by Reemus Fernando
Janitha Jayasinghe who trained and mentored Kuliyapitiya Central College athlete Paarami Wasanthi Maristella to win the country’s first Youth Olympic medal went out of the radar of track and field enthusiasts just a few months after the historic victory. After being out of the country for two years, the former Physical Training Instructor of Kuliyapitiya Central has returned with a solution to the very problem he faced in the run up to 2018 Youth Olympics, a high-altitude training facility at Nuwara Eliya.
Jayasinghe was among dozens of coaches who bring their athletes to Nuwara Eliya for high altitude training every season. “High altitude training is a must for endurance athletes. One of the major problems we faced when we came for high altitude training at Nuwara Eliya was the lack of facilities. I have now set up a high-altitude training centre with accommodation, gym and other training facilities for those who are interested in obtaining them,” said Jayasinghe in an interview with The Island after the first batch of athletes camped at the ‘Ovex High Altitude Training Centre’ at Nuwara Eliya yesterday.
Asked as to what made him leave the country just months after his athlete won the Youth Olympic medal he said: “My initial plan was to obtain a transfer from Kuliyapitiya to Nuwara Eliya so that I could train Paarami to the next level. But soon after I found that the Sports Ministry and Sri Lanka Athletics had planned to bring down a Kenyan expert to train Paarami and others, I decided that I should do something for myself. I left the country for Singapore to persevere a degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Edinburg Napier University (UK). I wanted to study for Masters but the Covid 19 pandemic forced me to change plans and return.”
Jayasinghe has set up his high-altitude training centre at Shanthipura, the highest elevated village in Sri Lanka. According to Jayasinghe the facility at Shanthipura can accommodate over 50 athletes. His aim is to provide the facility to interested coaches and teams of athletes to use during their high-altitude training season. “Teams can come here and use the facility and they also can obtain my expertise and can train under my supervision as well,” said Jayasinghe who is also a World Athletics Level II coach.
“The facility is not restricted to endurance athletes. It is also available for athletes of all sports. Enthusiasts who want to improve their endurance with high altitude training can use our facilities.”
A Sports Ministry funded High Altitude Training Centre at Nuwara Eliya had been in the pipelines for more than a decade now. Coaches and athletes, specially, the endurance enthusiasts have been waiting to see the day when they would be able to obtain such a facility at Nuwara Eliya. “It is a difficult task for a person like me. It needs the patronage of institutions like the Sports Ministry to run a facility like this. I am much obliged if such an institution come forward to support this. In fact, I revealed my plan to authorities after Paarami won the Youth Olympic medal in 2018. But there was no positive response then.”
Nissanka targets improved rankings in 2022
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC) has many good things and rarely do you find players leaving the less popular Maitland Place club once they get themselves established. One of the club’s biggest strengths is Mr. Ranjit Fernando, the former Sri Lanka wicket-keeper batsman. ‘Uncle Ranjit’ as players call him, is not the President or Secretary of the Club but he’s a live wire and he’s been that for the last 40 years mentoring dozens of Test cricketers and half a dozen Sri Lanka captains from Ranjan Madugalle to Upul Tharanga. The latest prodigy he’s groomed is Pathum Nissanka.
The 23-year-old Nissanka has been a revelation since he made his Test debut last season. A historic one at that as he became the first Sri Lankan to score a Test hundred on debut overseas.
West Indies is not the type of opponents that give you a true picture of a caliber of a player. But there was no denying of the fact of his temperament and holding the nerve on the biggest day of his life.
Nissanka has proven that he’s no basher of weak opponents or a flack track bully like he did during his stunning 74 against a South African attack that had Rabada, Nortje and world’s number one ranked bowler Tabraiz Shamsi.
The year 2021 ended with Nissanka smashing three half-centuries in four innings against West Indies. That’s consistency for you which most young players lack. There is new hope as well that a dawn of a new era for Sri Lankan cricket is near. Nissanka was impressive in Sri Lanka’s first game in 2022 with the team chasing down the highest target at Pallekele and he was the key setting the tone for the run chase.
