Two Contrasting Tales on Sri Lankan Squad at the South Asian Games in Kathmandu

ONE: Karuppiah Ramakrishnan, in Sunday Observer, 8 December 2019, “Millions busted as Sri Lanka falls short at SA Games,”

Sri Lankan sports officials have expressed dismay at the current performance of the country’s athletes at the South Asian Games in Nepal saying the investment has not brought forth its desired results. As many as 567 athletes from Sri Lanka from many sports arrived here in Nepal to contest the 10-day event making it the biggest contingent at the Games behind giant neighbour India and host Nepal.

“The government spent nearly a hundred thousand for each of the athletes selected for their final preparations before the games and Rs.123 million was spent on air travel and other expensives [sic] and over a hundred of them were not able to win a single medal,” said a charged up Dhammika Mutugala who is the director general of sports in the Sports Ministry.

But according to analysts nothing is likely to change, or may change if a new system is introduced, as the trend of squandering of funds has always been part and parcel of Olympic sports in the country and continues to grow unchecked.

In addition, funds were also utilised for four officials from the Examinations Department to accompany six athletes who were also sitting for their OL examination raising questions on whether it was lunacy for sportsmen to focus on both studies as well as a Games competition at the same time which is not known to happen anywhere else in the world.“You either stay at home and do your academic exam or you forget about it and do sports whichever you think can bring you a future,” said one official at the Games.

According to Mutugala, assurances were given by numerous sports associations in Sri Lanka that their sportsmen and women will be able to account for 64 gold medals alone and not even half that number had been achieved so far. “We doled out funds to the affiliated associations for their athletes to benefit with nutrition but most of these associations used that money to buy air tickets.

The bottom line is that we are not satisfied with the results that is not in keeping with our investment,” said Mutugala.

“The biggest nation India sent a small number in their contingent based on the medal prospects and we make up the largest participation after the host nation. We need to take a good look at all this especially about winning medals.”

Matugala also questioned the wisdom of recruiting foreign coaches, some them paid nearly half a million rupees a month which could have been put to better use to train local coaches. He singled out volleyball as one of the culprit team sports with a foreign coach.“Our coaches are much better than experts from other countries and the language is very important when coaching,” said Mutugala. He acknowledged that 24 officials from the Ministry of Sports also made the trip to Nepal.


TWO:  Reemus Fernando, in Sunday Island, 8 December 2019, with this titleTrack and field athletes make NOC eat humble pie with 15 golds”

Track and field athletes made the National Olympic Committee ‘eat humble pie’ as Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Indunil Herath, Hiruni Wijeratne, Dilhani Lekamge and men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams won golds on Saturday to concluded the campaign at the 13th South Asian Games with a record equaling 15 golds in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Track and field athletes’ ability to win medals was questioned by Maxwell de Silva, the secretary of the NOC prior to the Games in Kathmandu. The athletes made their medal count do the talking as they equaled the record number of gold medals won by Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka won 15 golds when the country hosted the event in the early 90s.

“We are proud of our athletes. They have made the National Olympic Committee secretary eat humble pie,” Palitha Fernando told The Island yesterday. Fernando who did not make the trip to Nepal said that the athletics team will be sent on a trip to Lumbini as an appreciation of their efforts.

The remarkable achievement was made possible by the contribution of many but Dilshi’s achievements stands out in retrospect. Nadeesha Ramanayaka (400m) and Nimali Liyanarachchi (800m) were Sri Lanka’s favourites in their events. While Nimali met with an accident on the eve of the team’s departure, Nadeesha fell ill in Kathmandu. But Dilshi made sure the country won golds in both events. She achieved her personal best in the 400 metres to win gold. Yesterday she won gold in 800 metres with a time of 2:06.18 seconds and within an hours time came back with a stunning feat for the women’s 4×400 metres team to win an unlikely gold. Team were trailing behind in the third place when she started the anchor leg but she sprinted past the rest to win.

The men’s relay team inclusive of Aruna Dharshana (400 metres gold) and Lakmal Priyantha (400 metres silver) performed as expected to win gold ahead of India. In the men’s 800 metres Indunil Herath clinched gold with a time of 1:50.52 seconds.

In the morning the US based athlete Hiruni Wijeratne created a piece of history when she won the country’s first ever gold medal in SA Games marathon. She clocked two hours, 41 minutes and 24 seconds to win.

Dilhani Lekamge (55.02m) and Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali (54.41m) won gold and silver respectively in the women’s javelin throw. Sumeda Ranasinghe settled for bronze in the men’s javelin throw. Gayanthika Abeyratne won silver behind Dilshi in the 800 metres.


THREE: Sunday Times report, 8 December 2019: “Rain of gold in Athletics”

Hiruni Wijayaratne created history by winning Sri Lanka’s maiden women’s marathon gold. Pix by Sameera Peiris in Kathmandu

Sri Lanka bagged six more gold medals, two silver and a bronze, to complete with a record gold medal haul as the track and field competitions of the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) ended at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday. By afternoon Sri Lanka is placed third in the medals tally with 30 gold, 50 silver and 77 bronze medals behind India and Nepal.

