By Naushad Amit ;áPix by Amila Gamage Former national badminton player, Dharshana Fernando, who is domiciled in Canada, expressed his discontent over the manner the sport is being handled in Sri Lanka, saying that it has been highly polluted. Fernando, the founder and head coach of Fernando’s Youth Badminton Academy in Canada, was an instrumental [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Shuttle guru Fernando to shoot the bird in Sri Lanka

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By Naushad Amit ;áPix by Amila Gamage

Former national badminton player, Dharshana Fernando, who is domiciled in Canada, expressed his discontent over the manner the sport is being handled in Sri Lanka, saying that it has been highly polluted.

Dharshana Fernando

Fernando, the founder and head coach of Fernando’s Youth Badminton Academy in Canada, was an instrumental character in promoting badminton in North America, where ice hockey, basketball and major league football dominate the scene.

“Canada and Sri Lanka are in different leagues when it comes to badminton. Sri Lanka has always looked set to reach the platform of being world beaters. Canada has not seriously looked into badminton. But I think Canada is gradually getting there. It’s sad to see though that except for an instant or two, Sri Lanka is still fighting to make their way to the top,” Fernando told the Sunday Times.
“Leave alone badminton, I think generally the whole of sports is politicized, at least up to a certain extent. It is something that is not found in Canada and it’s one of the reasons why Canada has been able to reach the world stage at any sport. I think Sri Lanka will benefit immensely if the authorities take necessary steps to change the governing culture and the sporting attitude,” he added.

For Fernando, the path to glory has never been easy. After taking up other sports such as cricket and football at school, he finally settled on badminton, which he found to be the ideal sport to maintain fitness. He represented the first XI

Niluka Karunaratne

cricket team and the football team of St. Thomas’ College Guruthalawa, while also focusing on badminton seriously. But when Fernando had to decide on the sport he would carry on with after he was done with school, he said badminton was his choice.

“I played for mercantile teams and represented my club before being selected to represent Sri Lanka in the early 1970s. I was never the national champion because there were much better players than me. I was in the national team for some years until I decided to focus on my career. But I still found time to play at domestic tournaments before going to Canada, where I found an ideal place to continue badminton,” Fernando recalled of his life’s turning point.

Promoting an indoor sport like badminton in Canada was never an easy task for someone like Fernando, who just had four students during the initial stages of his academy. But a task which was once deemed impossible began to get easier as time passed on. After many years, Fernando has more than a few branches of his academy in Canada and is also looking to spread his wings across the globe. Sri Lanka is one of his targeted locations.

Annually, Fernando and his band of coaches, including his assistant Piumika, who happens to be one of his three daughters, conduct coaching programmes across the world. Apart from Canada their likely destinations are Costa Rica, Denmark, Belgium, the USA, Czech Republic, Bahrain and Sri Lanka. Fernando’s academy works very closely with Malaysia, which is considered as one of the top badminton-playing nations in the world. He has a band of Malaysian coaches which works for his academy and exhibit camaraderie in promoting badminton in Canada. Fernando’s Academy makes use of state-of-art badminton coaching and training technology used in most of the sport’s top ranked countries.

“We have the ‘bird shooter’ similar to a cricket bowling machine which enables coaches to focus their attention on the players. If we shoot a bird (shuttlecock) manually we will be able to shoot up to 15 pieces per minute. But this machine can hold up to 115 birds and has speed control, which allows players to check their limits. But Sri Lanka, at least at national level, does not possess this technology. I hope to introduce one of these machines and other aspects of the sport to Sri Lanka through my academy,” Fernando revealed.
As much as Fernando loves badminton and his motherland, he seems content in Canada, far away from Sri Lanka, where controversies have been a regular occurrence in badminton lately. However, Fernando still ardently hopes to see badminton prosper as a major sport in Sri Lanka in addition to seeing local shuttlers dominate the world scene, something which still remains a distant dream.

“I see potential in the Karunaratnes, Niluka, Diluka and Dinuka. Niluka has already proven his might but he could have gone a step further if the administrators gave him the necessary backing. And badminton players must turn professional if Sri Lanka is to bloom on the world stage. As a qualified coach I hope to provide my assistance to help Sri Lanka reach the next level in badminton. At times I feel that I’m lucky to have escaped all these fiascos taking place in Sri Lanka but at the same time I think we should step forward to make a change,” he asserted.




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