Rupees One Hundred and Fifty Million (150 Million) has been spent by the Sports Ministry towards the 12th South Asian Games (SAG) which concluded in India on February 16. This sum has been allocated from the Sports Development Budget for the years – 2015 and 2016. This is reported to be the highest amount spent [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

SAG exploits in retrospect

Matthew and Kimiko were the saving grace

Matthew Abeysinghe bagged seven golds -- a new SAG medals record for Sri Lanka

Rupees One Hundred and Fifty Million (150 Million) has been spent by the Sports Ministry towards the 12th South Asian Games (SAG) which concluded in India on February 16.

This sum has been allocated from the Sports Development Budget for the years – 2015 and 2016. This is reported to be the highest amount spent by Sri Lanka in the history of the South Asian Games or any other international meet.

This money is estimated to have been spent on training the teams, food and lodgings and maintenance of teams as well as providing training tours for some of the teams, participation in the SAG, towards observers, Sports Ministry officials, other associations, participation of VIPs, allowances etc.

Other than the Rs. 150 Million spent on the SAG, another Rs. 50 Million has to be spent on the felicitation ceremony and presenting cash awards to SAG medal winners at Temple Trees on February 26 at 7.00pm, where the President Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe will grace the occasion.

The Rs. 50 Million for this ceremony is being spent by the National Sports Fund of the Ministry of Sports. A Gold Medal winner will receive Rs. Five Lakhs, a Silver Medal winner will receive Rs. Three Lakhs and a Bronze Medal winner will receive Rs. Two Lakhs. Team medal winners and coaches will also be in line to receive cash awards.

The money spent on the 12th South Asian Games has not been finalised as yet. 484 athletes – men and women and 175 officials from Sri Lanka took part in the 12 day event in Guwahati and Shillong, India.

Rumeshika Ratnayake

Officials from various Sri Lankan associations, observers, medical officers and the media – amounting to over 700 took part in the event. This is the most number of participants which took part from Sri Lanka in the history of the South Asian Games.

The host country India at the SAG fielded 519 athletes in 23 sports. They bagged 188 Gold Medals, 90 Silver Medals and 30 Silver Medals. Overall they won 308 Medals.

Sri Lanka fielded 484 athletes won 25 Gold Medals, 63 Silver Medals and 98 Bronze Medals, the overall total being 186 Medals. Whilst comparing India and Sri Lanka the difference could be compared to that of the sky and the earth.

Sri Lanka won nine Gold Medals in athletics, 12 in swimming, two from cycling, one from weightlifting and one from Wushu.

Sri Lanka failed to win a single medal in basketball (men and women), football (men and women), handball (men and women), kho-kho (men and women) and hockey (men).

In the history of the South Asian Games, Sri Lanka won the highest number of Gold Medals at the Colombo edition in 1991. Sri Lanka pocketed 44 Gold Medals, 34 Silver Medals and 40 Bronze Medals from ten sports and occupied the second overall spot at the SAG. India were champions with64 Gold Medals, 59 Silver Medals and 41 Bronze Medals.

Swimming topped the list of participants from Sri Lanka at this year’s SAG with 21 where Matthew Abeysinghe and Kimiko Raheem went on to win 12 Gold Medals. Matthew won seven Gold Medals and Kimiko Raheem was in line for five Golds.

Mathews performance was a record. The earlier record was held by Julian Bolling who won seven Gold Medals in 1991 at the SAG held in Colombo, which was broken by Matthew Abeysinghe.

Both Matthew and Kimiko have been training abroad, Matthew reportedly in the United States of America and Kimiko in Thailand. Matthew’s coach is his father Manoj, a veteran swimming coach. Sri Lanka owes a lot to Manoj as it was under his coaching that Sri Lanka was able to win most of the medals at the SAG.

To a question that Matthew and Kimiko have been training abroad, Manoj said: “They have been training in Sri Lanka from 2013 under my supervision. They do travel abroad and take these opportunities to train abroad as well.”

Himasha Eshan, the new sprint sensation

At the 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games Sri Lanka was not able to win so many Golds in swimming but this time if not for the participation of Mathew and Kimiko, Sri Lanka’s Gold medals tally would have dropped drastically.

The South Asian Games are normally scheduled to be held every two years but some reason it was not held as scheduled after 2010 and the next SAG should have been held in 2012 but it dragged on and finally took place in India this year. India has been fixing dates and canceling them for no reason. Due to this Sri Lanka could not maintain a regular sports pool.

