11th February 2001
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The disaster in Ratnapura, what actually happened? 

Your report under the above heading needs certain corrections and at the same time I must say it contained true statements. It is incorrect to say that indications were that the meet was headed for disaster from the day it was planned. The Sabaragamuwa Motor Sports Club did their utmost and were very enthusiastic and did everything possible to conduct this event safely and successfully. 

It is true that this club has to conduct this meet in association with an experienced club but they never offered it to Southern Motor Sports Club as stated in your article. UpCountry Motor Sports Club too did their utmost to conduct the meet safely but there were several shortcomings and in your own words "mainly due to pigheaded attitude of certain officials". 

I quite agree with you that mass start expeience is a pre-requisite to enter a road race mainly in consideration of the safety aspect of spectators. We are in receipt of a complaint that UMSC accepted novice competitors' entries and have initiated an inquiry. SLAMS has nothing to do in accepting entries as we do not check the competitors and it is the responsibility of the organizers and UMSC is duty bound to do it. SLAMS Interim board or even the former SLAMS never go thorugh the competitors' list before a meet. 

The delay in conducting the practice sessions was mainly due to the faltering timing equipment and opening of roads for traffic almost after every one or two events. SLAMS Stewards have no power to get involved in the organisation of any meet unless a dispute arises. They are decision makers guided by the General Competition Rules of SLAMS. 

The charge that the organisers were given more practice laps too was false and timing of competitors' vehicles once again is the responsibility of the organizers and not of SLAMS. We are not aware that scrutinised vehicles were-re-scrutinised at the startline as there are no scrutineers at the startline. The competitors have the power to object. Only the scrutineer labels are checked at the startline by organizers. 

Police informed the starter about the accident almost at the same time a competitor arrived but the problem started as the Clerk of Course has given instructions to all not to use the red flag without his instructions. This delayed the stopping of the race. 

The chicanes were constructed to reduce the speed of vehicles but several others wanted it removed to give thrills to competitors and spectators by high speed manouvering to their liking which could have definitely resulted in a major calamity. On practice day or on race day, Formula cars and very fast bigger modified cars went thorugh the chicanes without any incident. The car that met with the tragic accident is a less powered small car (Mini). 

One can imagine the speeds attainable by cars after travelling almost a kilometre straight and entering a bend at breakneck speed to the liking of the competitor. Due to these chicanes a major calamity was avoided as competing vehicles have to reduce speed to negotiate the chicane. The required width, manouverability and safety was checked by SLAMS Stewards and the Federation of Motorcycle Sports in Sri Lanka (FMSSL). 

Without the approval of the Clerk of Course a race could not be started and all races were started after obtaining his approval. 

We too agree that officials should not hold several posts due to ignorance or greediness but this is a responsibility of the organizing club. The SLAMS Stewards have complained that the Clerk of Course took them on the inspection tour at breakneck speed and they were scared to death hence, could not inspect the track. Even the FMSSL Steward said the Clerk of Course went at "racing speed" and could not properly inspect the track. This is not the normal practice. They should stop at every bend, instruct the Clerk of Course to liaise with police and army to control or move spectators from danger areas, check whether corner marshals are posted properly and inspect track condition. 

The SLAMS, FMSSL and Club-appointed Stewards cannot take the responsibility for the fatal accident as they do not travel around the track but it was the Clerk of Course who travels around the track after each and every event and only he is empowered to stop a race. It is very unfortunate that the tragic accident occurred and presently, it is too early to point a finger till the independent inquiry initiated by the Controlling Body is concluded. 

- Priya Munasinghe
(Secretary SLAMS and Vice President Up Country Motor Sports Club)
Reply next week. 

Countdown- 10 days more for the SriLankan Airlines Pro-Surf Championships 2001 in Hikkaduwa

Japanese surfers to add colour and glamour to event

The countdown has began for the first ever Professional Surf Championship 2001 sponsored by the SriLankan Airlines to be held from February 21 to 24 at the Hikkaduwa Beach.

Thirty two Japanese will vie for honours on the first two days on Wednesday and Thursday (February 21 and 22).

The Japanese will thereafter surf against some international stars on the final two days, Friday and Saturday (February 23 and 24) which will no doubt give the local surfing fans a taste to remember for a long long time.

Surfing will come under the starters orders at exactly 6 a.m. on each of the four days and events will have to be completed on each day.

Close and thrilling competition is expected since the Japanese Professional Surfing Association, who made an inspection of the site, has given the go ahead being satisfied with the facilities available here.

Being the first ever event to be held, it will no doubt mark a watershed in the history of the sport. 

