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12th June,  2005  Volume 11, Issue  48 

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Sports

Dejan: double international at 19

By Pelham Juriansz 

The youngest double international at 19 is young Dejan de Zoysa. He is a double international in rowing and Motor Sports, both being high intensity Sports.

As a 12 year old young Thomian schoolboy (he has just left school) he was the Caltex Open Prokart Champion beating an enviable field of senior racing drivers. Identified as an exceptionally talented racing driver he was racing wheel-to wheel with Go-Kart stars Yoga Perera and Romani de Silva at 13 years in an international class machine. Three years later at 16 he was a Formula Ford winner having got the best timing at Pannala and Katukurunda. He was also the international class Go-Kart Champion.

He is now the first Sri Lankan to drive for Minardi team Asia in the 2005 formula BMW Asia series, which is a stepping stone to Formula 1 racing. He will race in 7 countries this season including Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia and Thailand. He was awarded national colours for Motor sports by none other than the Minister of Sports recently.

On the waters of the Beira, he rowed for S.Thomas College Mt Lavinia captaining the rowing team in 2004 winning all the titles on offer including the nationals. He represented the country in rowing at the SAF Games 2004 winning two silver medals at Islamabad. He was also awarded the prestigious oarsman of the year 2004 by the Colombo Rowing Club (CRC).

At school he represented his school in U 15 cricket and swam in the junior and senior public schools swimming championships. He was awarded the "Thomian Blue" in 2003, the highest sporting award of the school, exclusively for those who represent the country in any sport at the highest level.

Dejan who is in actual fact Sri Lanka's only driver who has the talent and skill to drive Formula 1 in the future, needs the support of the entire country if he is to reach his goal and bring honour and glory to his mother country. 


International flavour for rugby

By Ranil Prematilake 

SLRFU's Secretary Dilroy Fernando in a press communiqu‚ revealed that The Public Schools Wanderers, a club dating back to the year 1940, formed by Charles Burton (A Fleet Street journalist) comprising of players from Ireland, England and Wales who have donned the respective national jerseys in age groups of under 18, Under 19 and Under 21 for their countries have confirmed a tour to Sri Lanka and are billed to play against the Western Province Rugby Union on June 14 at Longden Place, Combined Defence Services Rugby team on June 22 at Army Grounds, Galle Face, the Central Province Invitation XV on June 19 at Nittawela and the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union President's XV on June 16  at CH & FC grounds.

The National Selectors have provided the opportunity for the players who missed out on selection for the qualifier against Thailand to make an impact to gain the nod for the Singapore game on the June 25 2005. Prominent amongst them being Kandy Sports Clubs Imran Bisthemin the No 8 forward and probably the most improved player in the squad. His inclusion is sure to give rise to controversy as the incumbent Dushan Lewke too has been performing well. Also making strong claims would be another Kandyan duo of Dilip Selvam and Sean Wijesinghe for the flank forwards berths.

CR thumps Air Force

The resumption of the Caltex 'A' division league tournament on Friday at Longden Place saw the continuance of the impressive run of the title contenders CR & FC. The red jerseys cashed in on another rich haul of tries in recording a 56 points to nil victory over the Airmen. Ten tries were scored in all of which three were goaled by the experienced Asanga Rodrigo. CR opened scoring through half back Zulki Hameed who followed in support a quick tap to fall near the left corner flag. Rajith Jayasundera went over the goal line soon after off a second phase three quarter move.

Then came the first of the four tries in the game for winger Dhanushka Pushpakumara, who joined the line to add the finishing touches. Pushpakumara's try number two followed courtesy a regulation three quarter move. Wekadapola added another try off a forwards rush. Pushpe' hat trick was a result of a Asanga Rodrigos scorching run backed by Mohammed Mushtaq and support flowed from the former Kandy speedster.

