Sahabandu, Menike good selections
Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge has done well in appointing former
Asian Games gold medallist Kosala Sahabandu as the new chairman of the
national athletic selection committee.
The inclusion of Sahabandu as chairman and Asian Championship
medallist Sriyani Dhammika Menike as a member are decisions that are
It was heartening to hear of such a decision after Minister Lokuge
was embarrassed after the resignation of former Sri Lanka Test cricketer
Amal Silva from the national selection committee. Silva, that
wicket-keeper, opening bat who made a memorable century at Lord’s
maintained that the dignity of a cricketer is more important and did not
like being shuffled in and out of the selection committee at the whims
of the authorities.
That incident made the Sports Minister to make a ruling to Sri Lanka
Cricket that the governing body should obtain prior consent before
proposing members to serve in selection committees. That is also a right
decision so that the Minister would exactly know whether those members
would actually like to serve in selection committees.
Selectors in any sport at any level do a thankless job. There may be
plenty of talent available but they could only name the number that is
required to make a team in a team sport or slots that are available in
individual events. The selectors are expected to perform their duties
impartially, only considering merit in the interest of the respective
But in recent times, we have heard of a few selectors who have worked
to different agendas. The dumping of veteran Sanath Jayasuriya is an
example. Thanks to far reaching decisions of chairman of cricket
selectors Ashantha de Mel, Jayasuriya is there to bat on.
Going back to the appointment of the new athletic selection
committee, the presence of Sahabandu would add more strength to the
panel. He has been a top sprinter during his day and was a member of the
men’s 4 x 400m team that won the gold medal at the 1974 Asian Games in
Teheran. Sunil Gunawardena, A. Premachandra and W. Wimaladasa were the
other members of that champion team.
It is heartening to see Sriyani Dhammika Menike returning to the
athletic scene as a selector. Ever since her retirement, the champion
middle distance runner has been out of the athletic arena and has been
working as a banker at Hatton National Bank, which Bank has helped her
in numerous ways.
Dhammika Menike became a household name when she bagged women’s 800m
and 1,500m gold medals at the 5th South Asian Games in Colombo, 1991.
The following year, she made it to the Olympic Games in Barcelona.
But the best achievement in Dammika Menike’s career came in 1993 when
she bagged women’s 800m bronze medal at the Asian Championship in
Incidentally, I had the privilege of following all those feats.
Over the years, many national selection committees have had several
weak links. When there are selectors who do not earn respect, we cannot
expect an impartial job. But the presence of Sahabandu and Dhammika
Menike would add more weight to the athletic selection committee.
That does not mean the remaining members of the athletic selection
are misfits. They too have made immense contribution for the development
of track and field in Sri Lanka.
However, it would have been better if the Sports Minister had
considered at least a couple of former Sri Lanka athletes who have
represented their country in recent past or those who have achieved
We do not know their, availability but it would have been ideal if
the authorities had considered former Sri Lanka athletes of the calibre
of W. Wimaladasa, Sriyantha Dissanayake, Ranjith Subasinghe, Mahes
Perera and Chinthaka de Zoyza, to name a few.
It is pity that Sri Lanka will have only a solitary competitor at the
forthcoming IAAF World Championships in Japan. Exactly ten years after
her record breaking feat in Athens, Susanthika Jayasinghe is craving to
secure a medal in her farewell IAAF World Championship.
Jayasinghe, who is currently training in the United States, is due to
fly to Osaka direct from Los Angeles mid next week. The good news is
that she has qualified to compete in women’s 100m, apart from her pet
event of women’s 200m that has brought Sri Lanka an Olympic medal as
well as an IAAF World Championship medal.
Jayasinghe’s latest tour to the US has been made possible due to
untiring efforts of Nagalinga Ethirveerasinham, Sri Lanka’s first ever
Asian Games gold medallist.
The lanky former Sri Lanka high jump champion is residing in the US
and has helped several Lankans.
It was Ethir who helped Asian Championship double gold medallist
Manjula Kumara Wijesekera. It was Ethir’s guidance that enabled
Wijesekera to secure sports scholarship at a leading American
university. Unfortunately, a constant leg injury has slowed down his
People of Ethir’s calibre are rare. The helping hand extended by the
former Sri Lanka high jump champion is commendable and Jayasinghe and
Wijesekera are ever thankful to Ethir for his sporting gesture. There
again, Ethir would not think that is a favour as his genuine interest is
to see Sri Lanka athletics reaching great heights.