Since SriLankan Airlines are sponsoring the event supported by Jetwing Travels, Carlsberg, MBC/MTV and 'The Sunday Times".

The Japanese Professional Surfers Association (JPSA) established, way back in 1981, is an affiliate of the Assocaiation of Surfing Prfessionals which conducts ten surfing championships a year in Japan.

A successful surfing championships was held in Bali where over 200 surfers came under the starter's orders.

Ten Japanese judges will help out in conducting a successful championships and all are being sponsored by the SriLankan Airlines.

SriLankan Airlines has earmarked this championshps to be conducted annually in Sri Lanka.

The beach at Hikkaduwa will have a 'Rock Festival' every evening on the four days. 

The best rock and reggae bands in Sri Lanka will be in attendance which is open to the public.

The prizegiving scheduled for Saturday, February 24, will be held at Coral Gardens Hotel, Hikkaduwa with many rewards and surprises.

Depot Cup basketball competition begins on February 21

The most popular and the oldest Basketball Tournament in Sri Lanka, Depot Cup will be played from February 21 onwards at the Field Force Headquarters Basketball Court, said Indra De Silva, Deputy Inspector General of Police and Chairman, Police Basketball.

The present holders of the trophy Colombo Cagers and the runners-up Colombo Bulls will find it difficult to maintain the record as stiff opposition will spring from Police, Air Force, Army and Navy. The entries for this tournament will close on February 19 and the draw will be held on the same day. Entry forms must be collected from R.E.C. Ranjan, Asst. Superintendent of Police, Mt. Lavinia and Hony. Secretary, Police Basketball. He can be contacted on Tel. No. 722971/448298/0722-44895, said Indra.

Mini basketball
A mini basketball tournament for boys and girls between the ages of 4 years and 14 years will be worked out on Saturday and Sunday, February 17 and 18 at Kings Court "Otter Aquatic Club", Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, said Mark Fernando - President, Colombo District Basketball Association.

Chess champion Irusha does well at Asian contest

Eleven-year-old Irusha Tennekoon Palawatta secured eleventh place in the Under-12 Boys category at the Asian Youth Chess Championship 2001, winning 3.5 points out of 9 rounds. His performance earned him the only placement given to the seven-member contingent that travelled from Sri Lanka to participate in the championship, which was organised by the Rajasthan State Chess Association and held in Bikaner, India, from 7 to 17 January.

Irusha was sponsored by Union Assurance, who supported his achievements for the third consecutive year.

A Trinitian, Irusha started chess at the tender age of 8 years and became the Sri Lanka Chess Champion the very next year, 1999, at the age of nine, in the Under-10 category, having represented Sri Lanka in the Asian Youth Championship. 

He was the Sri Lanka Chess Champion in the same category once again last year.

Irusha also represented Sri Lanka in the Under-10 category at the World Youth Festival, the International Chess Championship held last October in Barcelona, Spain, where he gave his best performance ever, obtaining 5.5 points of 11 games and defeating Canada, Paraguay, Chile and Portugal. Irusha's performance earned him a diploma and 29th place out of 93 participants. 

He was also the first Sri Lankan to have participated in the world tournament, a tremendous achievement for a 10-year-old. Irusha obtained his school colours last year, from the Ministry of Education, the youngest ever chess player to obtain this honour, which is the highest chess achievement for a schoolboy.

The Chess Federation of Sri Lanka nominated Irusha's participation at the Asian Youth Chess Championship 2001.

Rover pinpoints...

Treated like dirt

Not a drop of water was available to media personnel who covered the Supercross 2001 at Diyawanna Oya, even though a lot was promised. Rover learns that this is the normal practice of getting maximum publicity to an event and then those who are involved in the races only look after their own kith and kin. This was observed by media men covering the event, who are now having second thoughts of covering such events in future.

Talking about kith and kin

Not so long ago, charges were made at an official who was kicked by a higher up at the Cricket Board. Now comes the news that his brother has been employed at the same office and drawing a tidy salary as well. Could this be a sign of goodwill or is it a gesture to curry favour with the man who was kicked about?

Tours aplenty

The new Minister of Sports first went to South Africa to cheer the Lankan cricketers. Now accompanied by several others, he was in New Zealand no doubt to inspire and cheer our cricketers once again. One wonders as to who could be pocketing out the money for their expences?

Building castles in the air

'Big Mouth' is at it again. This time he is saying that no one will be able to stop him from contesting for the post of AAA President for the third time as he has the support of all concerned. Another good reason being that the Asian Championships are to be held here as well. He has even gone to the extent of saying that if by any chance, he is not allowed to contest the seat, he will support his former Sports Boss for the post.

