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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

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Rathnayake, Fernando cynosure of all eyes

We leave the cricket field for a while and get on the blocks and under starter’s orders on the Track and Field and welcome two new sports personalities in Major General Daya Rathnayake and Rear Admiral Shemal Fernando as President and Secretary of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka.

At the long awaited Annual General Meeting held on Thursday at the National Institute of Sports Science, which was riddled with controversy, Rathnayake was uncontested while Fernando put to second best an old war horse in Prema Pinnawala.

It is said that all good things must come to an end and this saying rang true finally for Pinnewala who had been in the lane as secretary for several innings. He previously served as Secretary in the National Olympic Council under the leadership of the energetic Roy de Silva.

With two Services personnel in Rathnayake and Fernando to show the athletes how to run and jump, it won’t be long before Track and Field sport breasts the tape first again like it did in the past.

While Track and Field sport is not lacking in talent, what is missing is the all important DISCIPINE. And the best men to instill that DISCIPLNE are the two servicemen.

In the Army and the Navy Rathnayake and Fernando have clean slates. They have a proven record for hard work, commitment and dedication and they have the will and the ability to instill these virtues on the athletes and show them to the top.

Rathnayake and Fernando have been athletes of repute for their schools and clubs – Maliyadeva, Kurunegala and Royal College, Colombo. They have the experience that will enable them to be top administrators in their chosen sport.

At the AGM there was, as usual, the unwanted controversy. It stemmed from the frustrated who had no hope of staying in power and other than for enjoying the trappings that go with such office, doing nothing for the athlete or the sport.

These frustrated individuals did a bit of tub thumping calling for voting by secret ballot. But Director General of Sport Ranjini Jayakoddy, who is proving to be an ‘iron lady’ for the manner in which she is conducting sports affairs, consulted the Sports Minister when things seemed to be getting out of hand.

Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage who arrived at the scene, ordered that the voting be conducted with a show of hands and under no condition would he allow a secret ballot. Transparency ruled the day.

Play a straight bat

Sportsmen when they take to sport the first thing they are taught is to play a straight bat, not to hit below the belt and several other such great virtues. One need not fear for voting by a show of hands. One must not fear to stand up and be counted.

Director of Sports Jayakoddy had alleged that some members had offered special incentives to influence members to vote for certain candidates, who had opposed her efforts to conduct the election by a show of hands.

Now that the election is over, the Minister of Sport, who has promised to keep sport clean and weed out who ever or how ever powerful the individual or individuals are, will earn further plaudits, if he appoints a high powered committee to probe these allegations and expose the culprits or these sewer rats, who pollute the system with their ill gotten filthy lucre.

Probe these allegations

The genuine voters who were present, demand from the Minister a Committee to probe these allegations and expose the culprits, so as to keep not only the sport of athletics, but all sport squeaky clean. Our vote too is for this demand.

It is also pleasing to note the names of Sunl Jayaweera and Susanthika Jayasinghe among the names of Vice Presidents. Both were top athletes and Jayasinghe is easily the best ever women’s athlete produced by the country.

Space does not permit us to reel off the achievements of Jayasinghe. But suffice to say that a athlete of her prowess and caliber comes once in a life time. Her experience and expertise will be of great help to Rathnayake and Fernando in their endeavor to put the sport on the correct track.

To the sport and one cannot forget the brilliant athletes the country produced in the past. The most outstanding before Susanthika was Duncan White who was the first Sri Lankan athlete to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games in London in 1948.

Other outstanding men’s athletes who come to mind are S.L.B.Rosa who won gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 events at the Asian Games, Nagalingam Ethiriweerasingham, in the High Jump, W.Wimaladasa, Kosala Sahabandu, Premachandra and Sunil Gunewardena in the relays, the Khan brothers, Linus Diaz, T.D.S.A.Dissanayake, R.J.K.Karunananda, Vijitha Wijeskera, Nihal Soysa, Bruno Fernando, Ranjit Weerasena and Lakshman de Alwis.

Marathon man Karunananda is best remembered for completing the marathon last at the, if my memory serves me right in the Rome Olympics, where the stadium stood up to him, in admiration and gave him a louder cheer than they did the winner.

The outstanding women athletes were: K.G.Badra, Sriyani Kulawansa, Dhammika Menika, Thilaka Jinadasa, Shrahi Bongso, Jilska Flaer Caldera and Rukmani Vethanayagam. Sri Lanka are not lacking for want of the above mentioned athletes who could have held their own against the best in the world. There are athletes like uncut diamonds in the metropolis and the villages.

Unearth the uncut diamonds

RathnayaKe and Fernando will do well to send their talent scouts to these areas, unearth the uncut diamonds, bring them to Colombo and cut and polish them so that they will shine brightly and bring honour to the sport and country.

We wish Rathnayake, Fernando and the new set of office bearers well and may bring back the glory that Track and Field enjoyed in the past.

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