At the short whistle of Referee Pradeep Fernando the winners led 34 -00. After the turnaround tries were scored by Charith Kodagoda, S. Swarnatilake, Wekadapola and Pushpakumara.


bring on the singaporeans 

By T.M.K. Samat 

IT IS understandable if Sri Lanka, after their impressive win over Thailand last week, regard highly their chances against Singapore, in a World Cup qualifier scheduled for June 25 at Longden Place. They were much the better team Saturday last at Suphan Buri, and honestly, deserved a victory margin twice as much as the eventual ten points.

 Recent form isn't the only reason for Sri Lanka's optimism. Home advantage will no doubt have a significant bearing. And of late Longden Place has been Sri Lanka's happy hunting ground: last year they beat the Thais and the year before, Chinese-Taipei, no matter that both were over development sides. As well, this is Singapore's first World Cup Qualifying match, which leaves them better prepared, albeit slightly.

The view is rosy. But the rose-tinted glasses could so easily fall off. It would be a tad presumptuous to think that our convincing triumph of last week has Singapore shivering in their boots. It is advisable to remind Mallikarachchi's men that the last Asiad listings had Singapore one above Thailand, fifth and sixth respectively. Sri Lanka was tenth. In the play-off for 5/6 places, Singapore won Thailand, 41/34.

If victories are forecast by calculators, then, Sri Lanka's 10-point victory margin over the Thais is three points better than Singapore's. But it doesn't workout that way. One factor the Sri Lankans will have to reckon with which they didn't have to against the all-national Thai outfit is, the Singaporeans will include expatriates. "As far as I am aware Singapore will field five expats, mostly New Zealanders," said coach, George Simpkin, himself a Kiwi. "They aren't going to be pushover."

So it's just as well the Sri Lankans won well against Thailand. The feel-good factor will certainly carry through to the Singapore match. But how long it will endure is another matter. It would be na‹ve to assume that we've touched levels of perfection. "All of the seven tries we scored against Thailand were carefully constructed. And we got into positions where we might have swamped the Thais, but thenallowed them back into the game through our own mistakes," said Simpkin. "You can't afford those sorts of mistakes in international rugby."

Whatever the outcome on June 25, Sri Lanka's win last week has assured it of place in the next phase of the competition. Two teams from the Sri Lanka/Thailand/Singapore group will qualify to meet the top two from the Kazakhstan/ India/Guam group. Finishing second would mean a probable meeting with the Kazakhs. A win over Singapore presents a more comfortable meeting with either Guam or India.

So, there's a lot at stake, come June 25.


Asian Grand Prix 2005

By Hishan Welmilla

The prestigious Asian Athletics Grand Prix fires off next Saturday (June 18) featuring the continent's best athletes. Indonesia will host the first series of the 2005 Asian Athletics Grand Prix in Sidoarjo, East Java.

The one-day competition, which is scheduled to take place on June 18, will include races in the 100, 400, and 800-metre sprints, the 110-metre hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin throwing for men; and the 100, 400, 1,500-metre sprints, 400-metre hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put, and discuss throwing for women.

Sixty seven male and 55 female athletes from 18 Asian countries and territories will attend the event, according to the organising board, Indonesian Athletics Association (PASI).

Rohan Pradeep Kumara and Prasanna Sampath Amarasekera are the only athletes who qualified from Sri Lanka and will be in action in this year's Asian Grand Prix. Singapore would hold the second leg on June 21, followed by Songkhla in Thailand on June 24.

ÿVeteran athlete, coach, Sunil Gunawardana named manager of the Sri Lankan contingent which will take part in the Asian Grand Prix series to be held in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand later this month at the committee meeting of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) held with much controversy on last Sunday.


Stage set at Lords

By Hishan Welmilla

The Stage is set to hold the MCC vs International XI match to be in aid of the tsunami appeal on next Tuesday (14th) at lords Cricket grounds.-the home of cricket..

