31st December 2000
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Susanthika's Olympic feat outshone everything else

By Leonard Ratnayake
Athletics was undoubtedly at the centre of focus in world sports. It was the same in Sri Lanka too, with Sydney Olympics becoming the greatest spectacle ever staged in the globe, while only the Millennium Celebrations was near.

SusanthikaIf "Olympics" was the most pronouced word in the sporting arena throughout the year, it was "Susanthika" that was in the lips of the Sri Lankan sports fans and more or less the whole nation.

Thus a flashback of athletics would centre around this event, while here we would see the miliue in which the event and the glory culminated in September.

The year lapsed with a few important landmarks in athletics with the National Championship and the National Sports Festival conducted locally and Asian Championship and Sydney Olympics represented internationally.

Although the above events spoke of the glamour with the participation of star athletes, Thailand Open , Singapore Open and SAF Championship meets were participated by the second string athletes proved successes with a good number of medals won. 400m Hurdler Harijan Ratnayake and 400m emerging star Rohan Pradeep Kumara reached the A grade standards and became the new entrants of the National Olympic Pool.

National championship which was also the criterion of selection to the Sydney Olympics saw a major upset, when 400m Asian record holder Sugath Thilakeratne, who was nursing a hamstring injury, was beaten by Rohan Pradeep Kumara who established a new Sri Lanka Record 45.25 to better Thilakeratne's mark. This was also the meet that Susanthika Jayasinghe ran in her home soil after a lapse of two years to win the 100m sprint.

The month of August saw the National Sports Festival participated by all star athletes in the country. The glamour of the meet was undoubtedly stolen by Susanthika Jayasinghe who had just run a 100m sprint two weeks ago after two years in hen mother land. Sunsathika established two new records in the 100m and 200m events renewing them twice in four days. 

The Asian Championship which followed did not have the services of Susanthika Jayasinghe, Sugath Thilakeratne and Sriyani Kulawansa. However the meet was a success with Sri Lanka winning the highest number of medals won in meet history. Damayanthi Darsha winning the 400m and 200m events established two new records, while doing the anchor role in the 4x100m event, which was the first ever by a Lanka women's team in the history of athletics. The achievement of Sarath Gamage in the Asian Championship Marathon to win a silver medal was remarkable in that it was only after two decades that the event had brought in such international glory.

All these culminated in the month of September with the advent of the Sydney Olympics. Sri Lanka sent their biggest contingent ever with a larger number of A grade athletes in it with many hopes of magic performances.

It became a reality with Susanthika Jayasinghe the first female athlete to have won a medal at an Olympics meet when she won the bronze in the 200m.

Susanthika's feat of winning an Olympic medal for her country, after 52 years, received a heartiest welcome from almost all her countrymen. A Bronze medal at Sydney Olympics brought her back to the pedestal, which was accorded in 1997 following her silver medal victory at World Games in Athens. The breathtaking lap of 22.28 seconds, the timing which earned the Sri Lankans a name with the Bronze medal in the women's 200m event at Olympics for Susanthika opened a new chapter in country's athletics.

Although she won the bronze at the Olympics, the recognition she earned at the Olympics was only second only to America's Marion Jones who had stolen the glamour of Sydney Olympics. At the lane introduction in the semi-finals, the commentators aquainted Susanthika as saying "It there is any threat to Jones, it would come from this woman, Susanthika Jayasinghe of Sri Lanka". In the most important final, She was introduced as "this perhaps the danger, if there was any danger to Jones" and all eyes including the runner believed that Susanthika was running in for the Silver medal.

However regardless of what it was, a medal at Olympics was very precious for Sri Lanka and the woman who achieved it, was blessed by all the Lankans for more of the improving performance in future.

"This year made my dream come true. I am really happy to have won an Olympics medal, I hope to do better in coming events" a jubilant Susanthika recollected her achievement.

While the achievements in the track and field reaching its high standards and making headlines, the administration aspects was too at the centre of debate while making some useful contributions to the growth of the sport. The August's Asian Congress which was held in Kuala Lumpur was of immense use as Sri Lanka was able to win the bid to host the Asian Athletic Championship Meet in the year 2002, while Amateur Athletic Association in Sri Lanka(AAA) being able to represent five officials in its administration. For the first time in the country, District pools were formed while 61 coaches were sent to Pattyla, India for a training programme in order to carry out the work of the District pools.

