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Niroshana: The unfading star

NIROSHANA Wijekoon is a name you won't find on the prize-list of any major Open badminton event of this year - or, for that matter, of the previous year.

Correction: His name, alongside that of Channa Wijemanne, figures in the winners' roll of the 2007 Mercantile Open, as champions of, say it softly, the Veterans' Doubles event. "And Channa says that he did more than I to win the title," laughs the 43-year-old father of thirteen-year and 9-year son and daughter respectively.

Soft-spoken and shy, it wasn't surprising that Wijekoon did not to contest his partner's claim, but then he doesn't have to. After all, of what value is an over 40s doubles title to one who once held the National Single title for nine years (1983-87 and 89-92), the National Doubles title for a dozen years (1982-93), and the Mixed Doubles title for eight years (1981-83). And during that period of dominance, Wijekoon also completed the Triple Crown in six Nationals.

Such a handsome list of high level achievements is rich material for a story re-telling the deeds of a sporting legend of the past. But then any writing on the history of Wijekoon's badminton career at this point in time would be inappropriate - simply because his days in competitive badminton, not excluding the Nationals, aren't finished. The taxing demands of the Open Singles has gotten a little too much for him, so, he opted out of the event for the first time at this year's Nationals, but continued to participate in the two Open Doubles.

Wijekoon, a Director of the stock brokering firm Asia Securities made his thirty-second appearance at the 2007 National Championships last month. He made his debut in 1975 as an 11-year-old. "We moved to Colombo in 1975 from Bandarawela and I entered the Nationals for a lark," recalled Wijekoon - adding that his school then, S Thomas B'wela, had a strong badminton tradition and had produced the likes of Ravi Kuruppu and Priyantha Wijesekera, both National champions of the 1970s and early 80s.

He won the first of his nine Singles title in 1983 as an 18-year-old from Royal College. And the last of his 29 National titles were claimed in 1993 when he emerged champions in the Men's and Mixed Doubles events - but, ominously, not the Singles. That the younger challengers were beginning to snap at his heels had become apparent. At that point, conservative wisdom would've advocated retirement while still at the top - and so be remembered ever as a champion.

But for Wijekoon his love for the game was more consuming than seeking posterity's kindness. And acceptance of life without badminton was unthinkable. "A graceful bow from the game was not something I didn't think of, especially as there didn't seem anything more to achieve, and I was 30 years. But then badminton has been a part of me since childhood that to turn away from it was going to be too painful a wrench, personally," said Wijekoon. "So long as my feet can carry me, you'll find me on the badminton courts."

These days the courts you'll find him are on the courts of Colombo Swimming Club. "Monday to Friday, 5 to 8 p.m. we play some intense though recreational badminton. It's our way of unwinding after a tough day in office," said Wijekoon. The group is made up mostly of figures from the high-pressured world of the corporate sector, including Channa Wijemanne, Director at George Steuarts, Sanjeewa Wickremanayake, CEO Ewis, Priyantha Wijesekera, AGM Leasing Nations Trust Bank, Sumith Guruge, Chairman Ashyaki Holdings, Ananda Weerasinghe, Chairman Alma Trading Co., and Ram Ramchand, Company Director.

Recreational badminton, though, is not the same thing as playing at the level of National competition. "Our knock-about at the Swimming Club is of course not preparations for competitions, certainly not the Nationals. But then playing in a few competitions, even the Nationals, add to the fun. After all, I've long passed the stage of winning major titles, and no one expects me to. It's a nice situation to go out and enjoy myself and find out how far I can stretch myself against the younger set."

At the last Nationals he stretched as far as the semifinals of the Men's Doubles, overcoming the second seeds in the process.

It won't be wrong to say that he was born to play badminton. At 43, he still has the sort of figure that wouldn't be out of place in the final of the Men's Open final. "During my peak years I weighed around 65-66 kilos - presently I am in the 69-71 range. I guess I was born to be lithe and light, '' said Wijekoon, whose late father, U.B., was one-time Minister of Textile Industry. "So, I have no excuse for not playing badminton even now."

As well, playing now also helps keep alive some of the glorious memories of his youth - like 1/ when he became the first Sri Lankan to win a Singles match in the Thomas Cup in 1984, defeating Singapore's no1; 2/ when he defeated India's no.1 to qualify for the final of the Portuguese Open in 1992 and 3/ playing in the 92 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Channa Wijemanne, the Mercantile Open Doubles title is all yours to keep.!


T. Suwan - the force behind Queen Sirikit Cup

One of the Thailand Golf Association's founders. Rae Vadee T Vadee T Suwan came up with the idea to launch a National team Championship in view of the fact that no international Ladies event existed in the region at that time. She felt that lady golfers with great potential but insufficient financial resources could not go very far in their game.

It was timely for them to be given a chance to play at a higher level and accomplish more for themselves and their countries. Through the championship, a higher standard of the game could be raised and more friendship formed.