The Match starts at 10.45am (3.45 pm Sri Lankan time) New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming will take the responsibilty to lead the MCC. Sri Lankan ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and Indian spin wizard Anil Kumble will defenitely make an impact on the wickets at Lords which is known as a batting paradise. They will get the maximum support from former South African captain Shaun Pollock and the "Rawalpindi Express- Shoaib Akthtar to restrict the International XI. South African all rounder Jacques Kallis will also be a useful contributor with the ball and the bat.

In the batting department MCC will keep their hopes on Chris Gayle, the opening batsman who scored a triple-century in the Test match in Antigua between West Indies and South Africa which ended on May 3. Gayle will be joined by his West Indies team-mate, Ramnaresh Sarwan. They will face an International XI skippered by their national team-mate, Brian Lara and including their new captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Skipper Fleming along with Sri Lankan bat Kumar Sangakkara and Sachin Tendulkar's replacement V. V. S. Laxman will have the experience of chasing big totals for MCC. Further Former Zimbabwe captain Andy Flower will also be useful either opening the innings or in the middle order. The International XI is also a star studded side and the West Indies ex-captain great Brian Lara will lead the batting line up with India's Virender Sehwag along with Sri Lanka opener Sanath Jayasuriya and South African skipper Graeme Smith. Rahul Dravid is another great Indian player to watch and the international XI will also get the services of allrounder- black cap Chris Cairns. The International XI will have Shane Warne as the only experienced spinner but Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas Pakistan's Mohommad Sami and South African Makhaya Ntini are useful contenders to restrict the opponents to a lower score.

Announcing the teams in his address to the MCC AGM last month, MCC President Tom Graveney said: "I am delighted that we have been able to name such strong teams for this match; we are indebted to the players for agreeing to participate in what will be a very special game."


Rukmal wins Malaysian C'ships

Promising young Sri Lankan tennis player Rukmal Cooray of Asian International School (A.I.S.) returned from Malaysia winning both boys under 16 and 18 Malaysian national junior tennis open Championships 2005 held in MPPJ sports complex in Malaysia from June 1 to 6, 2005.

Rukmal Cooray is the first Sri Lankan to win 2 national junior ranking tournaments outside Sri Lanka. Eight countries participated in this tournament. Rukmal Cooray beat first seed Zhia hwa Chong 6/2,6/1 in Malaysia in the boys under 16 finals and beat Prasad Selvarjoo in straight sets 6/1, 6/0 and became the winner in the under 18 category too.

According to Rukmal playing in Malysia has given a tremendous boost to his career and he has now returned to Sri Lanka with great confidence. The way he had played in Malaysia if the S.L.T.A. promotes him he is sure to do better within the next two years to be the best in the region. His coach, Arul Amalanathan, veteran Indian coach has given an undertaking that a special programme will be planned for better training in the near future.


A fine win, but not flawless 

By. T.M.K. Samat 

IT ISN'T only the avenging of the ignominious defeat of 2002 that makes Sri Lanka's World Cup qualifier triumph in Suphan Buri, Saturday last, a commendable achievement. After the 0/72 annihilation in the previous encounter in Bangkok, coach and officials this time round naturally were unprepared to make any Muhammad Ali-style forecast.

At best, optimism accompanied reservations. Their blending of hope with reality ran something on these lines: "it's going to be hard with home-advantage theirs, but if we play well we can win." You might think cautious optimism, which the official pre-match view suggests, isn't a bad thing. But this wasn't that sort of cautious optimism. It was more an admission of the enormousness of the job ahead, and, one suspects, a subtle play of words suggesting the final outcome ought to be measured by the 2002 tape. In other words, if in defeat, dignity replaces the disgrace of three years ago, then, opprobrium would be undeserving.

Against that background, what happened at the Suphan Buri Stadium last week ranks as a minor miracle - more of which we'll talk about later. Acknowledging those responsible for preparing this astonishing turn-around, though, merits first priority. After all, any number of brilliant players counts for little if you can't assemble them into a combative unit. And that takes more than just enhancing fitness and skills. As important is the mental toughening, without which, Saturday, Sri Lanka might've capitulated in crucial pressure situations, as they often do. 