A proud AAA President Sunil Gunawardena said, that the country's sport has a lot to talk about athletics this year with the achievements of the sportsmen and women making headlines, that the controlling body has been able to make smooth progress. Commenting on the prevailing controversies in the aftermath of the climaxing of the sport around him and the AAA, Gunawardena said "It is a result of three aspects, the power hunger has crept into administration and the politicians are trying to exploit the hype of the sport while the athletes are trying to reign supreme above all who assisted their course".

However it was Sunil Gunawardena who stole the show in the aftermath of the Sydney Olympics being at the centre of controversy, which demanded his resignation and a stoppage for so called Gunawardena Mafia, while former Sports Minister SB Dissanayake intentionally kept a low profile. 

The year 2000 marked the rise of the sport to its apex in the century with many hoping that the glory continues without malicious stains blocking the progress.


Appointment of CEO, a major breakthrough

The SLTA has five 'super squads' comprising some of the best players in the country, who are being coached by some of the most highly qualified coaches in the country.
By Bruce Maurice
In the game of tennis this past year, a major breakthrough was the appointment of Roshan Dayaratne as the Chief Executive Officer of the SLTA. He is a former number one Sri Lanka player and an International Tennis Federation (IFF) Level 2 qualified coach. One of Dayaratne's chief priorities, is to take tennis to the outstations and popularise the sport islandwide. 

The SLTA has five 'super squads' comprising some of the best players in the country, who are being coached by some of the most highly qualified coaches in the country. The National Pool was selected recently. The men and women in the pool are: S. Paramanathan, D. Ranaweera, G. Subramaniam, C. Wijesinghe, D. Abeygoonawardene and S. Wickramahewa. Shalini Pereira, S. Wijesekara, Mahesha Seneviratne and D. Subramaniam. 

An Officials' Workshop was held from November 9 to 12 in Thailand. From Sri Lanka, three places were given to J. Siyampalapitiya, N. Siyambalapitiya and D. Peiris. N. Siyamgalapitiya passed the exam and was awarded the white badge. 

A wheelchair tennis tournament was conducted for disabled soldiers and recognition has been obtained from the United States Professional Tennis Register (USPTR) and the players are being trained by D. Goodman, a qualified coach in wheelchair tennis. The SLTA has very generously given these players use of the hard courts. 

Performance Tennis Initiative (PTI) was introduced to three Asian countries and Sri Lanka was one of them. This is the next step of the 'Mini Tennis Tournament,' where talent will be identified and a follow-up programme conducted. 

The SLTA expanded their promotion of outstation tennis by conducting a mini-tennis tournament in Batticaloa. The SLTA donated rackets and balls to five schools and an under 10 champion has been found from Batticaloa. 

A floodlighting project that cost a staggering Rupees Two million, has already been completed. It comprises two hard courts and one clay court. Facilities include professional lighting on par with international centres and associations. 

Tennis fans did not miss out on the US Open championships this year. 

They were shown 'live' on a giant screen that was installed at the premises from August 28 to September 10. 

A coaching programme for adults was conducted by the SLTA this year. The response was very encouraging and several adults made use of this facility. Suresh Menon the Development Officer for the Asian Tennis Federation conducted a Level 1 Tutor Course for qualified coaches and two coaches passed the exam. 

A tennis carnival for children between the ages of seven to ten years was conducted for the first time, in late October. Over 1,000 children participated and 1800 matches were played. Yes FM and MTV were the media sponsors and the main sponsors were, Mirinda and Ole Springs (Pvt) Ltd. 

Nndre Mas, French coach was appointed in October to be in charge of coaches and all activities related to coaching and promotion. Mas brings to local tennis a wealth of experience. He was the coach of the winner of the French under 18 and 16 champions (1991/'92) and has been involved with the game for many years. A professional coach, he was the supervisor of the ATP tour of African champs in 1999. In Sri Lanka he has already had discussions with coaches and will no doubt use his expertise to further the game in this country. 

