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Dinuka - Sri Lanka's champion shuttler

Twenty three year old Dinuka Karunaratne became the new national badminton champion by default.

He is eager, smart and quite convinced that if his eldest brother Niluka had played then he would definitely have not been the champion. The Karunaratne brothers - Niluka, Diluka, Dinuka and Chamika live and breathe badminton every single day of their lives. Dinuka was the one chosen by 'Aiya' to play in this year's Nationals just to keep the title in the family.

How do you feel to be the National Champion for the first time in your life? I feel so happy but as you know my brother Niluka was under a ban that was lifted the day after the badminton nationals. My other two brothers refused to play in the nationals. So my 'Aiya' told me that I have to play and keep the title in our family. If 'Ayya' had played of course he would have easily won the title.

Who was your opponent in the finals?

Eranga Fernando. He is ranked Sri Lanka's number 4 only. My two 'Aiyas' and I are ranked number 1, 2 and 3.

Has Eranga Fernando ever beaten you?

No, I met him in the finals of the Under 15, Under 16 and Under 17. I have beaten him every time. He is the same age as me. He is a great player but I have the advantage of playing with a family of badminton players every day.

What about Niluka(eldest brother and former champion for nine years), have you ever beaten him?

That is not possible. Niluka is just perfect. He practices seriously. He scolds my brothers and me for being lazy. If we have national squad practice then he will do every warm up exercise and all the stretches that the coaches tell him to do. He is one of the most outstanding sportsmen I have ever seen. I will always try to find some way of cutting out the exercise and getting out there on court. But not Niluka. He has years and years of experience. He is much more intelligent and he is also a very serious player. He keeps me going. He motivates all of us. And pushes us to do our best always.

What do you do in your spare time?

I help younger players. If I feel any player can come up in badminton and can represent the country some day, I will do my best to correct him and teach him and help him to get better.

How many hours a day do you practice?

When we have a major International tournament coming up then we train at least five to six hours with the national squad every day, else we train by ourselves for about four hours a day when it is off-season.

Who is your coach?

My dad of course. He was a national player himself and that is how we all got into badminton. We play against each other every single day. Since we are ranked numbers 1, 2 and 3 we enjoy playing with each other and dad corrects us. We really are a complete family. But whoever is the national coach we always give respect to him and learn from him too.

When did you start playing badminton?

From the time I started walking. No but seriously everyone in my family has been playing badminton from the time I can remember. I started serious badminton when I was seven and am now 23 years.

Did you play any other sport?

I was Royal College's number one javelin thrower. I practised hard at badminton because I wanted to strengthen my arm muscles to be able to smash well, though badminton is really a wrist game.

Who sponsors your badminton?

Hatton National Bank. They give my pocket money and pay for all my expenses when I go on an International tour.

Young Dinuka is now ranked Number one in Sri Lanka and Internationally - number 140.

His intention is to play doubles with his brother Niluka and be ranked among the top fifty doubles players in the world.

He wants to achieve this in the next two years. The Chinese are just too good.

We cannot dream of badminton on their scale. Even just a fellow walking on the road will be better than me.

They play so much of badminton all the time and the facilities that they have are unbelievable for badminton.

We are doing the best we have with what we have. And if we aim high we can get there, says Dinuka, third in the First Family of Badminton in the country.

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