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2nd June 2000

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Boxing on to glory

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Boxing on to glory

By Ravi Nagahawatte

It was the day of the college concert twelve years ago and little Manju Wanniarachchi, a champion today, strode on to the stage with full boxing attire to perform in a fancy dress competition.

He hadn't seen much of boxing before. But his instincts told him to be a boxer for just a few minutes that day where among his fellow competitors he had been the odd man out.

Manju threw punches and impressed the judges. He probably knocked out his imaginary opponent as well.

But he was only good enough to win second place that day.

And that passion for wearing boxing gloves and performing on stage just grew in Manju till one day he became bold enough to take to serious boxing.

Today he is one of Sri Lanka's best boxers and has many titles under his belt.

It didn't come as a surprise last week when Manju walked away with the "Best Boxer's" award at the Layton Cup Boxing Meet.

He is pint-sized and might not look much of a challenge to anyone if involved in a street brawl.

You are right. He doesn't fight outside the ring.

"I fight to my heart's content in the ring . So I don't have the urge to show my boxing skills or get involved in unnecessary fights" says Manju.

There have been no doubts in the talent of Manju's boxing skills.

The lad who wore a pair of boxing gloves for the first time when he was eight years old has come a long way.

Manju cut a niche in school's boxing by winning his weight class at the Stubbs Shield Championship for a record eight years.

And during his illustrious nine-year school boxing career at Vidyartha College there came an occasion where he became a member of an elite group of boxers.

"We (Vidyartha) happened to win a record eight weight classes at the finals of the Stubbs Shield Boxing Championship. And this extraordinary feat which was performed in 1995 has still to be equalled" reminisced Manju with a grin on his face.

Todate he has participated in six international events and has won himself a gold medal and three silvers.

Boxing fans first saw him as an eleven- year-old at the 1991 L.V.Jayaweera Championship.

He lost that day and couldn't make it on time for the next championship. Then his mother feared for his well being and changed Manju from boxing to table tennis. He even once thought of quitting himself as boxing practices became so tiring. But as he recalls these stumbling blocks didn't have the potential to turn into forceful blows. Manju boxed on and ended representing Sri Lanka at the last South Asian Federation (SAF) Games in Nepal."That was the happiest day in my boxing career" says Manju.

He didn't win a medal but came home a happy person when a local boxing enthusiast spotted him and offered him a job and facilities to further his boxing career.

Today he works as a trainee in a garment factory and has a career to look forward to. "This opportunity wouldn't have come to me if not for boxing" says Manju.

And behind the sparks that fly from his boxing gloves is the guiding light of his teacher, Lal Anuruddha Pamunugama.

"He has been my guide and mentor since by little beginnings.But there have been times when he has got angry when we are not deciplined and walked away threatening never to coach us again. We generally end up going to him with betel and beg him for forgiveness" said Manju while recalling the fondness he and his fellow boxers have for his guru.

And before a bout it flashes in his mind the best advice his guru has given him. "Manju, we didn't come to lose".

Wasim Akram a legend in his lifetime

By Dr. Baptist Croos F.S.C.

The Pakistanis should be legitimately proud of their flamboyant cricket-warrior Wasim Akram who has become a legend in his lifetime.

His incredible haul of more than 400 wickets, both in the Tests and One Day Internationals, is unparalleled in the annals of cricket. It was his diamond quality called determination that spurred him on to reach these remarkable milestones.

Vibrant, vivacious, very often volatile, nonetheless spiritedly versatile, Wasim Akram is the cynosure of all eyes when he is on the field. In fact, he is the live-wire of the team.

Wasim the bowler: Wasim is a brilliant bowler; there is no gain- saying that statement. Teams that were heading for certain victory have had their backbone broken when Wasim bowled the last few overs with his fast, deadly and straight pitching, especially his awesome yorker that had caused the middle-stump to go cartwheeling on many an occasion. He bowls with such dynamism and authority that super-class batsmen are often non-plussed. He also has the singular honour of taking a double hat-trick against Sri Lanka.

Wasim the batsman: He is a belligerent batsman feared by most of the bowlers because he can clobber anyone of them over the fence for a mighty six. He has a couple of centuries to his credit including a classic double century to boot. He can cut loose, smash and wallop the ball for towering sixes and delightful fours. He is an exciting and exhilarating batsman when in full flight.