At the Open Nationals, D. Ranaweera and G. Subramainam and A. Perera won the men's singles and doubles respectively. Vajira Premaratne won the women's singles and Vajira Premaratne and Sobhini De Silva won the women's doubles. S. Pereira and C. Wijesinghe won the men's doubles. A playing section Ranking Tournament was also conducted. S. Paramanathan won the men's singles, while R. Wijemanne and R. Rajapakse won the doubles. Sobhini De Silva won the women's singles. Shalini Pereria and C. Beiling won the doubles. In the boys' singles in the under 14, 16 and 18 categories, the winners were: S. Wickramasinghe, H. Godamanne and D. Ranaweera respectively. While in the girls' category, Mahesha Seneviratne won the under 14, 16 and 18 singles. 

Four players were sent for two tournaments in India, the All India Junior Nationals and Chennai Nationals. The team comprised, Harshana Godamanne, Sasith Wickramasinghe, Amrith Rupasinghe and Mahesha Seneviratne. The SLTA was able to get two wild card entries for Mahesha and Harshana to get into the main draw of Chennai, while the other two had to play in the qualifying round. Amrith Rupasinghe played well and came into the second round in the main draw. Rupasinghe however, was not successful, and, Godamanne had to play the top seed in the main draw. 

The Junior Nationals were held in September and over 100 players participated in 268 matches. The events were for boys and girls under 12, 14, 16 and 18 (singles) as well as boys under 16 and 18 doubles and girls under 18 doubles.


Calendar, a fake

By Gamini Perera. 
Thirty domestic matches and thirteen international exposures. 

This was the football dish laid out to the national football team and the soccer fans in this country. This sumptuous menu was mentioned in the year 2000 preparation calendar distributed among the media personnel at a press conference held at the FFSL headquarters, Reid Avenue on March 1, 2000. The main objective of this menu card, divided into five segments was to prepare the senior national football team for the World Cup qualifying - Asia - 2001 championship. 

The above mentioned calendar included tours to the Maldives in May, 2000, Singapore in August, ,2000, and to the Middle East in November, 2000. 

In February, 2001 the national team was to tour Thailand. 

As for the 30 domestic matches, they were mentioned as local preparations on a half-time and full-time basis. 

The question now arises, whether this preparatory calendar had been worked off on schedule? The year 2000 is coming to an end. 

As for some of the international exposures, the national team during this year made tours of the Maldives and Singapore. Tours to Vietnam and to Malaysia, although not in the original calendar, materialized, however. 

What about the 30 domestic matches scheduled to be worked off to the senior national team. 

Did the national team play a single match with a foreign team on local soil during the period mentioned above? 

Those who drew up this calendar should have known the relevance and the importance of a championship of a World Cup qualifying tournament. This World Cup qualifying round will see Sri Lanka battling it out for international glory against Thailand, Lebanon and Pakistan in Lebanon in mid 2001. 

Sri Lanka is in group five of the FIFA World Cup 2002, qualifying group and the matches with Thailand, Lebanon and Pakistan kicks-off on May, 13, 2001. 

By not adhering to this preparatory calendar and giving it a blind eye, the national team now looks ill-prepared for its major confrontation in Lebonon in May next year. On the other hand, our football fans have been denied the opportunity of witnessing football with a foreign flavour. 

It is best for the FFSL to probe into this matter and deal with those responsible for drawing up such a calendar which tantamounts to a fake, or has become a figment of someone's imagination. 

When 'Blue' reigned supreme 

By Bernie Wijesekera 
Police Sports Club in the past has been in the forefront in the local arena producing some of the finest sportsmen at national level. 

In whatever discipline they had sportsmen, who did proud to the Police and to the country. As The Saying goes be a sportsman to be a policeman and not a Policeman to be a sportsman. But times have changed. Today there is quantity, but not quality on and off the field. This is not confined to the Police alone, but to the services, too. 

Especially for sports like football, track and field, basketball and rugby the Blue Shirts have churned out some of the best for the country.

In boxing they produced many an Olympic boxers with the likes of evergreen Eddie Gray, brothers late H.P.and C.P. Jayasuriya, Dharmasiri Weerakoon and Sumith Liyanage. There were many others like Percy Wijesuriya, Lal Ratnayake, Nimal Lewke, T. Thangavelu, the present president of the ABA and others who dominated the local ring. But one must not forget legendary Selladorai. 