They didn't this time. The reasons for it lie in the fact that the selectors chose wisely and Coach George Simpkin and his deputy, C P Abeygunawardena, beat the players into a mean-machine. And what ever else there had to be done was completed by conscientious manager, Sqd. Leader Sanjay Fernando. The players, so, were single-mindedly focused on their 80-minute turn of field-duty. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the cohesive combativeness displayed on the field was a reflection of the efficient bonding of management. So, it makes sense to preserve this management combination and allow it to work in the same air of independence it did in preparing for last week's match.

But there are unknown pitfalls that can derail the best laid plans. And the Sri Lanka squad hit one no sooner than they had stepped out of the arrival terminal of the Don Maung airport, 7.30 a.m. Friday: there was no Thai RFU official to meet them. "It wasn't the most pleasant of welcomes, especially when you've got off a flight that began about 3 a.m. (Bangkok time: 4 a.m.), though the journey had begun the previous night at 11 p.m. when we boarded the bus to Katunayake," said Sqd. Leader Fernando. "We were left kicking our heels for more than an hour before the liaison officer finally appeared."

Suphan Buri, province of the match venue, is not a whisk away from Bangkok, and with the morning city traffic at a peak, it was another two and half hours before the bedraggled, droopy- eyed and hungry Sri Lankans arrived at their hotel at around 11 a.m. - only to be told to get back into the bus and be driven to another hotel for breakfast.  That done, they returned to their hotel and jumped into bed to sleep out the weariness from being nearly 12 hours on their feet. They slept through the hotel's lunch time. But manager Fernando had thoughtfully arranged for lunches to be put in boxes, which they took along with them for their 4 p.m. practice and ate it after the workout. It had been a frustrating first day in Thailand.

Obviously there was a lot cussing and swearing, but manager Fernando saw the positive side of the disappointment. "It was a long and annoying journey to Suphan Buri, but as a place to spend the day before the match it was better than Bangkok," said Fernando.

Some explanation of the place is necessary. Even if the traffic is sparse, the drive to Suphan Buri takes around two hours. It is over 100 km from Bangkok, but it might well be a world away. A sleepy old place this, which has nothing of Bangkok's "attractions", and explains why the place has just four hotels and no taxi service. "The nice thing about Suphan Buri is that it has no distractions - at least not what the eye can see. So, the focus on the match was never lost - if anything it was even more."

How much an influence Suphan Buri's remoteness from Bangkok's shopping malls and beckoning neon had on our performance, of course, is something that can't be established. But this much is certain: the commitment and character demonstrated by the Sri Lankans have not been seen in a long while.

Their new-found determination was displayed best thrice: 1/ when the Thais closed a 15-point lead to single digit in the first half, 2/ when the Thais took the lead, 24/23, early in the second half and 3/ when the Thais, trailing 24/38, equalized 38/38, at the top of injury time. It has to be said that 1 and 3 were achieved on the back of two stunning tries, one minute of each other on both occasions - the sort of blows that previously left Sri Lanka in bewilderment they couldn't come out of and tumbled over the cliff to defeats.

This time round, however, the Sri Lankans were quick to beat back the gathering resurgence of their opponents and re-established the superiority that became obvious from the moment they had taken an 18/3 lead in the opening 30 minutes. The memory of the match no doubt came in injury time, with the scores tied, 38-all. The Thais had scored two rapid goals to strike parity, and their endorphin level was at a high. Sri Lanka might have wondered if their chance had come and gone; the smell of blood was strong in Thais' nostrils.

But then Sri Lanka wrote a storybook finish with two tries in the final two minutes to win by a 10-point margin - and margin that could've doubled were all of  our seven tries converted; only two were. A 20-point margin would've been a truer reflection of Sri Lanka's superiority on the day. The forwards were quite magnificent, dominating possession. The backs scored all of the team's seven tries. But the overall performance was some way short of perfection. When a team takes the lion's share of possession, as Sri Lanka did, and yet allow the opponents five tries, then, there's has been some squander.