Twist and turn

A veteran commentator has admitted that he has learnt the mistake of giving commentaries by watching TV, which deprived him from being present at the grounds. It looks as if he has bitten off his own words and has forgotten his 'guru' who introduced him to the scene in the first place. No gratitude whatsoever. 

Praise for what?

Showering praises on officials, hoping to get into the good books of certain journalists is a common enough occurence. If they do not adhere to this, the chances are they will not be picked for tours abroad.

Why this hurry?

The NOC elections have always taken place in June, then why this hurry to hold it in March? Could it be because they fear of not being elected to the new office bearers of the respective sports bodies, since some have a lot of trust in the old brigade.

Coach threatened

A leading player in a racquet sport had threatened a coach with assault. An inquiry was held and Rover learns that the findings have been swept under the carpet. Rover also learns that a protest has been made with regard to the chaperone for a foreign tour but no action has been taken on this issue too. The Minister of Sports has been notified about these two incidents.

Different flavour for Royal-Thomian this year 

This year's 122nd 'Battle of the Blues' between Royal and S. Thomas' will be of a different flavour, according to the chairman of the joint committee Sunil Peiris, who chaired a meeting to finalise the three- year sponsorship package betwen Dialog GSM, held at the SSC on Jan. 25.

This traditional match betwen Royal and S. Thomas' has gone uninterrupted for 122 years since 1880. According to Peiris its one of the oldest traditional games in the world.

In the past even to get a ticket to watch this encounter was an ordeal to the fans. But today, the spectator attraction is on the wane. The joint committee is determined to get back to its glorious past with the support rendered by Dialog GSM's Chief Excutive Officer Dr. Hans Wijesuriya with this sponsorship to attract the fans with prizes and surprises aplenty, Peiris added.

The objective of this event is for the cricketers from both schools to play the game in the correct spirit and maintain its traditions and provide entertainment for young and old to bring back nostalgic memories. Fittingly, it's being played for the D.S. Senanayake Shield.

Dr. Hans Wijesuriya (CEO), handed over the sponsorship letter to the acting Warden S. Thomas' D.A. Pakiyanathan, in the absence of Warden David Ponniah, who has gone abroad.

The match will be played on March 1, 2 and 3 at the SSC grounds. The others who attended the briefing were, Y.S. De Soysa, (Secretary), Ashok Senadeera (Treasurer), Ken de Alwis, (Secretary, Publicity Committee Royal-S. Thomas'), and Marketing Manager Dialog GSM, Nushad Perera, was also present.


Dramatic turnaround for Sri Lanka Junior Tennis

Three 13-year-old tennis stars Franklyn Emmanuel, Nagalingam Sivendran Nishendiran and Amrit Rupasinghe have put Sri Lanka once again on the tennis map when they entered the last eight in the recently concluded first leg of the ITF South Asian 14 and under Championships. This is the first time ever that 3 Sri Lankans had entered the quarter-finals in this Championships which is conducted every year by the International Tennis Federation. Nishendiran and Rupasinghe also created a record when they entered the boys' doubles final by defeating the top seeds. 

This Championships which was held in Islamabad in Pakistan last year saw the Sri Lankans out in the second round. As an observer, Lalith Withana, the President of the SLTA stated his team have within ten months dramatically improved junior tennis in Sri Lanka. This augurs well for future tennis development. An official of the SLTA commenting on the results said, it is quite unbelieveable and absolutely remarkable that junior tennis could improve so much in such a short period of time. It is on very rare occasions that 3 players from one country enter the last eight, especially when players from eleven countries are participating. Credit must be given to the players and to Sudantha Soysa, the Coach for their excellent performance.

At the three-day training camp of the South Asian Championship, Mr. Suresh Menon, the ITF representative having witnessed the players from all eleven countries decided to seed Oshada Wijemanne, Franklyn Emmanuel and N.S. Nishendiran as seed Nos. 2, 3 and 7 respectively. Oshada Wijemanne, who was suffering from a bout of flu lost in the second round to Lidzar Alexander of Kazakhztan 7/6, 6/1 after having led 5-3 in the first set.

13-year-old Franklyn Emmaunel, Sri Lanka's Under-14 National champion met Ram Ranjan of Bangladesh in the second round. Ram Ranjan who led 4-0 in the first set lost 12 points consecutively due to some explosive hitting by Franklyn Emmanuel who won 6-4, 6-0. Franklyn Emmanuel thereafter had to meet Anushaman Dutta, the 5th seeded of the tournament who is India's No. 1 player, in the quarter-final. This quarter-final was a very interesting match. Anushman Dutta took the first set easily 6-1. In the second set Franklyn Emmanuel having studied the Indian players' game approached the net on many occasions and also played some powerful forehand drives to both sides of the court which made Dutta play defensively. Emmanuel also kept passing Dutta whenever he approached the net. Anushman Dutta who is a much experienced player conceded the second set to Emmanuel 6/3. Anushman Dutta in the 3rd set remained calm even though the Sri Lankan spectators overwhelmingly backed young Emmanuel. After a few tense moments in the first game of the third set the Indian overcame Franklyn Emmanuel to win 6-1.