Wasim the fielder: An efficient and excellent fielder, Wasim Akram has very safe hands and rarely misses a catch. His throws are quick and accurate. Very agile and alert in the field, it is a pleasing sight to watch him run, field or hold on to a difficult catch. Over the years he has matured and is very dependable.

A colourful career: Well-built, tall, athletic and handsome, Wasim Akram, the cavalier and carefree cricketer has brought a lasting name and fame to his country in the cricketing arena. So much so the great nation of Pakistan rightly honoured him some months ago with one of its highest awards. All the same, he has been the centre of ugly controversies, accusations and the interminable match-fixing allegations. He was removed from captaincy; re-appointed as captain and again demoted. We could sense these "ups and downs" in his eventful career. He accepted his crowns and crosses manfully and courageously evincing much poise and dignity. Whatever the situation is and in whatever capacity he plays, his profound and ardent love both for his country and for cricket has not diminished a wee bit. He is a great patriot always giving of his best. He glows with enthusiasm and his ferocity reaches a crescendo when he plays against his arch-rivals the Indians. He makes sure that he well and truly demolishes them, whether it be a Test series or One Day Internationals.

He may get angry very quickly, his facial expressions betray his emotions and bad temper, but they are short-lived. His utterances on the field and curt remarks portraying his unpredictable and melancholic character, add colour to his striking personality. His indomitable courage in the face of awkward situations, is self-evident. After all, he is a gentlemen at large.

A great inspiration: 'Man of the match' umpteen times, because of his scintillating bowling or swashbucking knock of some sizable runs, it has been a real pleasure watching him in action, in Pakistan, over many years. It is now a pure delight to see him play in Sri Lanka, where his invaluable contribution to cricket may inspire our own budding cricketers, with his calibre, quality and tenacious dedication to the game.

Apart from his brief outburst of temper in the field, which is part and parcel of his personality, WASIM the wonder-boy of Cricket, is a lovable character, jovial, fun-loving and a charming person, whom one would like to be associated with. His immense contribution to cricket cannot be measured or described in words. He is a priceless jewel embellishing the cricket-crown.

Wasim Akram Zindabad!

Pakistan cricket has always been vibrant

By Ramesh Joseph

Victory for Pakistan, and a maiden one at that in the Asia Cup, was historic. The trophy triumph at Dhaka is the latest series of successes, the earlier ones having come in the West Indies (one dayers) and Sharjah.

These victories confirm the cricketing stature of a country, whose travails, on almost every front, are very well known.

The team's resilience and the spirit to face challenges with aplomb are striking. The Pakistanis definitely symbolise this fortitude, if the record of their performances are studied in depth and with objectivity. It is amazing that Pakistan maintains an assembly line of outstanding talent, without an organised domestic structure. This is not to suggest that competitions are non-existent, but they are definitely not as well defined or programmed.

The significance of the success sequence for Pakistan this year is perhaps its mental attitude. The squad performed under trying circumstances. A controversy was raging back over the credibility of some of the seasoned players. More than one enquiry commission probed the performances and the alleged nexus with bookmakers. The media, too, has gone to town focusing on the contradictions and contortions in the confessions from a few key players. Even the credibility of a Test Umpire was on the block. There was mudslinging from all sides, enough to disturb the concentration. Added to these were the changes in the government, in the structure of Pakistan Cricket Board and in the captaincy.

To put aside such irritants and perform to win calls for a great deal of nerve, which the Pakistani displayed convincingly.

The Pakistan is managed to win in Dhaka despite the exclusion of speedster, Shoaib Akhtar, who is under a cloud over his bowling action, and Saqlain Mushtaq, alleged to be involved with bookmakers is proof of the depth of talent. Damaging revelations by the Justice Qayyum commission, which suggested life bans for Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman and imposed fines on some, and uncomplimentary references to the role of Wasim Akram, when he was the skipper, normally would have produced a devastating effect. But the Pakistanis, almost impervious to the rising tide of anger and anguish from their supporters both at home and abroad, let the bat and ball speak on the field. The consistency displayed by Yousuf Youhana, Imzimamam- ul-Haq and Abdur Razzaq, epitomised the essence of Pakistan's approach.

