miyuni Jayasinghe, Tenuli Dahamna Rathnayake and Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake. She was awarded the championship trophy and the gold medal for her outstanding feat.

Esandi Newansa of Dharmasoka College, Nemindi Linaya of Bandaranayake Central College, Veyangoda and Piyumi Uthpala of JMC International School, Kalutara were tied scoring 5.5 points. Newansa was awarded the silver as she was better in the tie breaker.

Esandi beat Sanuli Dulanya, D. T. Joachim, Chanindi Mewna, Desandhi Dhihansa and J. A. K. N. T. Indrajith and drew with Oneli Vithanawasam and lost only to Prasansa Premanath. Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake was better in the tie breaker against Piyumi Uthpala to win the bronze.

CFSL Online Under 18 Girls’ Open Youth Rapid Chess Championship 2021 conducted by the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka was held on May 8 and 9. A total of 36 players registered for the event which was conducted on seven rounds with the time control of 15 minutes and 10 seconds increment per each move played.

Final Standings of top 10 players were as follows.

Name Points

1. Oneli Vithanawasam (Lyceum International, Wattala) 6.0

2. Esandi Newansa (Dharmasoka College) 5.5

3. Nemindi Ramanayake (Bandaranayake Central, Veyangoda) 5.5

4. Piyumi Uthpala Amaratunga (JMC International, Kaluthara) 5.5

5. Premanath Prasansa (Girls High School, Kandy) 5.0

6. Desandhi Dhihansa Gamage (Sirmavo Bandaranayake BV) 5.0

7. Dulinma Hemalni Rathnayake (Viharamahadevi BMV) 5.0

8. Chanindi Mewna Attanayake (Devi Balika Vidyalaya) 4.0

9. DG Jayandi Bimansa (Bandaragama Central College) 4.0

10. J A K N T Indrajith (St. Joseph’s BMV, Kegalle) 4.0

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Sri Lanka cricket selection strategy and replacing the captain

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Taking out Dimuth Karunarathne from captaincy needs a closer look

In the best interest of Sri Lanka cricket and its progress I thought to pen a few words regarding the recent selection purely to give confidence to all concerned and hoping that it will be treated in the best interest of the game.

We all know that cricket in Sri Lanka is the only game that our country has gained world class status of which we are very proud of. Since it is a very competitive sport in the international arena, authorities in charge have a huge task to meet the demand locally and internationally. Starting from domestic to the national level it needs very careful and professional planning. There should be no short cuts taken and a very professional approach should be taken to produce results. “Winning is not everything but winning is the only thing.” This was what the famous All Blacks coach said to his team.

Whatever the sport, all players, coaches, selectors etc. should be very committed with command presence if they are to achieve success. To achieve identified goals, to get to that level each individual has to identify his ability, weaknesses, opponent’s strength and the determination to achieve the target.

Based on my above observation I am compelled to make my assessment on the recent selection of the captain of the national cricket team for the forthcoming Bangladesh tour.

Taking out Dimuth Karunarathne from captaincy needs a closer look. After a low West Indies Tour, under his captaincy Sri Lanka did well to win a Test series after a long time, where he faired extremely well as captain and specially as a solid batsman with an impressive record. One wonders why there is a need for a change in captaincy at a time like this when Dimuth was fairing extremely well. Further, when you remove a cricketer from the international calendar for a long period it is going to affect his form and his mindset. For a sportsman to perform well one of the most important aspects is confidence, continued exposure at competitive level. If you are out of it you have to start all over again and it needs sacrifice and mental preparation which I believe is not the challenge that he should face as he has come in as captain at a very difficult time and have performed extremely well, was in the process of achieving more. If you are going to groom a captain for the forthcoming World Cup this is not the time to remove and try others as he has shown good results and proved that he is a potential, affective captain material and also one wonders how come out of form Kusal Medis is accommodated as vice-captain as his recent track record won’t qualify him even to be a member of the national team.

Nimal Lewke
Former Chairman of National Sports Council

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