12-year-old N.S. Nishendiran, the Under-12 National Champion of Sri Lanka met Pakistan's No. 2 Rasool Imran in the second round and defeated him 6-1, 6-2. Nishendiran thereafter met the 4th seeded Abdukhalikoo Syrym of Kasakhstan in the quarter-final. 

The much experienced and consistent Syrym played some powerful forehand and backhand shots to beat Nishendiran 6-2 in the first set. In the second set the scores were at all times even with Nishendiran serving well. At 4-4, Nishendiran lead 40-15, but could not break the serve of Syrym, who then took a vital lead of 5-4. The next game saw Nishendiran leading 40-15 once again, but Syrym played two good forehand drives to the corners to make it deuce and thereafter, the next two points and the set at 6-4.

The unseeded Amrit Rupasinghe played Jinad Nawar Baram of Syria in the first round. The Syrian had no answer to Amrit's accurate and deep shots to take the first set at 6-4. Amrit overpowered the Syrian in the second set to beat him 6-2. Thereafter, Amrit Rupasinghe met Hnuang Maung Nge of Myanmar who was 8th seeded in the second round match. At this match Amrit created an upset when he won 6-2, 6-0. Thereafter, Amrit's next opponent was No. 1 seed of the tournament Ivanov Dmitry of Uzbekistan. Amrit initially took control of the game to lead 4-3. However, the much experienced Ivanov Dmitry kept the ball in play and attacked any short ball to take the first set at 6-4. Amrit Rupasinghe, a quarter-finalist in one of the Indian tournaments in the 14 and under, played some good shots to put Ivanov Dmitry on the defence in the second set. However, the consistent Dmitry was able to clinch the second set at 6-3.

In the semi-finals, Ivanov Dmitry outplayed the Indian Anushman Dutta in all aspects of the game to take the match at 6-0, 6-0. In the other semi-finals, Abdukhalikoo Syrym overpowered Lidzar Alexander to win 6-1, 6-4. The final was one-sided with Ivanov Dmitry beating Abdukhalikoo Syrym at 6-4, 6-0.

In the play-off match, Franklyn Emmanuel beat Amrit Rupasinghe in straight sets. In the other semi-finals play-off match, N.S. Nishendiran beat 6th seeded Niazi Sharukh Khan, the Pakistan No. 1 player in a closely contested three-set match. After all play-offs were complete, Franklin Emmanuel was placed 5th, N.S. Nishendiran 6th and Amrit Rupasinghe 7th, while Niazi Khan of Pakistan 8th in the boys event.

In the doubles event the Sri Lankan boys did remarkably well when they defeated the top seeds Dutta Anushman and Niazi Khan in a thrilling short three sets. This is the first time that any Sri Lankan player has ever entered a final in the ITF South Asian Championships. However, the Sri Lankan lads lost in the finals to the combination of Dmitry Ivanov and Abdukhalikoo Syrym, the singles winner and finalists in a thrilling three set match 6-1, 1-6, 6-0. Sri Lanka Coach Sudantha Soysa was overjoyed by his teams' performance and he explained the excellent performance of his team to commitment and hard work. "The kids, especially the boys start tennis at around 5.00 am in the morning, play tennis for around 1 1/2 hours and then go to school. They are back to tennis by 3.00 pm. I am proud that our junior boy players have fared better than the Indian and Pakistani players, who have dominated tennis in this region," he said.

In the women's event Sri Lanka did not fare as well as in the boy's event. Dinusha Premananda, Thiyumi Abeysinghe and Jancy Paramanathan won their first round matches, but were knocked out the next round. Kartiki Bhat and Sanaa Bhambri of India dominated this event beating their opponents with relative ease. Bhat hit some impressive ground-stroke winners in the finals to oust top seed and tournament favourite Sanaa Bhambri 6-2, 7-6. Bhat then combined with hard-hitting Tara Iyer also of India to win the doubles title over Sanaa Bhambri and Maria Vassilyeve of Kazakhstan in a hectic three set match which lasted three hours.

Deheragoda in roaring form

By Bernie Wijesekera
"As a schoolboy at S. Thomas' my first love was rowing. I represented the school and the Colombo Rowing Club. After leaving school I had the passion to drive fast cars", said motor ace Dinesh Deheragoda when interviewed by The Sunday Times.