Hence the proposal was sent to the national golf association of 14 countries including Thailand, namely Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Philippines, Burma India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand to send a team of 3 players to launch the National Team Championship in Bangkok Thailand. Of the 14 countries invited, nine countries participated in the inaugural event known as the "Amateur Ladies Asian Invitational Golf Team Championship".

Mom Kobkaew Abharara was instrumental in the requesting the challenge trophy from Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand who graciously granted her permission to have the Trophy named in her honor as the "Queen Sirikit Cup". The Queen Sirikit Cup is a beautifully handcrafted silver trophy and the exact replica is presented to the champion team each year.

At the first Team captains meeting it was agreed that future hosting of the championship would be on a rotation basis among the member countries. Indonesian came forward to host the second event that welcomed in two more countries, Australia and Philippines, to make up 11 teams.

The 10th anniversary was celebrated in Thailand in 1988 with full participation of 12 member teams. Australia continued to maintain her top performance and won the Cup for the 6th times in the first decade. The tournament's theme song, The Women's Spirit was launched on this occasion and the teams were granted an audience with H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakari Sirindhorn, who represented H.M. Queen Sirikit at Chitrlada Palace.

At the close of the 2nd decade in 1998 Korea celebrated her 7th title in India and became the team with the most wins. Australia came second with 6, followed by Japan with 5 and New Zealand with 2 wins. The championship also welcomed its 14th member, Chinese Taipei to join at the 20th anniversary of the queen Sirikit Cup in India.

The 3rd decade of the Queen Sirikit Cup began in New Zealand where the first- ever playoff for the team title between host teams New Zealand and new comer Chinese Taipei was witnessed when both were tied at score of 436. It was also here that the biggest galleries of spectators turned up to support the event and their home team. After an exciting playoff New Zealand won while Chinese Taipei captured the best individual title.

The 25th Queen Sirikit Cup, which was the silver anniversary of the championship, was celebrated in Korea in 2003 and Singapore rejoined the tournament after 7 years withdrawal. Korea team braved the bad weather conditions and benefited from home advantage to win the 8th title by a wide margin from defending champion Japan.

When the 26th edition was hosted by china for the second time in 2004, the R&A came forward to give financial grant to help subsidize the team's accommodation expenses. The recognition given by the R&A was based on the achievements of the Queen Sirikit Cup Championship in promoting the standard of ladies golf in Asian pacific region and was the result of the recommendation made by the Executive Chairman o the Asia Pacific Golf Federation, Dato Thmas M.L.Lee.

In 2005 the championship returned to Thailand for the 27th Queen Sirikit Cup and was renamed "Asia Pacific Ladies Invitational Golf Team Championship" to reflect the geographic location of member countries that span from the pacific region to the southern part of Asia. Sri Lanka a regained her membership after 3 years absence. At the close of the 3rd decade Korea emerged the leading team with a record of 10 wins to her credit. Australia had 8, Japan 6. New Zealand 3 and Chinese Taipei 2 wins. During the last 3 decades of the Queen Sirikit Cup, many former national players have turned professional and several of them are now world-class players on the various tours. It is interesting to compare the winning scores from the first two decades to last year's result as the scores kept going down lower each year. In the inaugural championship the winning team's score was 459 in the 10th championship - 446, in the 20th championship - 433, and in the 29th championship - 414.


Lawyers'Cricket World Cup

For the first time in history, a lawyers' Cricket World Cup is been organized by the Lawyers' Association of India to be held in Hyderabad from 30th December 2007 to 07'h January 2008.Teams from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies, Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand and Kenya would take part in this tournament which will be worked off on league basis at leading cricket venues including the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium.

The matches will be played as one dayers where all the respective teams are expected to play with each other with the top two teams going into the finals attended by the President of the International Cricket Council.The Bar Association of Sri Lanka is represented by a strong team comprising of practicing lawyers who have excelled in cricket in different levels including college and clubs.

The team is captained by Lasantha Mudalige, former Captain of Holy Cross College, Kalutara and University of Colombo. His deputy will be Theja Silva, a former Anandian cricketer.The team comprises of; Lasantha Mudalige (Captain), Theja Silva (Vice Captain), Piyal Munasinghe,Malika Gunasekera,Binara Gunasekera,Kaushalya Nawaratne, Asela Patabendi, Manesh Wevita, Suseela Sapuvida,Ayendra Wickremasekera, Kamran Aziz,NalinWeerakoon, Sumudu Sandaruwan, Mahesh Kotuwella,Ranjan Ranathunga,Sanath Karunaratne, Sarath Suriyarachchi, Yushan Tharanga, Prasad Sirimanna and Dixon Gunawardana.


Sri Lanka-England Third Test 4th Day at Galle

Rain an obstacle to Lankan victory

By Sunil Thenabadu

Before the commencement of the third and final Test, at the reconstructed new Galle International Cricket Stadium showers were forecasted  on all five days. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka on the most vital day four, yesterday, play was possible only for 142 minutes between commencement of play and up to eight minutes to lunch.