At the post match media briefing, Nissanka told journalists that he’s going to make the new year a productive one wanting to improve his international rankings. According to official ICC Rankings for batsmen, Nissanka is ranked 63 in Test cricket, 66 in T20s while he does not feature in the top 100 ranked players in ODIs.
Nissanka wanting to make progress is a good sign. Currently, only Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne is ranked amongst the top ten players in Tests while Sri Lanka don’t have any players in the top ten in ODI or T20 cricket.
Nissanka’s start has been stunning with him turning everything that he touches into gold. But the bigger challenges are ahead. Not just necessarily on the field. There are more distractions off the field and we have seen many a young player going astray. Hopefully Nissanka will have the work ethic of a Virat Kohli and the smartness of a Kumar Sangakkara.
The second ODI will be played today at Pallekele.
Chamari’s team commence campaign for the Commonwealth Games slot today
The ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 commences at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday as Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, Scotland, and Sri Lanka vie for the lone remaining slot at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham.
The round-robin T20 tournament to decide who joins the seven teams already qualified for Birmingham – Australia, Barbados, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and South Africa – commences with a match between Bangladesh and Malaysia and will see Bangladesh and Sri Lanka face off on the last day.
Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu said that it was vital for their team to win the tournament after having missed qualifying for the 50-over World Cup. Her team will encounter Scotland today.
Chamari Athapaththu: “Apart from the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games (cricket competition) is the other major tournament to be held in 2022. Obviously, it won’t wipe out the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup but will give us some amount of solace.
“We have a very good chance of winning this tournament and qualifying for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. We have experienced players as well as talented youngsters in our side, with the likes of Harsitha Samarawickrama and Kavisha Dilhari the ones to look out for.”
England and six other highest-ranked ICC Members in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s T20I Team Rankings as of 1 April 2021 qualified directly for the Commonwealth Games, with the slot for the West Indies going to Barbados since athletes from the Caribbean will be representing their countries and not the West Indies (as they are affiliated with the ICC). Barbados were nominated by Cricket West Indies (CWI) on the basis of their win in the 2019 CWI T20 Blaze Tournament.
Women’s cricket will be part of the Commonwealth Games for the first time ever in what is seen as a huge opportunity to take the game to new fans. It will only be the second time that cricket will feature in it after a men’s competition was part of the Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Bangladesh captain Niger Sultana has the chance of leading her team into the Birmingham Games to cap a fine year that has already seen them qualify for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in March-April.
Nigar Sultana: “We are very confident. It was not easy for us to return to competitive cricket after the disruptions of training and matches because of Covid-19. However, we are well prepared now, having played in different conditions during the past few months.
“I think our middle-order batting has been excellent in recent times. As this is a T20 tournament, I am expecting the opening batters to get us off to quick starts. We have experienced campaigners to compliment the youthful exuberance in our team. It’s going to be a combined effort from all of us if we do well here.
Scotland captain Kathryn Bryce understands that it won’t be easy for her team but is still aiming to win the Qualifier.
Kathryn Bryce: “Every time we go into a tournament the main objective is to try and win. There’s only one qualification spot available, so we know it’s going to be a challenging task coming up against the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who’ve been near the top of the world stage for a long time now. They have a lot of experience but we’re looking forward to testing ourselves against them.
“It’s been a challenging build-up with COVID-19 still affecting things, but we’ve managed to get together as a squad to train together regularly. We’ve been indoors over the winter period, but I think there have been some good camps during the preparation and I’ve seen some good progression, so I believe we’ll be ready for the tournament.
“There are lots of players in the team who are starting to stand up and as a team we’re not really relying on a small number of people anymore which is really exciting to see. Obviously, Abtaha Maqsood has a really big summer playing in The Hundred and I think her quality will hopefully come through and has the potential to win us some matches.”
