Niluka Karunaratne

Sri Lanka’s badminton singles national champion, Niluka Karunaratne gave Sri Lanka sport something to build its pride on by qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Karunaratne qualified for the Rio Games through a ‘Tripartite Commission’ which is offered to athletes registered under the Olympic Solidarity Programme. the Sri Lanka Badminton Federation (SLBF) Secretary Amal Dias when contacted confirmed Karunaratne having qualified for the Rio Olympics and added that the path that enabled the player to earn the qualification can’t be termed an easy one.

Dias said that Karunaratne will receive the fullest support of the SLBF in preparing for the Games. He added that the selection criteria adopted to give Karunaratne a slot at the games also took into consideration his present world ranking in the singles event (96), his performances at recent international tournaments and his participation at the 2012 Games.

Karunaratne when contacted termed his qualification for the Games ‘a dream come true’. “When one considers that in Sri Lanka many don’t qualify for the Olympics, this is a creditable achievement,” said Karunaratne.

Asked whether he is better prepared for the games when compared to how he fared at the 2012 event, he answered in the affirmative. “I knew I would make it. I know how to train and how to earn points for the Olympics,” he said.

Karunaratne has had his differences with the SLBF and even at this crucial juncture of his career, he is yet to sign the Code of Conduct for Players’ which the national controlling body for badminton insists all players to sign.

Dias said that Karunaratne was not agreeable to certain clauses in the Code of Conduct for Players, and hence there was a delay in the player signing it. “Karurantne has had discussions with the SLBF, and the outcome has been positive. We have told him to take out certain clauses that he is not comfortable with and sign the document. I am certain he will sign this document,” said Dias.

Karunaratne when contacted said that he was not willing to sign a one-sided document. “All I want to do is secure my right to play. I don’t want any distractions to my career nor do I want to make any money out of playing this sport. I am going through this document and have been in discussion with SLBF officials,” said Karunaratne.

He has two siblings who play competitive badminton, but the SLBF official said that only Niluka has been given the opportunity to drop certain clauses from the Code of Conduct for Players.

According to the SLBF only the top 48 players who sign the Code of Conduct for Players will receive sports items from its official sponsor Yonex. He however said that the SLBF had decided to make an exception regarding Karunaratne (Niluka) and offer him the equipment despite the player still not having signed this document.