Shuttler Shehani in the YOG team to S’pore

By Rangi Akbar

Singles badminton star Lekha Shehani is the latest to be added to the Sri Lanka team for the first ever Youth Olympic Games (YOG) to be held in Singapore from August 14 to 26. She was not in the team which was planned meticulously earlier but the NOC at its crowded press briefing last week named her in the tour party of seven participants.

YOG Chef De Mission Nishantha Piyasena and NOC President Hemasiri Fernando at the press
conference- Pic by Berty Mendis

“This is a great honour for me. I am ranked 337th in the world. I thank all concerned - NOC President Mr. Hemasiri Fernando, YOG Chef De Mission Nishanthe Piyasena, my coach Diluka Karunaratne, the NOC staff who worked round-the-clock to make this happen, Sports Minister C.B. Ratnayake, President of the Sri Lanka Badminton Association Roshan Gunawardena and those who were involved in my coaching such as Imali Fernando, Kingsley Nallathamby, Pradeep Welagedera and all concerned,” said Shehani in an interview with Sunday Times.

Shehani is attached to the Convent of Our Lady of Victories, Moratuwa and won the Triple Crown at the 2009 Under 19 Junior Badminton Nationals having recorded victories in the singles, doubles and the mixed doubles. Previous to that she showed her prowess in the under 15, under 13 and under 11 events from the years 2003 to 2006.

A beaming Lekha Shehani after winning the SAG Silver Medal in Bangladesh early this year

NOC officials started to consider her for the Singapore YOG seriously after she won Silver at the SAG.
As a junior shuttler she has done extremely well and this prompted the NOC to pursue her case to the IOC where after much persuasion she was given Universality Place (a wild card) to the Youth Olympics.
Shehani’s successes in the sport are too many to mention here. She is undoubtedly one of the best in the sport in this age group.

According to Nishantha Piyasena, the NOC has not given up hope of trying to include two more participants. “This will be according to the funds that the NOC has,” he told the press briefing. The NOC will be paying for all athletes to take part in the Youth Olympics.

Four sports stars from Sri Lanka have found qualification to participate in the first ever Youth Olympic Games to be held in Singapore in August. The first to qualify was Hasintha Shashiranga the table tennis player from Dharmashoka College in Ambalangoda. He qualified as early as April this year. He had beaten two Korean players in a qualifying tournament to gain entry.

Thereafter swimmer Heshan Unamboowe of Trinity College qualified to swim in the 100 metres back stroke event. Unamboowa who was once tested positive for taking medication for his wheezing, will have to declare the purpose of taking these medications one month before the event. This will clear him of taking any banned drugs before the event.

The latest to qualify is Dilshan Kariyawasam of Ananda College to play in the singles event in Badminton. He participated in a tournament in Mexico to be qualified. Madhavee Weerathunga of Mahamaya College Kandy is another swimmer to qualify and will swim in the 50 metres freestyle event.
Three other athletes have obtained Universality places (wild card) to participate in the Youth Olympics.

Indunil Herath of Walala Central who will participate in the 1000 metres race, is the only track athlete to gain entry. Nuwani Navodya is the second table tennis player to go on this tour. She is a promising player and will play in the singles event.

Nishantha Piyasena will be the Chef de Mission and Dilmini Direckze will be the lady chaperone.
Jagath Rajapaksa and Pemlath Uyanhewa are the coaches while Donald Wijegunawardana will be the masseur.

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