A sporting event like the South Asian Games (SAG) often generates huge interest in a country like Sri Lanka when its athletes are ready and promise medals on a day-to-day basis. This is what is exactly happening in Shillong and Guwahati cities in India which is hosting the 12th edition of the SAG. If one takes a close look at the proceedings, athletes carrying the experience of training abroad were the ones mostly adding medals to Sri Lanka’s tally.
Sisters Kimiko and Machiko Rahim alongside Mathew Abeysinghe did Sri Lanka proud by winning a rich haul of medals in swimming and underscored the fact why overseas exposure in a competitive environment is so critical in associating oneself with success at sports. In a crucial year for sport, where the Rio Olympics will take place in a few months time, it begs the question why the Karunaratne brothers, who have huge potential in badminton, were not added to strengthen the islander’s chances of winning more medals at the SAG?
We have read reports where India rested renowned badminton players Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyapa due to injury worries. By Tuesday Sri Lanka had lost the badminton contest to India and finished with a couple of silver medals. This level of effort might only help Sri Lanka cement the second spot in the points table, but not help threaten India’s position as the nation that heads the SAG medals table. The eldest of the Karunaratne brothers, Niluka, is pursuing his Olympic dream and contesting qualifiers played overseas, but his absence was badly felt in India. The next generation of badminton players performed reasonably, especially young Sachin Dias who earned a lot of praise despite losing to India’s H.S Prannoy in the men’s singles. Another player who came under the spotlight was Buwaneka Goonatilake who lost after giving a good fight to K.Srikanth of India.
There is a trend now for athletes to join the armed services and pursue sport because these institutes offer ample opportunities for recruits to train for serious competitions. There are also ‘foreign based’ athletes who live and train abroad and make themselves available for national selections. This writer wonders what would be the plight of athletes who train while being employed by private sector firms and those who are still at university or school. Are these the ones who make the least impact during foreign tours?
Special mention must be made of Kimiko Rahim, Mathew Abeysinghe (Both swimming), Jeevan Jayasinghe (Cycling), Indunil Herath (athletics/800m), Himesha Eashan (athletics/100m), Rumeishika Rathnayake (athletics/100m), Nimali Liyanarachchi (athletics/800m), Manjula Kumara (high jump), Ishara Sandaruwan (pole vault) and the men and women athletes, who contested the two 4×100 relays, who were successful in winning gold medals, because, going by reports coming from India, the competition at these discipline has been at its toughest.
This edition of the SAG has attracted 3325 athletes from 23 disciplines and events are being worked off at 26 venues. This sporting event helps boost team spirit and strengthens the relationship between South Asian countries. The theme song for SAG written by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika has not only won praise, but generated a lot of interest within the sporting globe. Its theme ‘The world is a playground’ nudges us to log onto to the internet, plug in a set of earphones and settle into listening this masterpiece. India has done reasonably well in organizing this edition of the SAG and the buzz created at sports venues in Shillong and Guwahati has certainly added freshness to the air!