Sri Lanka Athletics Association (SLAA) officials will face their greatest challenge when the 15th Asian Junior Athletic Championship (AJAC) is staged in Colombo from June 9 to 12.
With the home advantage, Sri Lanka has named a massive pool of 111 athletes who will compete in 40 different events. The Sports Ministry of Sri Lanka revealed that it will offer cash awards for each medal winner at the AJAC in an attempt to motivate the youngsters. The official press release issued by the Sports Ministry stated that a gold medal winner will receive Rs. 500,000 while a cash award of Rs. 300,000 has been allocated to a silver medallist. A bronze medal winner will be prized with Rs. 150,000 and in addition the coaches too will be paid a portion.
Former sprinter and the present Vice President of the SLAA, Susanthika Jayasinghe, commenting on the development told the Sunday Times that the forthcoming AJAC will be a good platform to create future Olympians.
“It’s not an easy task to bring up such athletes. It takes a long process. We need youngsters who are energetic and wholly dedicated. Personally my goal is to work hard in producing at least four athletes for the next Olympics in 2016. I have been appointed as the manager of the junior team that will compete in the AJAC. It’s a humongous task to prepare these youngsters in a short phase as we took over just about a month ago,” Jayasinghe said, while commenting on her dual role.
The new SLAA committee was taken back a few steps when the Asian Athletic Association (AAA) and the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) decided to suspend the AJAC indefinitely owing to an anonymous petition two weeks ago. The world governing bodies revealed a former official of the SLAA had written to the AAA challenging the conduct of the recently held athletic elections in Colombo. However after local officials explained matters, the secretary of the AAA, Maurice Nicholas gave the green light to conduct the AJAC in Colombo.
Nicholas last week made an inspection tour to Colombo where he observed the progress of preparations, including those at the venue, the Sugathadasa Stadium. The Sugathadasa Stadium which had its tracks re-laid for the event also received official approval from the AAA officials as fit to conduct the event. Despite many ups and downs ahead of the new athletic committee’s first assignment which is a major one, Jayasinghe was realistic.
“As the new committee of SLAA, it’s a challenge for us to conduct this event. This is an international event; we know that there will be many obstacles to overcome and various questions to answer. But at end of the day this will be a very good opportunity for our youngsters to showcase their talent against athletes from over 40 countries from Asia. Considering this fact we should not underestimate our efforts in general. Sri Lankans should be broadminded in digesting these facts,” she said.
The SLAA in an attempt to draw the support and interest of the locals has decided to issue entry tickets without a fee on all four days.