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Anuruddha re-writes history

First boxer since 1968 to compete at Olympics:

Sri Lanka’s Anuruddha Ratnayake rewrote history books when he became the first boxer since 1968 to qualify and represent the country at next year’s Olympic Games in China.

The 31 year old boxer from Slimline BC performed the near impossibility when he powered his way into the quarterfinals of the fly weight under 51 kgs weight class event in the on going AIBA World Championships in Chicago, United States of America.

Sri Lanka’s last representative at an Olympic Games was H. K. Karunaratne who participated way back in 1968. This means that a Sri Lankan boxer will at last compete in the 2008 Olympics having failed to qualify for nine successive Olympic Games.

Ratnayake’s performance was even more significant considering the fact that he was staging a comeback after being banned for two years. He was tested positive for ‘flurocide’ a banned drug while competing at the 2005 Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom.

Ratnayake of course had taken the banned drug to empty his bladder to be within his weight category. However when the urine sample was called for, he could not pass and his body did not respond and the test proved positive.

The former boxer from Peradeniya MMV was soon reduced to shame and was restricted to do some coaching at Slimline. He performed that role successfully to a great extent in the absence of the official coach Captain R. K. Indrasena and the Cuban coach Frometa Metos.

In addition Ratnayake coached the Peradeniya Central College and helped his team win the L. V. Jayaweera Trophy and also guided his teammate K. Alexander to win a silver medal in Iran early this year. The Sri Lanka women’s boxers too brought home awards and Ratnayake was turning out to be a successful coach.

But nothing brought him satisfaction and his prime intention was to be in the ring once again when the two year ban was lifted. He kept fit and trained hard to fight again determined to bounce back and probably to make a lasting impression before hanging up his gloves.

Ratnayake certainly put his heart and soul into his training and was quite anxious to honour his country at the AIBA World Championships. The national champion was in tremendous form in his opening bout as he outscored his Australian opponent Jimmy Ceapa in the fly weight under 51 kgs weight class event.

But his real challenge came in the pre quarterfinals where he was up against Juan Vega of Ecuador. Ratnayake was reminded of a terrible incident where he missed the gold medal due to an unfair decision at the 2003 South Asian Games in Pakistan.

But this time he settled down beautifully and went on to beat his opponent on points 26-19. Ratnayake showed early promise and took a crucial 12-8 lead in the first round and consolidated his position by winning the second round 6-3.

He found stiff opposition thereafter with both competitors collecting four points each during the third and fourth rounds respectively.

He will now meet Vicenzo Picardi of Italy in the quarterfinals scheduled for today.

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