“The untimely retirement that took place of a prospective Sri Lankan Olympian in javelin throwing. Negligence of authorities, an open secret, was the cause of this drawback, according to many who are aware of the situation.” This was one of the ways to describe the sudden ending of a potential and bright international athlete who [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Another domino takes the tumble

Dejected Javelin thrower Sachith blames the system and calls it a day A decision taken a few days after he bettered the national mark for the third time

“The untimely retirement that took place of a prospective Sri Lankan Olympian in javelin throwing. Negligence of authorities, an open secret, was the cause of this drawback, according to many who are aware of the situation.”

This was one of the ways to describe the sudden ending of a potential and bright international athlete who walked out heartbroken. He is none other than Sachith Maduranga who is still 23-years of age. Sachith, the Sri Lanka record holder in javelin throwing, buried the athlete in him and decided seek a bright future as a human being instead, saying that he foresees nothing but a dark future in athletics.
“I know that I’m still young and novel to this trade. But I’ve been in athletics for over 10 years and may have reached higher standards if I carried on. But I do not have regrets for closing the door in order to open a new chapter in life. If I was a continued failure I wouldn’t have made such a big announcement. But I think I should, at least for those athletes who wish to have a brighter future,” Sachith, who was probably still feeling the after-effects of making a sudden announcement of retirement said.

Last Friday, Sachith surprised the Sri Lankan athletics fraternity by announcing his sudden retirement citing that he was thoroughly disappointed the way higher authorities managed the sports affairs of the country, in particular athletics. Sachith, an athlete who considered himself a professional, merely because he had the financial support from his well-to-do parents however faced the gravest setbacks during his short yet glittering sporting career.

Weeks after establishing a national record for the first time, Sachith was dropped from the National squad, for the reason that he finished 12th at a big event with an illness, caused by javelin throwing. He could not participate at compulsory meets, due to this and almost called it quits. But the decision was reversed by his colleagues and some of his closest career advisors. After his decision change, Sachith made a spectacular return setting a new national record and was soon drafted into the national squad while going on to win three international medals for Sri Lanka. But his hardships and efforts were always overlooked by the top authorities.

A former student of Ananda College Colombo with a rich academic background, Sachith would have thought his undying commitment would lead to a fruitful career in javelin throwing, a sports discipline never regarded as an international medal prospect until recent. By the time of his premature retirement, Sachith has set the Sri Lanka javelin throw four times and walks out his head held high by achieving the Olympic ‘B’ Standard.

He first claimed the national record in his event by throwing a distance of 77.25 metres at a trail meet held in Sri Lanka. By 2013 he had broken his own national record thrice and his last achievement came at the Asian Athletics Championship in Pune, India two months ago. Sachith’s achievement of 79.62 metres renewed the existing national record, and come only second to his immediate rival in Pune, Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan who won the gold medal with a distance of 79.76 meters, at Asian level.

But to the surprise of many, not even two months before reaching this status, Sachith made his surprise decision, handing a great blow to the revolution of javelin throwing.

“I could consider myself as a professional athlete because I fully devoted my time for this event. I was not feeling the financial burdens because my father would fund me whenever I ask him money. But later on he would inquire if I could seek a bright future by foolishly devoting my whole time on athletics, which eventually was proven correct. Since March 2013, I thought we as athletes could see some positive changes but it seems like nothing will ever change. The situation keeps on dropping. My only wish is that the higher authorities would consider this as an eye-opener and try to improve the status by treating potential athletes in a better manner,” he added.

Despite the fact that hierarchy of Sri Lankan sports may treat Sachith’s call as just another occurrence, he hopes his retirement to go down in history as a meaningful call. Regardless of the disappointed man he has become, Sachith says that he does not wish to pinpoint on a certain individual but the whole system itself and those who govern them.

Sachith Maduranga says he has no regrets over the decision to call, his short yet glittering career, a day. - Pic by Athula Devapriya

After indulging in javelin throwing as an 11-year-old schoolboy at Ananda College, Sachith continued dreaming of becoming a world class athlete and later became a full time sportsman. He reached the international standards seven years ago and sensing the potential, the past five years spent as a professional athlete, mainly supported by his parents, who also aided him to undergo training in Finland twice. While in Finland Sachith competed at over ten meets of international standard alongside top javelin throwers from the around world. He also has competed at five world class championships and at three Asian championships, where he was able to win a medal each. During the Asian Grand Prix held in Colombo he was able to secure a Silver medal which was followed by a Bronze medal at an Asian Throwing Championship held in Korea before winning a Silver medal in Pune, India at the Asian Athletics Championship in August.

Sachith and Nadeeka Lakmali performed so well in India, winning a Silver medal each, that they reached the Olympic ‘B’ Standard in javelin throwing. Surprisingly both of them are coached by veteran A.J. Rodrigo and are employed at the Voluntary Unit of Sri Lanka Army. Sachith was highly grateful for his coach and Sri Lanka Army for giving him the due assistance during his short career, but went to say it’s high time the relevant authorities open their eyes.

“I have gained a lot of international exposure. I wish to impart my experience to youngsters if and when I’m available. I was able to share my experience with Nadeeka, having worked together under the guidance of our coach, Mr. A.J. Rodrigo, who eventually produced two medal winning throwers at the Asian Athletics Championship in Pune, India. Throwing events did not reach this standard sometimes back. Authorities should look into it and see who is responsible for the sudden upraise and assist their good efforts. But nothing positive was seen,” he points out while recalling the devotion of his coach.

“Mr. Rodrigo is someone who devoted his entire life for athletics, sacrificing many good things and junctures of his life. Now I have made the exit, in a year or two Nadeeka will call it a day. I don’t see anyone coming out as replacements for many years. At recent events more than three throwers managed to achieve new records. All were brought up by our coach. But authorities don’t have a pinch of idea who his is. At the age of 68, he is a dejected man. At least his services should be taken notice by the authorities. I know that in a way my move may force pressure on some individuals but it’s all for the good of my fellow athletes,” Sachith added while making his own assessment on the standards of athletics.

“There are programmes and TV debates on athletics saying that it has reached the bottom and the snail pace in development. But as far as I’m concerned Sri Lanka has the best athletes but they are not guided correctly. The lack of a proper development structure is the main cause for the impedance faced. Those who are wealthy enough will not remain with this system but the less privileged will strive to achieve something, with the help of clubs from the armed forces. Only a handful who anticipates a pension when they become senior citizens will continue. But the real story is that the talented ones have already moved out except for one or two. And I want to drive the point to the authorities by my move. I don’t gain anything out of this. To be frank those who were closer to me are not in good terms with me after my announcement. But my aim is clear.”

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