A tennis Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the 2018 Davis Cup winners Croatia, futuristic MoUs with the Chinese Olympic Movement where Lankan athletes would stand to gain foreign exposure in training methods and an Ice ring to be built in Sri Lanka to train some local competitors for the 2022 winter Olympics are some of the innovations that the Lankan Olympic Committee have up its sleeve for 2019.
The local Olympic chief Suresh Subramaniam says that it is time to break the shackles and move forward with medals in mind.
“When one gets a meaningful free offer we must take maximum advantage of the offers that come our way. But our is to have more focus on sports that we feel within the realms of winning an Olympic Medal by 2024 Paris Games,” said Subramaniam.
Subramaniam took over the mantle of the movement at its most hectic period where Sri Lanka had to go through four major international events -- the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games, the Youth Olympics and ANOC meeting in Japan.
"We signed an MoU during the Asian Games with China to train our athletes. During the Games, we have been speaking to some of the federations to facilitate this programme and train our athletes in the aspects of high performance.
Unfortunately the uptake is slow – understandably members of most of these federations are all volunteers. At the moment we are trying our best to get it mooted at least by end March.
“Besides, I was also introduced to the Harbin Mayor in the North of China, which is the winter city there. He is keen to help us in Winter sports. In fact the Colombo Mayor was due to travel to that city, but as she was indisposed at that juncture it was delayed by a few days. When that happens they would sign an agreement for an ice ring in Colombo, where our hopefuls could train. The Olympic Committee chief in China is very keen to see that we take part in the Winter Olympics of 2022,” the NOC chief said.
Elaborating on that point Subramaniam stressed, “The actual situation is that, we are very good at junior level, just look at our cricket and rugby – in general Lankan sport at school level is very good. Then at 19 and 20 when they leave school only a few opt to continue, only few athletes get chosen on to continue sports at national level. This is the critical area that we are hoping to step in and address – ages from 20-25. This is the stage where they branch out. Once the children leave school they do not want to depend on the parents. What are the options they have? They want to give up sport and seek employment. Some opt for higher education. Some of them try to continue with their sports while working, which is a very tough option. This is why we are looking at getting involved at this stage. We are trying to get them into the high performance stage where the sportsman and the coach are given a stipend. Then the lad is in training for the next three to four years. They are looked after till the next Olympics or the Olympics after. We are looking at the next 8-10 years.”
Subramaniam said that the Prime Minister’s fund which was diverted to the NOC is a part of that programme.
The Prime Minister allocated 50 million rupees towards the programme.
He admitted that there was a slight glitch because of the political situation in the recent past, but, now the obstacle is cleared and we should get the monies soon.
He said “Once that money comes we can begin to develop the athlete of tomorrow without much hindrance, because they would be looked after in every aspect and in return the athlete will only have to develop himself.”
NOC has also singed an MOU with the Foundation Goodness (FOG) – a centre with several sports options for training.
“We are trying to develop some of the sports at this centre at Seenigama. We have already started table tennis at this venue, a foreign coach was doing a programme and they have a good facility for swimming at the FOG. In reality what we are trying is to develop a few medal prospects where we feel that we could develop to the medal winning level," he added.
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