It was only four months ago it was decided that the SAG will take place in India. Due to this some sports were in a state of disarray such as hockey, badminton, even swimming and several other sports. The hockey team was selected only two weeks before the SAG. As a result several sports associations underwent a lot of heartburn.

If Sri Lanka had indulged in a fixed plan as in 1991, Sri Lanka could have doubled or trebled the medals tally and could have possible over taken India.

Sri Lanka hoped to win 12 to 15 medals in athletics. Several seniors who were expected to win Gold failed this time.

There are three athletes who have qualified for the Rio Olympics in the Sri Lanka contingent. They are Anuradha Indrajit Cooray (marathon – men), Geethani Rajasekera (marathon – women) and Sumeda Ranasinghe (javelin).

All of them were deprived of Gold Medals at the SAG this year. Other than that Chandrika Subashini (400 mtrs), Rumeshika Ratnayake (200 mtrs), N.C.D. Priyadarshani (long jump) and Priyangika Maduwanthi (high jump) who were hoping to win Golds at the SAG had to be disappointed.

Three athletes who were not on the list to win gold medals came to the fore. They were Isuru Sandaruwan (pole vault), Romeshika Ratnayake (100 mtrs) and Suranjaya Silva (200 mtrs).

Himasha’s sprint partners - Shehan, Suranjaya and Akram - won the Men’s 4x100m gold medal

Another notable achievement was the emergence of juniors over seniors. There were 37 athletic events at this year’s SAG and India won 28 Golds in athletics. This time Sri Lanka and India shared the Gold medals in athletics.

Sri Lanka unexpectedly did extremely well in volleyball with both men and women teams coming into the final. In both events India won the Gold and Sri Lanka pocketed the Silver. In the history of the SAG Sri Lanka has won volleyball Gold in 1991. Since then Sri Lanka has been able to win only the Silver.

This is the first time in the history of the SAG that the Sri Lanka men’s team was able to annex the Silver.

Sri Lanka’s deputy overall skipper Sudesh Pieris won the Gold in weightlifting. It should be noted that he is training in France with his own money. Can this Gold be considered Sri Lanka’s?

Sprint rider Jeevan Jayasinghe won two Gold in cycling and in Wushu, Hasitha Lakshan won a Gold, adding great strength to Sri Lanka.
“Matthew and Kimiko did not train in Sri Lanka.

Due to this we cannot take this glory to Sri Lanka. According to the amount spent on the Sri Lanka team, the results are not sufficient.” This is spreading through Sri Lanka’s sporting circles.

“The amount of medals that Sri Lanka has won at the SAG after six years is more than enough,” is another thought in sports circles.”

Sri Lankan athletes received heroes’ welcome

“Now our aim should be the Asian Games in 2018”, is another thought. The Sunday Times ventured to get their views on three prominent sports personalities. The first was Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, the other was National Olympic Committee President Hemasiri Fernando and Director General Sports Development Department K.D.S. Ruwanchandra.

NOC President Hemasiri Fernando: “I have always maintained that our contingent to the SAG should be 150, 200 the most. The results are not according to the contingent we sent.

If not for Matthew and Kimko our performances would have been very poor. They won mainly because of the commitment and dedication extended to them by their parents and coaches. We should be grateful to the families of Matthew and Kimiko.

Those who are holding responsible positions in the Sports Ministry and the Sports Development Department have no clue to what they are doing. All what they are doing is give wrong indications to the Sports Minister. In 1991 at the SAG Sri Lanka won 46 Gold, 34 Silver and 40 Bronze. This time we have won 25 Gold out of 23 sports. If we take a frank look at ourselves, we will know where we stand.”

Director General Sports K.D.S. Ruwanchandra: “We are satisfied with the Sri Lanka team at this year’s SAG. It is not practical to compare our performances with the performances of the last SAG. Take for example the USA. They were winning all the medals at one time. Then China took over. We should take a look at the world at large.

During a short time only we started to organize for the SAG. We have spent Rs. 150 Million towards the SAG. These amounts are still not certain. This amount was taken from the Sports Ministry budget of 2015-2016. Added to that we have planned to present the athletes cash awards amounting to Rs. 50 Million.”

The successful swimmers brought glory to Sri Lanka with more medals

The successful swimmers brought glory to Sri Lanka with more medals

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera: “We did not lose this time. We have won!. We have come to the second slot after being in the fourth position at one time. In 2010 we won 16 Gold and were placed fourth.

This time we won 25 Gold and came to the second position. Is this a defeat? There is no need to appoint special committees to find out where we went wrong. We could not win medals in some sports due to wrong decisions. I plan to call sports bodies in the near future to plan out our next move as to how to tackle the Asian Games.

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