The Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka (ARASL) is of the strong belief that Sri Lanka can win a definite gold medal at the next year’s Asian Games to be held in China in September. Sri Lanka has never won a gold in rowing at Asian Games apart from its best performance to win a [...]


Paddling for an Asian gold

ARASL earmarks Asian Games gold medal with advanced training modules

Dimuth Gunawardena presents the outgoing president of ARASL, Rohan Fernando, with a memento

The Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka (ARASL) is of the strong belief that Sri Lanka can win a definite gold medal at the next year’s Asian Games to be held in China in September. Sri Lanka has never won a gold in rowing at Asian Games apart from its best performance to win a silver and bronze at the previous edition of Asia’s mega sports event held in 2019.

The president of the ARASL, Dimuth Gunawardena expressed his views of medal prospects after revamping the whole system of rowing in Sri Lanka, aiming at winning medals at major international events.

“During the lockdown, the athletes had land training. Now they are back in the water. With the coaching team, high performance programme, training, nutritional and sort of things coming round, we can achieve a definite gold medal at the Asian Games,” said Gunawardena.

According to the guidelines given by the National Sports Council member and ARASL executive committee member Rohan Fernando, and the able support of its vice president Sithira Wickramasekara, Sri Lanka rowing is in early preparation to win the Asian level this time around.

“We have completely targeted that, we are totally focused on the Asian Games in September 2022. This is the first time we are training so early. We are training our best athletes one year ahead after the national championship held in March this year,” Gunawardena said.

The 20-member national pool comprise of athletes from the forces — nine from Sri Lanka Army, a similar count of oarsmen from the Navy and the remaining couple from Sri Lanka Air Force.

“We have a national pool training full time. We have put them into a bio bubble. They have been fully vaccinated. We are discussing with the Ministry of Sports on how they can support us in our High Performance Programme for the Asian Games,” said the result-centred president.

In the Sri Lanka school’s annual rowing calendar, two leading girl schools, Ladies College and Musaeus College battle out each other at the LC-MC Regatta, in addition to oarswomen from other sectors. But currently none of the female athletes have come to the Asian Games qualifying standard.

“Females did not qualify for the qualifying timings. We have given some tough timing to qualify for the national pool, the best timing for the Asia. So, the females of course were not included but now we will have separate trials again to see them qualifying into the national pool,” he added.

“We already have a long way to go, we will continuously monitor the athletes. Through the High Performance programmes, we monitor their hemoglobin level, biometrics and also their performances. We monitor their physiological and psychological aspects and their timings on the water are also taken into consideration. We see what the athletes has to do at winning gold medals,” Gunawardena stressed.

“We have a medical team to look after them. Their nutritional needs, physiotherapy, other medical aspects and the coaching team and administration is in place. These things were never done in the history of Sri Lanka rowing in the past. This is what other countries do, if we are to win gold medals, we have to be in that positive mentality.”

The ARASL held both the senior and intermediate national championship in March and unfortunately couldn’t conduct the junior championships as the schools were closed due to the lockdown. The competitions will probably be rescheduled later this year, according to Gunawardena.

“Then again next year February or March we will have the senior and intermediate national championships and if we find an exceptional athlete, we might put him or her into the national pool,” Gunawardena said.

Meanwhile, ARASL is currently in the hunt for a foreign expert and have conducted interviews with around 14 foreign coaches with the intention of obtaining the services of a well-qualified international coach.

“We have the support from our international body for our high performance programme, technical assistance, coaching programme. That is a huge momentum, which we have never had before,” Gunawardena added.

Meanwhile, International Rowing Federation, the world rowing body, is helping Sri Lanka in developing the sports across the country. They will help coaching, para rowing and they will provide the infrastructure and technical assistance to the island nation in building its own boats soon.

“Rowing boats are very technical and we are trying to develop a board building programme in Sri Lanka. So, we can produce boats cheap and take them into outstation and all regions in South Asia, so they can expand the sport as well. If you bring down the cost of the boats, that is the key for the spreading of the sport.” said Gunawardena.

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