At least three of Thais tries were gifted, the most glaring was the ill-timed pass that presented the home team an intercepted try. Another came off a Sri Lankan kick-off that went full out - a kick that was taken by Mallikarachchi instead of T. A. Silva, the regular kicker. A bad decision, that. Off the midfield scrum that followed the misguided kick-off, the Thais scored to make it 24/38. A minute later, it was 38/38:  the origin of the equalizer was in a lapse by flanker Ganapathy, who, down on his haunches, was yet sulking over his mistake when the Thais' scored the equalizer.

It was anybody's match with three minutes remaining. It was at that point Sri Lanka displayed character to run in two tries in rapid succession and so belie the fact that they hadn't been far from defeat. You can't be too hard on them. Where they fell off the edge previously, this time round, they dug their feet in and scrambled back to the summit. It is tempting to think that our standing in Asian rugby is heading upwards. The encounter against Singapore, June 25 at Longden Place, would provide confirmation or otherwise.


The unchanging world of old summa

NORMAN Gunewardena, of Royal and CR and FC, was an outstanding flanker in the early 1950s. His son, Ajith, also flanker, was in the Royal team of 1975. And his grandson, Revan, is being spoken of as a strong wing threequarter prospect for Royal this season.

Through this sweep of over a half-century, a common link, other than of belonging to one family-tree, is difficult to find. Away from the family connection, the only commonality, perhaps, is the shape of the ball, though, rugby itself has become quite another game, thanks to the many new laws adopted over the past 50 years.

So any one, for a lark, hazarding a guess that the coach of the grandfather, son and grandson might be same is likely to... well, you'll be pardoned if you held that smart aleck by his neck and dispatched him, post-haste, to the nearest mental hospital. But before you ring for the ambulance, it would be advisable to check out the past and present movements of a busybody called Summa Navaratanam. He turned 80 only the other day and it's plausible that he might have coached Norman and son. But coach to grandson, Revan, too - well, that is one for the pigtailed Chinese.

But there's no harm in checking out with the man himself. The place you're most likely to find him is the Royal Stadium in the old race course, which is where the most fanatical of old Royalists - and Summa is one- would gather of any evening to watch the school practice. These days you'll find him slouched in a wheelchair, though, not for reasons you think. "I was watching a tackling session and was hit by both the tackler and tackled, and ended with a few hairline fractures in the right knee bone," he says. ''No big injury; I'll be out of this bloody plaster in a week or two" - spoken with all the panache of a John Wayne, the rugged hero in the cowboy 'n crooks films of his time. 

As for the question on grandson Revan, be prepared to be the pigtailed Chinese yourself: yes the man coached the Gunewardenas, grandfather to grandson.

"In those days it wasn't unusual for a captain to be coach as well. So when I captained CR in 1955 I decided to do the job of coach as well and that's how I became coach to Norman; he was five years my junior at school," recalled Navaratnam. "Ajith came along while I was in the thick of coaching in 1975 - and now Revan."  C P.P. Abeygunawardena, of course, is currently the appointed coach; Navaratnam, the school's rugby coordinator, an all-encompassing involvement that covers supervision of Under 14 to first XV teams.  

If you think the involvement is extraordinary for an 80-year-old, then, it's because you're ignorant of his daily schedule. "My day now isn't any different to what it was," says he. "Except that I now go to bed by 10 pm -my body clock is set to that time."

His day starts, as always, at 6 a.m., though. Where once upon a time he would rush off for an hour of jogging, these days he walks the dog around Victoria Park, from his Kynsey Road home, for an hour. After a breakfast of papayas and cereals, you'd think old bones would stretch on the long hansi putuwa and settle for a good long read of the morning's newspapers. Suggest that to Navaratnam and he would blurt, "Hansi putuwa and newspapers? - like bloody hell. I've got to rush off to office to keep a business with a 150 million-rupee annual turnover going. Life's schedule hasn't changed." So, too, the nature of his job. 

