A timely-and most-wanted need in Sri Lanka sports was seen to last Wednesday when the government organized the ‘Presidential Sports Awards’ where sportsmen and women were honoured for the contributions made in their respective disciplines.
These awards came in the form of national recognition. And when the names of the recipients were called out they would certainly have felt that this was the night where the country they represented woke up and took notice of them for choosing sport as their careers.
The organizers of the ceremony quite correctly invited past sportsmen and sportswomen in the likes of Susanthika Jayasinghe, Arjuna Ranatunga and Muttiah Muralitharan (all recipients of Kreeda Abhimani Award) along with Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva, who received the Kreeda Deshosththara Award. The organizers presented awards in over a dozen categories. This awards ceremony was the first of its kind.
Times have passed since these legends retired, but seeing them on stage would certainly have encouraged the present generation of sportsmen and women and also reminded them that times were harder then where more sacrifices had to be done to win national honours.
Former Sri Lanka cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara was named as the Sportsman of the Year while athlete Nimali Liyanarachchi was named as the Sportswoman of the Year. The award for the Best Sports Team went to the national cricket team. The award for the Best Sports Personality was won by former cricketer Ranjan Madugalle.
As many as 25 selected sports personalities were presented with awards. Lifetime awards were also presented at the ceremony which was organized under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena and held at the BMICH. From the present crop of sportsmen and women Sumedha Ranasinghe, Kimiko Raheem, Mathew Abeysinghe and Olympic hopeful Niluka Karunaratne were also honoured.
Karunaratne speaking to Nation said that the award he received would certainly encourage him in his quest to qualify for Rio. “This type of national award in a way recognizes the sacrifices we sportsmen make to be in sports. I hope this awards ceremony continues in the future as well,” said Karunaratne.
It was encouraging to see the organizers honouring Dialog Axiata as the Best Sports Promoter.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekare were also present at the occasion.