There have been controversies galore. The recent one involved the walk-out from the team by the manager, Javed Miandad, and his reinstatement. Reports of links of a few with mafia dons do raise doubts whether all is well. That at one point the manager had to resort to making each player swear on the Koran for not being part of the betting syndicate, underscores the extent to which the match-fixing virus, has invaded the cricketing psyche.

Against this backdrop, the glow of triumphs may appear dim. But in no way has this affected the quality of individual performances, especially in the West Indies. Indeed, Pakistan's spirit rubbed off on the West Indies, which came out of its slump with a vengeance, winning the Test series in thrilling fashion and losing the one-day series only narrowly.

Who decides our Olympic participation

I am grateful for this opportunity in order that I may answer certain allegations written about the two swimmers who represented Sri Lanka at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 appearing in The Sunday Times Sports Plus of June 4,11,18 - 2000.

1. I once again reiterate that at no time in their swimming careers did these two swimmers "bamboozle" any person or sports association. The dictionary explains this word as - 'trick, confound, confuse.'

2. These two swimmers have always been nominated for international meets by the NAASU to the NOC, and then been approved by the Ministry of Sports.

3. They have always continued to give of their best both in local and international swim meets, no matter what circumstances they faced.

At this point I give an example of this -

At the said Olympics the male swimmer in question, was swimming well, and both he and the coach were sure of him returning some good timings. On September 20, the day of his first event, the 400-metre Individual Medley, he awoke in the morning with the flu, but he swam his event. His next event was on September 23, the 400m. Free Style. During the 21st and 22nd, he continues his training although having the flu. On the 23rd morning he was advised not to swim medically as well as from the management. However he insisted on swimming. For his next race, the 200-metre Dolphin, on the 24th, he was too sick to swim.

Mr. Ferreira on June 18 said - quote - "As Ms. Bolling had indicated her son not only was 'unfit' but 'unwell' as well, but yet made the Olympic team to represent Sri Lanka. How lucky and fortunate for him. It is in this context that the piece referred - that our selection to the Olympic were 'bamboozled' as attested by Ms. Bolling in her reply of June 11, 2000,"

I never did mention, in my article, that this swimmer was 'unfit'. I mentioned, quote - "The male swimmer fell sick prior to his first event, and never recovered sufficiently to prove what he was capable of achieving at this Game".

4. Regarding these two swimmers "bamboozling their entry timing as they so blatantly did" - quote, Mr. Ferreira of June 18, 2000.

Any coach or sports person or anyone knowing anything about sports, is aware that not always is it possible for a competitor, although their goal and desire is to do so to achieve their personal best timings each time they swim, even "in the most ideal and conducive circumstances" or "at these ideal and adrenaline charged Olympic Games"- quote Mr. Fernando, June 4, 2000.

5. Mr. Ferreira, June 18, 2000, quoted from an article given to the 'Island' by the Sports Editor of the Divaina's newspaper of Sept., 23 - "Julian Bolling said that he had a bad season and could not train well. In a telephone interview Julian said he was scared to swim in the 400 metres Individual Medley race which shows that most Sri Lankan sportsmen and women do not have the killer instinct".

(a) Sports people do set themselves goals to achieve in a season, year or a few years. At times these goals are achieved and at times they are not. This is a part of sports.

(b) Being 'scared' before a race or otherwise termed "butterflies in the stomach" is what any sports person undergoes.

(c) This swimmer was answering questions put to him in a very honest manner.

6. I have been a coach for 34 years and also coached these two swimmers and I have never instilled the 'killer instinct' to them or to anyone else. I do instill, however, the character forming traits of - hard work, discipline, perseverance, honesty, to always compete to the best of one's ability, and to have a high degree of sportsmanship at all times, no matter what they face.

It is of interest to read the newspaper articles, both prior and after the said Olympics written by various newspaper reporters as well as Mr. Ferreria.

I have given the readers a true and accurate response to the allegations levelled at these two swimmers.

Tara Bolling

—Sports Editor's note

We admit that Julian and Dipika were the best swimmers produced in Sri Lanka. The only argument we sought was the precedence concerning Conrad Francis' selection for the Sydney Olympics. Much has been written to paint a rosy picture, but the Sports Editor stands by his story and would like the readers to judge for themselves who is right and who is wrong.


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