As then, he still trades in commodities, acting in-between to local producers and buyers overseas.    "If anything it's more taxing on the mind now, with globalization. It's a constant watch on the international trends and local produce, price fluctuations and stock availability in the local market," says the trader from Ceylon and Foreign Trade Co.

So, at work's end it's time to sit under a bag of ice? Not by a long shot - a quick change into shorts, jersey and decks, and he's with the boys at practice, 5 pm to 6.30 pm. His practical lessons, of course, might lack the robustness of old, but his lecturing hasn't lowered a quaver on the emotional register. The passion and repetitiveness of his lessons some times can quite unnerve his charges. C P Abeygunawardena has a delicious anecdote to illustrate that characteristic of the man.

It goes back to the time he was coach of the Sri Lanka team at the 1981 Hong Kong Sevens. At the final practice held on the grounds of plush Hong Kong FC, winger Wimal Eparachchi just couldn't do right one of the coach's instructions. Exasperated, Navaratam barked, "Use your bloody brain" - not once, but enough times to rankle Eparachchi. Practice done, the squad gathered to leave, and the Hong Kong liaison officer whistled across the field for the bus - the fingers-under-tongue whistle. Navaratnam, wishing to lift the mood of his weary charges, promptly imitated the liaison officer's whistle. The emanating sound, though, wasn't half as loud as that of a deflating balloon - and Eparachchi saw the chance to get his back on the coach: "Use your brain, sir." Not one to miss a good laugh, Navaratnam laughed and laughed and laughed.

That little story, perhaps, tells a lot of the man: his unwillingness to let go of the boy in him. Which is why, even at 80, you can't keep him away from the rough and tumble that is boyhood's world, even if it costs a few broken bones.

A lot has been written recently of his exploits in athletics - Asia's fastest man in 1953 - and rugby - member of the historic 1941 Royal team that beat Trinity for the first time and president of the SLRFU in 1974. All that, though, is only readings of cold, emotionless history.

To appreciate better the man, walk down to the Royal Stadium on an evening, and you'll get to know first-hand Eparachchi's state of mind on that distant day in 1981in Hong Kong; he prowls the touchline shouting instructions with many a "bloody' in between. Per chance, if one of his charges directs a timely repartee, you can be certain his laughter will be the heartiest, the loudest. Same old Summa!


Janaka and Devin win Lipton Cup

Former Asian Games silver medallist W. P. K. Janaka crewed for by W. M.G. Marambe, both of the Navy Sailing Club, were the winners of the Lipton Cup sailing regatta held at Bolgoda last Sunday. The duo, sailing their Enterprise Class boat, beat 22 other boats to take first place despite three-minute negative handicap. It was a good day for the Enterprise and for the Navy, who also secured second place in a boat sailed by Kamalsiri Gunetilleke with Indika Pushpakumara as crew. Third place was secured by the husband-and-wife duo, Anil and Michele Gunawardana. Sponsored by Lipton teas, the event is the highlight of the national sailing calendar, having been sailed for more than 40 years. Excellent 10-12 knott winds on the day helped make it an exciting event, sailing a course set by Mohan Balasuriya.

The junior Optimist class event was won by Devin Goonewardena (Stafford International), with Sasha Guneratne (St'Thomas Prep) taking first runner-up and Ishan Abeysekara (St'Thomas Prep) coming in as second runner-up. A total of 14 boats entered the junior event.

Speaking on the occasion, Managing Director Unilever Teas Mr Avi De Silva reiterated the brand's commitment to the support of sailing in Sri Lanka, especially in the youth class. The company's founder, Sir Thomas Lipton, was himself a famous sailor who attained international recognition for his repeated (and unfortunately unsuccessful) attempts to win the Americas Cup for England in the 1930s.


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