Susanthika: Lanka's lone star
By M.Shamil Amit
The 14th Asian Athletic Championships held at the Sugathadasa Stadium which came to an end on August 12 had more downs than ups. We can never take away or deny the effort put in by the Minister of Sports Johnston Fernando but sad to say there were officials who were not suitable to be given responsibilities and they made a mess of the whole affair. If not for sprint queen Susanthika's two gold medals the performance of the athletes left to be desired.

On the last day of the championships the 4 x 400 quartet gave Sri Lanka the third gold medal. But the most pathetic scene was the running of the women's 4 x 100 relay team. Of the four who participated Susanthika was left to do the talking with the changing of batons by the other team members were worse than a schools sports meet.

Sriyani Kulawansa who missed the gold medal blamed the officials for putting her on a tight footing and the sacking of Damayanthi Dharsha too accounted in Sri Lanka faring so disastrously. Few days before the championships began Darsha had pleaded to the officials not to take any disciplinary action before the championships and allow them to participate in this meet. But the officials decided otherwise and took disciplinary action.

Most of the countries that participated came with their second string side. When The Sunday Times spoke to the manager of China team Feng Shuyong to get the teams strength he said we have not come with a strong team but we will come on top in the medal tally. True to his words they achieved that as they came with a aim. Feng Shuyong has been to Sri Lanka earlier being sent by the IAAF as a lecturer of coaches. At present he is the President of the newly formed coach association. He also mentioned that Sri Lanka has improved tremendously since his last visit in 1997 but it is sad to see why they cant do better.

The Indians who came third with 32 gold medals at the recently completed Commonwealth Games held in Manchester too did not field a strong team. The Sri Lanka squad of over 85 athletes put up a pathetic show. Many of the athletes were sent for training to Malaysia and Thailand but to no avail.

With the athletes failing it was no better with the officials concerned. On the second day of the championships the finals of the pole vault event finished at 5.00 p.m. but the official results were not available to the press even at 9.00 p.m. when the press requested saying they want the results to be published in the week-end papers a responsible official replied in the negative saying you can publish it later.

The timing device which was used at the championships was another talking point. Omega and Seiko are world renown names that produces timing devices and it is being used at all major athletics or sports events around the world. But for the14th Asian Athletics Championships Alge timing devices were used after tenders were called by the sports minister. Eleven companies had sent in their applications and Omega was one of them and they had quoted Rs 48 million.

To make a long story short the Minister of Sports was interested in using the Omega timing device as it is used worldwide. S.D.Chandradasa of the Elimac Engineering Pvt Ltd who are the agents for Omega is the Sri Lanka representative for Omega speaking to The Sunday Times said that the minister of sports had a meeting on February 6, 2002 with the foreign representative Claude Caldera of Omega and was convinced of the Omega timing device and was keen in using it.

Chandradasa further said that the minister informed them at the meeting that nobody understands anything about the Omega timing device and wanted them to introduce someone who knows the machine thoroughly. And also requested Omega to reduce the quoted price which they did and assured the minister that they will do the best to make this championship a success. Chandradasa mention even Derwin Perera a prominent figure in the athletic circles recomended Omega. But the minister's secretary N.G.Pun-chihewa would not have anything of it and wanted Alge timing devise used. Alge is a small family business concern in Austraia and have not been selected to supply timing devices to any major sports events.

On one instance the secretary had inquired from Derwin why cant we use the tape for field events and Derwin had mentioned these are used only at interschools sports meets not in meets of this nature. Chandradasa said that Link timing device from USA would have been better than the timing device used at the championships. He said that he was very sorry that a meet of this magnitude had no timing device operating in proper. Another reason is that any athlete having finished his or her event have their eyes straight on the display board to know their achievement. But this was lacking at this important meet.

China has been dominating the championships since 1983 and have led in the medal tally since then which they maintained it this year too. Qatar was another team to impress with their athletes winning most of the track events. The Chinese manager mentioned that Sri Lanka has some of the coaches they must make use of them.

At a press conference held at the Galadari Hotel the minister of sports wanted the AAA to bring down foreign coaches and that the ministry backing will be given.

The minister has a vision and is determined to uplift sports in Sri Lanka and he is also eager to hold the Grand Prix in Sri Lanka next year which the Secretary of the Asian Amateur Athletic Association had promised to have Sri Lanka as one of the countries that will hold this event. The 15th Asian Athletic Championships will be held in Manila Philippines.

CR&FC continue to maintain their superiority
Navy won 11-10 scraping through by just a point. The Air Force came up with an improved performance,including some new recruits who played with enthusiasm. They led 7-5 at half time. I reiterate that the Navy needs to recruit good three quarters.