Sri Lanka’s gold tally of 15 medals in athletics goes down in history as the highest achieved in the history of SAG as they completed the five-day event with a total of 34 medals. The overall performance bares testimony to the commitment of the athletes, amid challenging conditions and facilities, and comes as a perfect response to the top officials of the Ministry of Sports and National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, who branded them as ‘headaches’ and challenged them to prove their abilities by winning medals.

On the final day of athletic events, Sri Lanka produced some sterling performances, notably by the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams and marathoner Hiruni Wijayaratne. Wijayaratne, competing despite being ill, was cleared to run after a medical test and became the first Sri Lankan woman to win a gold medal in marathon, clocking 2 hours and 42.24 minutes to finish nine minutes ahead of silver medallist Pushpa Bhandari of Nepal.

Wijayaratne, who celebrated her 29th birthday on Thursday, skipped the women’s 10,000m event to focus on the 42-kilometre race, which was held on a course around the SAG venues in Kathmandu. The race began at 7.00 a.m. from the main venue, the Dasarath Stadium, and went on the same route twice before reaching the end, where it was flagged off.

“Compared to conditions in Doha, Qatar, it was totally different here in Kathmandu. Overall it was a good run. I’m glad that I could finish the run and I’m proud that I was able to win the gold medal for Sri Lanka,” the national record holder of marathon, added.

In two of the exciting races, the Sri Lanka men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams provided the thrills that were missing throughout the athletic event. In the men’s relay, Sri Lanka got a flying start with Aruna Darshana giving Senira Gunaratne the baton with a healthy lead. But by the end of his lap, Gunaratne had conceded the lead to India, and cost another position to Pakistan after failing to hand the baton directly to Rajitha Rajakaruna. He juggled at least thrice, before Rajakaruna dragged the baton and dashed to close the gap on Pakistan and India runners.

Aruna Darshana– the dazzling 400m sprinter

Rajakaruna then made a clean baton change to Lakmal Priyantha, who stunned an almost packed stadium by snatching the gold medal with a furious sprint during the final few metres for Sri Lanka to finish on top in 3 minutes and 08.04 seconds.

The women’s relay, the last event in athletics, added more thrills to what took place in the men’s relay. Omaya Udayangi could not make an impressive start, but Gayanthika Abeyratne managed to close the gap Sri Lanka had against India and Pakistan. Kaushalya Madushani too failed to make much of an impact until Dilshi Kumarasinghe got the baton, and made the impossible a reality. Unlike the other three Lankan runners, Kumarasinghe gradually increased the speed. By the final bend she was well set to overtake both the Indian and then the Pakistani runners to snatch a gold medal that was never there and finish the race in 3:41.10.


Three more gold medals came from Indunil Herath and Dilshi Kumarasinghe, both from the men’s and women’s 800m, and Nadeesha Lekamge, in the women’s javelin throw, where Sri Lanka also had a silver medal from Nadeeka Lakmali.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe came from behind to help Sri Lanka win the women’s 4×400 relay gold

Herath had an exciting run to finish the men’s 800m in 1 minute and 50.52 seconds and finish ahead of India’s Mohammed Afzal and Nepal’s Som Bahadur. Gayanthika Abeyratne led the women’s 800m for most of the time, but she had to settle for the silver medal after Kumarasinghe took charge of the lead and completed the race in 2 minutes and 06.18 seconds.

Sri Lanka had a second one-two finish in the women’s javelin as Lekamge’s last throw of 55.02 metres sealed the gold medal while Lakmali threw 54.51 metres in her final attempt to claim the silver.

Sumedha Ranasinghe won the bronze medal in the men’s javelin event with his third attempt of 74.97 metres, failing in all his remaining throws. He could not match Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, who set a new meet record with a throw of 86.29 metres, which helped him qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sri Lanka’s Pradeep Dhammika (2:28.31) finished fifth while Sisira Kumara (2:29.32) finished sixth in the men’s 42km marathon in which Nepal’s Kiran Singh won the gold medal (2:21.17). India’s Rashpal Singh (2:21.57) and Shre Singh (2:22.07) claimed the silver and bronze medals respectively.

Weightlifters win gold and silver at SAG
Sri Lanka weightlifters added another gold and silver to the medals tally at Matepani in Pokhara yesterday. Thimali Haputhenna bagged the gold medal in the women’s 87kg weight category with a gross lift of 180kg. She lifted 80kgs in snatch and 100kgs in clean and jerk to come on top against Ashmita Rai of Nepal and Feroza Parvin of Bangladesh.B.C. Priyanthi won a silver medal in the women’s 76kg category with a total lift of 184kg. She lifted 83kgs in snatch and 101kg in clean and jerk and fell short 2kg against gold medal winner Mabia Aktar of Bangladesh. Meanwhile Bhutan beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in the men’s football match played at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu. Sri Lanka have so far lost two games, against Bangladesh (0-1), and yesterday’s match and drew against Nepal (1-1) and Maldives (0-0).

Dilshi Kumarasinghe (C) and Gayanthika Abeyratne (R) proudly displaying their 800m gold and silver medals.

Nadeesha Lekamge (C) and Nadeeka Lakmali (L) after winning gold and silver in women’s Javelin Throw.

The champion men’s 4×400 relay team.

The champion women’s 4×400 relay team.

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