Then in cricket there were cricketers of the calibre of Vernon Prins, - a Prince among cricketers, who captained Sri Lanka. A cricketer who sacrificed his job for this gentleman's game. Today Prins, leads a humble and a quiet life without a pension. T.B. Werapitiya, Malcolm Spittel, Silva, Hubert Bagot, Saul Gunatilleke, H.C. Perera, Dhanasiri Weerasinghe, S.L.Silva, T.B. Kehelgamuwa, G.S. Ratnayake, C.K. Sajanayake, Mitra Siriwardena and the present chairman of cricket M. Sivaratnam ( a versatile sportsman), R.M. Lafir a utility all-rounder, who excelled in rugby, too. 

In basketball there was O.K. Hemachandra, one of the best in the country. 

Police rugby enjoyed a golden era when they dominated the local scene winning most of the trophies. Name it and they had a special place in their vaults. 

Of course they had a great lover of sport, former I.G.P. Ernest Perera, who was the cog-in-the- wheel giving all support. 

From 'B' div. the rugby renaissance was started by S.Sivendran. Today Daya Jayasundera is its chairman, who is striving to keep the game alive among the rank and file. 

Virtually the Sri Lankan team was dominated by the Police players. The likes of Abdul Majeed, Charles Wijewardena Bandula Wijesinghe, Chandradasa, Ibrahim Hamid, Hajireen, Marso, Roger Rodrigo, Linton, Nimal Abeysinghe, Banda, Daya Jayasundera, J. Savenghan, Ajantha Samarakoon, N.Lewke, Palitha Siriwardena. There were many others who migrated in search of greener pastures. Today very few outstanding young sportsmen join them due to better job opportunities in the open field. 

Unlike in the past times have changed due to exigencies of duty and they are on demand due to the ongoing meaningless exercise where many a life and limb is lost. The poor Policemen, too suffer as a result. 

Despite all this its creditable for the Blue Shirts to be in surface and encourage the sportsmen to get involved in outdoor activities to bridge the Police-Public relationship, which is a must. It's not only brawn , one must possess human qualities to discharge their duties even under stress which is on the wane. It's through sports that one could bridge the gap and even face setbacks on and off field. If one has tolerance then he has patience to discharge his duties. 

Police SC under its Director Lalith Lekamge should be commended for organising a ceremony to honour the outstanding sportsmen for their achievements. 

Lekamge has a fine team to assist him with his O.I.C. Nizam Jamaldeen, one of the finest rugby players of yester-year, who is also a leading referee in the country. 

The ceremony was held on Dec. 18 at their clubhouse. Snr. D.I.G. Anandarajah was the chief guest. 

The following received the awards:- 

Athletics - Late I.P.R.J. Mirando, it was received by his wife. Basketball - F.U.K. Woolter, C.J. Wijesekera, T.A. Dissanayake. Boxing - Ajantha Gamini, J.M.D.W. Jayasinghe, Premasiri, Walisundera, Dodangoda, Gamini Kumara, H.M.S. Bandara, H.D.A. Upatissa, Bandula Gamage. Badminton - A. Sujith Rupasinghe. Cricket - I.D. Gunawardena, H.H.M.N. Chamara Silva, Nihal Zoysa, Duminda Nanayakkara, H.K. Ranaweera, R. Wimalasiri, Y. Anura Ratnasiri. Martial Arts - K. Fernando, S.A.C.G. Subasinghe, T.N.T. Kumari, (WSI), C.I Dilani (WSI), Edirisinghe Duncan, Rajapakse, Gunawardena, Weliwatta, Safran Mohamed, W.P.Cs. Menike, Nilanthi , Kula-sekera, Soysa, Ruwansiri, Seneviratne. Rugby - W.T. Thilakarathne, Aruna Silva, B.G.R. Rohana, K.A.I.K. Fernando, S.M.C. Samarakoon. Small Arms - G.Walgama, W.P.S.E.M. Pabawathi, RWPS M.T.S. Mazahira, Karunatilleke, J. Poddalgoda, Jayasinghe, WPC Dhammika. Soccer - S. Jayawardena, Weeraratne, D.M. Sugath. Swimming - C.C. Bamunuarachchi. Volleyball - K. Wijemanne, R.S. Kodagoda, K.G. Sarath, Amila J. Silva. Billards and Snooker - Susil Kumara. 

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