Rowing lost in the wilderness

First SAF drawback

By S.R. Pathiravithana

The Sri Lanka Rowing squad is facing extremely difficult conditions due to the poor facilities and lack of basic equipment as they prepare for the forthcoming South Asian Games scheduled to be held in August this year.

Wrong course, wrong boat, but the Lankan rowers are still at practices at the Beira Lake. Pic Ranjith Perera

Although the Rowing squad has been training for seven days of the week since April 2005, The Sunday Times learns that the facilities available for the squad are totally inadequate. This is a sorry state of affairs for a team which won five silver and two bronze medals at the last games in 2004.

The Rowing National coach Lakmal Wickremage explaining about this parlous situation that the Lankan rowing camp said “We informed the authorities about our needs over a year ago and said that if we are to make an impact at this games the Lankan squad needs the required facilities and the equipment to go along with it.

“Last time when we brought in a haul of medals at the Pakistan games the squad that represented Sri Lanka at that meet had the necessary international exposure and also were an experienced lot, but, ironically since the Pakistan SAF in 2004 the Lankan rowers had not got any international exposure barring the doubles sculls pair who took part in the Asian Championship in India in 2005. Besides this Afghanistan and Bangladesh who we beat at the last SAF games have received a lot of exposure during the last two years and reportedly are not the same easy beats that they were. It is said that Bangladesh has taken part in many international events and are used to the international standards equipment and Afghanistan is getting a lot of help from Pakistan who are the next best team to India in the SAF region.

“However the only solace is that the Chinese government has undertaken to give the necessary equipment and it should arrive by the end of this month. However as the games are scheduled for August the time frame for preparation is not sufficient at all.”

The Sports Ministry secretary S. Wirithamulla too confirmed the above. He said “The equipment required for the rowing contingent was coming in as Chinese aid and the agreement was to be signed on Saturday (yesterday)”. And added, “The goods will be in Sri Lanka very soon”. However Wirithamulla also agreed the rowing contingent had hardly any time for proper preparation.

The squad is currently using Colombo Rowing Club boats and equipment. Even then the ‘Fours’ crews are training in coxed fours while the races will be rowed in coxless boats. Further the pairs, sculls and double sculls available for training are of different specifications to one that the races will be rowed in. Another shortcoming is the lack of facilities to train at the course where the races will be held. The squad is training at the Beira lake, where the course is only 1500m while the races will be held over a distance of 2000m in Bolgoda. Upto now the crews has never rowed in Bolgoda as the boats are not available.

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