CR&FC beat Havelocks 38-8 and continued to maintain their superiority. CR forwards dominated play. Asanga Rodrigo played Centre, being a source of inspiration to his team. He is a versatile player can play anywhere in the back division.

The CR forwards have perfected the driving maul to the extent of scoring tries. Winger Musafer looked dangerous in possession while Centre Kaluarachchi scored the try of the match covering about 60 metres, side-stepping opponents with a fine burst of speed.

Police beat CH&FC 12-05 Police took the wind out of the sails of CH with a fine win. Although it may be considered an upset, I feel the Police earned this win with a good match-plan. The CH lacked a match-plan.

They should have realized that their strength was in their three quarters. Time and again they delayed the ball from the base and the Police flankers and Centres were quick to pounce on them. Outstanding was Police flanker Herath.

CH should have initially put the ball up to check the Police and forced penalties instead of delaying the ball and then giving it out. A number of injuries to key players plagued CH during this game, which may have contributed to their disappointing performance.

Kandy beat Army 24-17. The Army played with enthusiasm and guts. Their forwards forced Kandy into errors and also showed Kandyís vulnerability. Against a tough set of forwards, Kandy can wilt if they do not win sufficient possession, particularly in the loose. Army were quicker to the break-down and this put pressure on Kandy. Resolute tackling by Kandy helped stall the Army.

Anyway, Kandy was sure of the League title even if they lost which may have caused them to relax or they were reserving their extra for their next and final game in the League against the CR. Kandyís outstanding wing three quarter Sanjeewa Jayasinghe was seriously injured during the game and may be out for over 3 months.

Over to the asian games trials: The Trials will be held on the 20th of August 2002 at the CR&FC grounds, Longden Place. The Selectors will be noting the commitment of players at these Trials. 4 Captains have been announced to lead the 4 sides in the initial two 40/50 minute games. Depending on leadership qualities and personal play, 2 Captains will be appointed for the 3rd game.

The National Selectors, National Coach C.P. Abeygunawardene and the President of the SLRFU Harsha Mayadunne have indicated that a serious and exciting Training Schedule has been drawn up for the 35/40 players who will be picked for the Asian Games Rugby Pool.

It is at this stage that the Captain to lead Sri Lanka will be chosen. The Training programme may include a Residential Camp for 8 days.

Horse racing at N'Eliya next week
After the tremondous success in the April festive season The Sri Lanka Turf Club (SLTC) have made arrangements to revive horse racing once again in Nuwara Eliya due to requests from several horse owners.

As horse racing has become a popular feature now in Sri Lanka the SLTC have made plans to hold a horse race meet at the Nuwara Eliya racecourse on August 24 2002 and they intend to hold these races every month.

Suranjith Premadasa former motor race champion who is now a active member of the SLTC speaking at a press briefing held in Colombo emphasised that last year the SLTC conducted nine race meets in Nuwara Eliya and this year they hope to have about 14 race meets.

The race meet that is scheduled to be held on August 24 has been sponsored by the Paper Traders and will be called the " Paper Trade Challenge" The races are scheduled to start at 10.30 a.m and continue till 1.30 p.m.

He further said that seven events will be worked off on that day with the main race being the Solomon Dias Bandaranaike Memorial Challenge Cup presented by Her Excellency, President Chandrika Bandaranaike and it was designed by her.

The President offered to give this cup in memory her grandfather Solomon Dias Bandaranaike who was one of the trustees of the Ceylon Turf Club. Last year the trophy was won by Ancient Warrior owned by Nigel Austin and ridden by S.D.Lalith one of the best jockeys in Sri Lanka at present. Besides the Sri Lankan jockeys who will be participating in this meet foreign jockeys from India have also confirmed their participation which will give the meet some international flavour.

At the festival meet held in April this year Irish jockeys too particpated and the Sri Lankans succeeded in winning all the races. For the first time starting gates will be in use which has been gifted to the SLTC by the Bangalore Turf Club from India.

The scheduled events for the day: - 1. Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike Challenge Cup for thoroughbred horses in class 1 - 9 furlongs (handicap). 2. Lidechsi Cup for thorough bred horses in class 1 and 2 - 5 furlongs (handicap) 3. Swedish Trading Cup for thoroughbred horses in class 2 - 7 furlongs (handicap). 4. Jupiter Trading Cup for thoroughbred horses in class 3 - 7 furlongs (handicap). 5. Food Brokers Cup for thoroughbred horses in class 4 - 5 furlongs (handicap). 6. Premier Agencies Cup for 3/4 bred horses - 7 furlongs (handicap). 7. Five Star International Cup for 1/2 bred horses in class 1 - 5 furlongs (handicap) -MSA

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