Kenya captain Margaret Ngoche wants to make the most of the opportunity of playing against teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Margaret Ngoch: “We want to utilize and maximize all the opportunities that will come our way in terms of experience and talent showcasing. We want to interact with other teams with the aim of building a great cricketing network and learn more from them. We want to ensure that we are among the top teams, and we are coming with a winning mentality.”
“We know that this is a tournament like we have never experienced before. We will be playing with teams that have played in the World Cup. One of our major weapons is our mental capacity and experience that we have gathered through the years. The training and practice matches are just a way to polish the already effective tools that we possess. We have really invested in our mental capacity because our 100% is better than the rest.”
Malaysia captain Winifred Anne Duraisingam is hoping to gain the edge from familiar home conditions.
Winifred Anne Duraisingam: “It feels good to play hosts after not being able to play the last two years. Malaysia is blessed with good weather and of course, our hospitality and food will, I hope, be a great experience for the teams coming in.
“In terms of advantage, we are certainly comfortable as we know the ground conditions and we hope this will give us an edge as we do our best. Without a doubt, the strength of our team is in fielding and bowling. We are currently hard at work with our batting and we can see the improvements.
“Kinrara Oval has hosted many international tournaments including ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2008, the Women’s Asia Cup, and many other ICC and ACC (Asian Cricket Council) events. The pitch is very lively and is good for both batting and bowling.”
Match schedule (local time):
Malaysia vs Bangladesh (09h30); Sri Lanka vs Scotland (13h15)
Kenya vs Bangladesh (09h30); Scotland vs Malaysia (13h15)
Kenya vs Sri Lanka (09h30)
Scotland vs Kenya (09h30); Sri Lanka vs Malaysia (13h15)
Bangladesh vs Scotland (09h30); Malaysia vs Kenya (13h15)
Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka (09h30)
Let the ‘OLY’ recognize Olympians’- Kulawansa
Olympian Sriyani Kulawansa said that Sri Lanka Olympians would give emphasis to promoting the ‘OLY’ title, a post-nominal letters granted by the World Olympians Association (WOA) to athletes who have participated in Olympics. The World Olympians Association took the initiative in 2017.
Kulawansa speaking to The Island said that all sportsmen and women who represented the country have the ‘OLY’ title and her Association would like to promote the title as it would give due recognition to Olympians in a country dominated by a non Olympic sport.
“All Olympians have the OLY title. Representing the country at the Olympics is like obtaining a PHD. The OLY title is a complement for the efforts put in to be an Olympian,” Kulawansa said in an interview.
“We felicitated the athletes who became eligible for the title with their participation at the last Tokyo Olympics including Yupun Abeykoon and Nimali Liyanarachchi at the AGM. Some of the new Olympians who were not in the country will be awarded their pins at a future date,” said Kulawansa.
Former national track and field champions Kulawansa, Sugath Thilakaratne and Damayanthi Dharsha who still hold national records of their pet events more than two decades after retiring were elected to top positions of the Sri Lanka Olympians at its Annual General Meeting held at the NCC premises on Saturday.
Newly elected Committee members of the Sri Lanka Olympians (from left) Julian Bolling, Ruvini Abeymanna, Sugath Thilakarathna (Secretary) Sriyani Kulawansa (President), Damayanthi Dharsha (Vice President), Nimmi de Soyza (Treasurer), Anurudda Rathnayake and Mahesh Perera.
Kulawansa who represented Sri Lanka at three Olympics from 1992 was elected as the president for a term of four years. Asian Games medallist Thilakaratne who produced the current national record in the 400 metres in 1998 was elected as the secretary of the apex body.
Asian Games medallist Dharsha was elected vice president while Nimmi de Soyza was elected treasurer.
The other members who were elected to the committee are Julian Bolling, Mahesh Perera, Anurudha Ratnayake and Ruvini Abeynayake.
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