Sports Ministry on the ball
Ministry of Sports has embarked on a massive project to train our
sportsmen and sportswomen for the upcoming South Asian Games in
Bangladesh. A total of 24 national sports associations (NSAs) will
benefit under the special program to train their respective national
A large sum of Rs. 50 million has been allocated to train various
national squads in 24 sports who are down to compete at next year's
South Asian Games in Dhaka. Though we are slightly behind schedule, the
contribution of the Sports Ministry should be greatly appreciated as it
would be an investment for the future.
Hence, the NSAs which have been entrusted the task of conducting
training sessions for their respective national pools, need not carry
the begging bowl as the Sports Ministry will meet the cost of entire
training schedules which leads up to the eight-nation Games in the
A proper training schedule for these national pools is a must as Sri
Lanka will also be fielding a contingent for the 16th Asian Games to be
worked off in China next year. The strength of the Sri Lanka contingent
for the Asian Games will not be as large as the contingent to the South
Nevertheless, it is important that the sportsmen and women whom we
plan to field for the Asian Games have adequate training. These
potential Asian Games prospects should be given continuous training even
after the Dhaka South Asian Games.
Asian Games is a huge challenge and Sri Lanka has not won a gold
medal there since sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe won women's 100m gold
at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. Hence, Sri Lanka must
make every endeavour to strike gold after eight years when the Asian
Games return to China, which incidentally hosted the last Olympic Games.
In fact, there has not been a proper training program for national
level sportsmen and women since last year's Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Even the Olympic poolists such as weightlifter Chinthana Vidanage and
shuttler Thilini Jayasinghe, were compelled to do their own training
without any financial assistance.
In the circumstances, the new move by the Sports Ministry to fund
pool practices and preparations of 24 NSAs is a welcome move and would
help less affluent sportsmen and women to survive.
But the program should not end there. The Sports Ministry should
identify future Asian and world level medal prospects and give them even
better facilities. The top most level sportsmen and women should be
given individual sponsors so that they do not have to worry about
financial constraints and could fully concentrate on sport.
We remember how Sri Lanka's elite sportsmen and women were looked
after in the late 90s. The Sports Ministry not only secured individual
sponsorships and employment for them but also their housing problems and
transport were sorted out. In some cases, employment for their family
members were also provided
All that was done to keep the athletes in a good frame of mind.
Mental stability plays an important part in the development of athletes.
If their minds are clear without any other problems in life, they could
fully concentrate on their respective disciplines.
That was precisely why the then sports administrators were keen to
find shelter and employment for outstanding rural sportsmen and women.
Such programs have paid rich dividends as Sri Lanka had a rich harvest
of medals at World, Olympic and Asian Games.
That is exactly what we ask the Sports Ministry to implement now.
Since the Sports Ministry has come out in a big way to train the South
Asian Games pools at a cost of Rs. 50 million, we urge the Sports
Minister to extend this program further.
If the Sports Ministry could go that extra mile and make an even
better investment for the future, Sri Lanka's sports future could look
It is heartening to see some of our sportsmen and women going great
guns at international level in recent times. The most notable of them
all being the rare feat of body builder Prasanna Perera who bagged a
silver medal in 65kg weight category at the 63rd World Bodybuilding
In boxing, Sri Lanka women have shown good form in the international
Nilmini Jayasinghe created history when she won gold medal at the
World championships in Petersburg, Russia. Leading woman boxer Anusha
Kodithuwakku accounted for back to back bronze medals at the
International Women's Championships and at Asian Indoor Games.
Despite the retirements of Susanthika Jayasinghe, Sugath Tillakaratne,
Sriyani Kulawansa and Damayanthi Darsha during the last few years,
soldier Chaminda Wijekoon has proved that Sri Lanka is not short of
talent. He created history, winning men's 1,500m gold medal at the
Lusafonia Games in Lisbon this year.
Sri Lanka's women's wushu stars Damayanthi Samarawickrema, Neshadhi
Lakshika Perera and Bhagya Maduwanthi won silver medals at the Asian
Indoor Games. At the same event, Sri Lanka's kabadi team secured the
We must also remember the superb form shown by our national team to
win the Asian Netball Championship early this year. Even our teenage
badminton team did well at the recent Under-16 Championships held in
It shows that Sri Lanka could do well in several other sports, which
we have not concentrated on much. Sri Lanka's sporting strength has been
with our cricketers and athletes but now, our netball, badminton, wushu,
boxing and kabadi players too have proved that they are capable of
winning international glory. We must protect them and groom them
carefully for the future to bring even greater honour to the country.