Unlike other sports, motor racing generates tremendous excitement and in its wake there are plenty of thrills and spills. "There are risks in driving and especially when you are competing with other speed fiends. Here again if one has the skills and control one could minimise untoward risks", said Deheragoda.

"Since 1988, I was involved in motorcross events and had a special place in the annals of motor racing for the last decade.

In 1998 I had my training at Silverstone, England to further tune my skills as a frontline racing driver. I am still prepared to improve my skills and the latest formula in international motor racing", Deheragoda added.

"I drive a Carisma GT, a highly modified car for open events. A Pajero Evolution modified to the requirements to meet racing standards, whilst participating in open events in trucks and jeep class", said Deheragoda He has won every event barring one, at the wheel of his Pajero. He has the knack to excel driving on tarmac or on gravel.


Deheragoda joined the Caltex team from 1998-99 and won many circuits meets. He joined the British Petrolem Racing team from 2,000 to 2001.

Deheragoda dominated the local circuit - pro carting champions in 1998. The notable feats are the Katukurunda in 1998, Pannala Supercross in '99, Mihintale Road Races in 1999 and the Talduwa Rally Cross 2,000. To his credit he has the fastest time at the Kotmale Hill Climb in 1999 and holds the record todate, in this class, also won the E-Street dash in 2,000 an open event. Today Dinesh is a household name when it comes to motor racing. He is a live-wire of the Motor Racing Association.

Besides burning the tracks with his machines, Deheragoda has also made a name in rowing be it at home or abroad. He has done proud to his school club and for the country at international level. A keen oarsman, he represented the S.Thomas' in 1985-86. When asked what his best effort in the international scene was he stated that he won the International regattas held in India - Madras and in Calcutta and was the rowing champion in Hong Kong spanning from 1985 to end of 1999.

Physically fit Deheragoda with abundant stamina and strength was able to dominate the CRC championships for several years and in some of them he is unbeaten todate. He also holds the record in one event for five consecutive years at the CRC.

Tea exporter

By profession he is a tea exporter. He has his own business started by himself in 1993 - Ceylon Black Tea Co. (Pvt). Ltd.

He joined the tea trade at the age of 25. With sheer devotion and dedication he built it into a key tea exporter and spread its wings to export Black Tea to over 15 nations.

Two Lankans named in Australian honours list

By Bernie Wijesekera
In the recent Australian honours list (Australia Day Jan. 26), two Lankan expatriates living Down Under, Harry Solomons and Dilip Kumar have been honoured with the prestigious Australian sports medal for their contributions for the development of cricket and rugby. In both disciplines the Aussies are World champions.Harry Solomons with Sir Don Bradman

Harry an old boy of St. Aloysius, Galle, played cricket and rugby. Excelled in both sports. Later joined the planting fraternity and played for (K.V.). At present he is the Managing Director of the World famed Kingsgrove Sports Centre in Sydney and contributes much with men and material for the development of cricket at grassroots level. He is also a key official of the St. George CC, which team will tour Sri Lanka, in April, 001. Even some of the Aussie national players now playing for the country, at the start of their career have benefited from Harry's generosity. Two of them - Steve and Mark Waugh.


Dilip Kumar an athletic 'lion' and a rugby player excelled in both sports for Trinity. Today his first love is rugby and is currently serving on the board of the World Champion Aussie Rugby Union and vice-chairman of the NSW Rugby Union for the past two years. Dilip, has been involved in club and aboriginal rugby development in Sydney suburbs. Dilip Kumar

Recent visit

In one of his recent visits here Kumar has had discussions with the chairman of the rugby development comittee Y.C. Chang and Brig. Jupana Jayawardena to find out ways and means to help the game among the rural youth. 

They were hopeful after this fruitful discussion that Dilip could use his good offices at the ARU by funding them with men and material, to further put this project on a firm footing for the future betterment of this sport.

Dilip could help toward this end, provided his advice is sought, Harry and Dilip have done proud for Sri Lanka by being honoured with Ausralian medals for their contributions to develop sports in their adopted country. Its a rare milestone in the annals of Australian honours list that for two of them, from the same country to be honoured by the Aussie government headed by sports loving John Howard, in keeping with Cathy Freeman's gold-winning reconciliation run in the Sydney Olympics. This rare achievement by Harry and Dilip has left an indeilble mark in the annals of Sri Lanka where two Lankans honoured sim-ulataneously for their contributions to develop sports or otherwise. A Prophet is not honoured in his own country, but Australia has done it.

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