Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekara has realised that athletes need to come under the watchful eyes of a foreign coach if they are to win medals once again.
It is about time that Sri Lankan athletes won at foreign competitions as they did in the past. Our athletes brought home medals from the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, but that was some time ago. Most of these medals were won at the SAF Games, but of recent times athletes have failed to bring medals even from these sporting events.
Athletics is the event that is considered as the blue ribbon in any of these major sporting events.
In the past, Sri Lanka’s relay teams have performed well and won medals, but of late even they have failed miserably. Former athletes like Sunil Gunawardena, W. Wimaladasa, Kosala Sahabandu and a few others who came to the limelight much later brought medals.
Even the recently retired athletes like Sugath Thillakaratne and Sriyani Kulawansa were shining figures in their respective events. Today, there is nobody who can reach their standards at international level and bring a medal.
Susanthika Jayasinghe was the only Sri Lankan women’s athlete who even qualified to run in an Olympic Games. She went on to win a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics. This medal was advanced to a silver medal after the gold medal winner Marion Jones was disqualified after admitting that she used drugs to enhance performance.
Sri Lanka were hoping that the women’s javelin thrower, Nadeeka Lakmali would win at least a bronze medal from the Asian Games in Korea, but to the amazement of all athletic fans she failed.
Men’s javelin thrower Sachith Maduranga had given up the sport after being treated shabbily even after having won a silver medal at the Asian Athletic Championship held in Pune, India. Had he continued in the sport Sri Lanka would have expected him too to bring a medal from Korea.
Both these athletes raised their standards after being sent overseas for further training. This is also a plan of the sports minister who had said that he will send the prospective athletes overseas to further their standards.
Much was expected from Chandrika Rasnayake the 400 metre runner who was showing much promise in this event. She did well to enter the final, but finished fourth in Korea. She protested that one athlete who finished in front of her ran for her adopted country and should have been disqualified, but the protest was not upheld.
But of late, Sri Lanka has a good future runner in Nimali Hettiarachchi who has won medals in the 800 metres event.
Out of the men’s athletes high jumper, Majula Kumara has been receiving training overseas for a long time, but has failed to improve on his standards. He often falls short of the target at qualifying meets thus failing to proceed further. However, as he has aged now it is about time that a younger high jumper is found and trained further to represent Sri Lanka at international meets.
Minister has also requested from the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) to submit the qualifications of all coaches working for them. There may be some coaches who do not have any qualification at all, but are involved in coaching. However, the minister said that a coach should be very knowledgeable in the art of coaching if an athlete is to improve.
The minister has pledged that coaches who want to further their knowledge in training would be sent to follow coaching courses overseas so that Sri Lankan athletes will also benefit from this.
Doctors at the Sports Medicine Unit will also be at hand to help improve in the condition of athletes. They will offer guidance on the exercises needed to be done to strengthen certain muscles and the vitamins that should be consumed to improve performances.