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Emotions seem to be running wild in the Sri Lankan badminton scene with the sport’s officials not viewing positively the attempts made by some top players who are vying to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Sri Lanka Badminton Federation (SLBF) President Suraj Dandeniya told Nation that he believed that any attempt made by a Sri Lankan to qualify for the Games would amount to wastage of finances. However, according to him three players, namely Niluka Karunaratne, Lekha Shehani and Achini Ratnasiri are making attempts to qualify for the badminton event at the 2016 Olympics.

Niluka, the most accomplished from the three shuttlers, has clearly spelt out his plan to qualify for the Games and is playing in qualifiers at present. Critics point out that Niluka is playing against opponents who are lowly ranked and hence might not obtain the necessary exposure to make a mark at a competitive event like the Olympics.

Niluka, the most accomplished from these three shuttlers, has clearly spelt out his plan to qualify for the Games and is playing in qualifiers at present. Critics point out that Niluka is playing against opponents who are lowly ranked and hence might not obtain the necessary exposure to make a mark at a competitive event like the Olympics. According to sources, this Olympian (he represented Sri Lanka at the 2012 London Olympics) has focused on playing in a group which can be termed tier four. The top category tournaments include the World Championships, Thomas Cup, Uber Cup, the second category tournaments include Premier and the Super Series, the third category includes Grand Prix and Grand Prix Gold and the fourth category includes international challenge, International Series and Future Series.

Dandeniya told Nation that he was against unproductive things like spending money to send players for the Olympics. “We have to make these players focus on smaller tournaments and build them up, so that they can win at the Olympic Games. Right now the focus is only on going and I have tried to change this mindset, but failed,” said a dejected Dandeniya. He commended Niluka’s entry to the 2012 Olympic Games by saying that the player, then, was among the best 50 in the world.

When contacted Niluka snubbed his critics by saying, “Those who criticize me are those who haven’t held a badminton racket. It was I who took Sri Lanka badminton to new heights and changed the mindset of players who viewed overseas tournaments as joyrides. I am in a positive mindset and will qualify for the Olympics,” said Karunaratne who at present is ranked 128th in the men’s singles event.

Badminton coach Chinthaka Fernando, who coached Sri Lanka to a gold medal at the Asian U-16 Junior Badminton Continental Championships in 2009, said, “When players chose to play in low rated tournaments they deprive themselves the opportunity of playing against the best players. When Niluka played against Kashyap Arupali in the 2012 Olympics, he (Niluka) had played him only once before. But if you take Saina Nehwal, she would have easily played against the world number one women’s singles player more than twenty times so there is room for improvement.”

However, Dandeniya said that he was compelled to support the Sri Lankan players’ Olympic bid because he didn’t wish to ‘deprive anybody of opportunities.

At present the trials are being conducted for the SAF Games without the presence of a selection committee. Dandeniya queried the purpose behind having a selection committee if its members did nothing more than pick the top eight rated players and conduct matches. “Anyone can do this. Have members of the selection committee followed badminton in the past?” queried Dandeniya hinting that the selectors don’t go to watch players play in domestic tournaments.

Dandeniya said that it would be more productive if resources are channelled towards preparing players to qualify for the 2020 Games.