Rowers’ Asian Games dream on the waters?
A week after deciding not to grant the greenlight to the seven-member national rowing team picked to represent Sri Lanka at the upcoming Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China, the National Sports Selection Committee (NSSC) has granted approval to only two athletes, the Sunday Times learns. After the initial request made by the Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka (ARASL) was not entertained, the national rowing officials had officially written twice to the NSSC, addressing to its Secretary Arjun Fernando.
Both letters had been copied to 12 others, including the Ambassador to China, who had agreed to provide Sri Lanka rowers with boats for the Asian Games, other local entities such as the Ministry of Sports, National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, National Sports Council, International Olympic Committee, Asian Olympic Committee and top delegates of the global and regional rowing federations.
In response to ARASL’s initial request, a letter sent by the NSSC and signed by Fernando, had declined sending a rowing team for the Asian Games, referring to dates of seven meetings held between the two entities from January 18 to February 16.
It outlined the present financial situation of the country as an excuse, but also gave ARASL time to appeal before February 27, four days from correspondence. However, ARASL has written back to NSSC twice, on February 24 and 27, explaining their efforts, in length.
“I would like to reiterate there was no justifiable reason to remove the sport of rowing from participating in the Asian Games 2023 at such a early stage February 2023 when the deadline is only April 2023,” the second letter signed by ARASL President, Dimuth Gunawardena, said.
ARASL, has in detail, explained their effort to improve the performances and timings of the local athletes, which has, as of now, reached a standard which guarantees a podium finish. In response to the letter World Rowing (FISA) has promptly responded its Sri Lankan membership, encouraging the local body.
FISA officials have had a round of discussion with ARASL officials, and had expressed their views upon lengthy observation on the progress Sri Lanka had made in rowing since Spaniard Pedro Lopez took charge as the national coach in 2021. FISA has pledged its fullest support to ARASL, and two days after the positive feedback, the NSSC has reversed its original decision, but had unofficially granted the green light for only two athletes.
Despite the disturbing news, which came across nine days ago, ARASL had continued the training schedules and programmes with the national squads without a break. A top official of ARASL stated that it still has hopes of sending the full team, as the rowers have shown better performances off late, and are peaking well in advance for the multi-sport regional games slotted to take place between September 23 and October 8 later this year.