Owing to heavy downpours and wet outfield play was abandoned by the umpires at 2. 45 p.m. The final days play will commence at 9.30 a.m  tomorrow morning provided the weather keeps fine and the ground is fit for play.

With the overnight score at 102 for the loss of one wicket, England still needs 316 runs to avoid an innings defeat with 9 second innings wickets in tact.

The third day's play in the third and final Test in the 'Investec' series between England and Sri Lanka  commenced at 9.30 a.m in very hot and humid conditions with England continuing at 2 runs for no wicket with both openers Alastair Cook and Micheal Vaughan unbeaten on one run each needing 416 more runs to avoid a humiliating innings defeat and with it the series.

The pitch report of expert commentator, former England renowned all rounder, Sir Ian Botham, revealed that the pitch had dried up after yesterdays rain and it contained a few cracks slightly opened out which would not have any effect and terrors for the English batsmen, although it is bound to favour the seamers The weather forecast predicted rains as there was a cloud cover above.

The two overnight openers started in a positive manner against Vaas and Malinga operating from the Pavilion and Fort ends respectively. Sri Lankan bowlers were concentrating in deploying strategies to bowl swinging deliveries to induce edges. But the two openers resisted stoutly in the first eleven overs .Cook was the more aggressive when he straight drove and penetrated the cover fieldsmen to stroke boundaries. England were 38 for no loss in 13 overs at the first drinks break posted their 50  in the 15th over in 92 balls The opening bowlers were replaced by Welagedera  from the pavilion end and Dilshan from the Fort end .After a solitary over of spin by Dilshan, Muralitharan was brought on from the Fort end  with the ball still new and hard. England's first wicket partnership was broken when Skipper Vaughan slashed at a wide delivery from debutante Welagedera, to be caught well by Mahela at second slip for 24, compiled in 57 balls without a single boundary with the score on 67 in the 20th over .

Ian Bell in his 31st Test with an impressive record of 6 centuries and 17 fifties joined Cook and the pair batted confidently without taking risks and giving no chances Cook completed his 9 th Test fifty in 105 balls with the score on 93 in the 28th over with 7 fours. When rains brought play to a halt 8 minutes to lunch with the score on 102, Cook and Bell had added 35 useful runs for the 2nd wicket to be unbeaten on 53 and 17 off 117 and 35 balls respectively. In the first session  when play was possible England had added exactly 100 runs for the loss of one wicket in 33.5 overs......Scores:England 81 and 102 for 1 (Cook 53*, Bell 17*) trail Sri Lanka 499 for 8 dec by 316 runs


HNB Assurance moves chess out of Colombo

In a first move for the corporate sector, HNB Assurance has come forward to promote chess in areas outside the traditional chess centres of the country. HNB Assurance has pledged to introduce and develop chess in two schools, one in the Badulla District and another in the Galle District.

Accordingly, HNB Assurance will hand over chess equipment to Passara Maha Vidyalaya and Wanduramba Maha Vidyalaya and provide for regular coaching lessons with support from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka.

Manjula de Silva , Managing Director of HNB Assurance said that chess is a game that is currently attracting a lot of young people and moreover is an exercise that develops mental faculties that are all important to young children.

 Observing that currently most of the strong players and schools are located in Colombo , Kandy and Galle, de Silva said that it was felt that taking the game to more rural areas would be a timely move.

Harinlal Aturupane, President of the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka said that there is immense potential to develop the game all over the country since it does not involve vast amounts of money.

 He also pointed out that a couple of decades ago there were no strong players in the Southern Province but once the game was introduced to Galle and Matara, there emerged quite a number of strong chess players.

 Galle schools have regularly won national honours in the schools circuit and Athula Russell, who won the national title on several occasions also hails from Galle, he added.


'Ethics in Sports Medicine' 

Amid controversies of 'doping' by athletes the world over, 'Ethics in Sports Medicine - an oxymoron?' will be the subject of this year's Professor S.R. Kottegoda Memorial Oration.

Internationally known sports medicine scholar, Professor Siri Kannangara, currently Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia, will deliver the Oration to be held on Wednesday, December 19,   at 5 p.m at the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), Vidya Mawatha, Colombo 7.  

The Memorial Oration, in its 12th year, is in memory of the late Professor S.R. Kottegoda, one-time Dean of the Medical Faculty, University of Colombo, and later National Coordinator, Health Systems Research, Ministry of Health. The late Professor Kottegoda was a leading authority in the SLAAS on the subject of Ethics in Science. He was earlier associated with the late Professor Senaka Bibile in pioneering work on generic pharmaceuticals supply regimes that later won global recognition through the World Health Organisation.

 Professor Kottegoda is also the author of the definitive pictorial guide book 'Flowers of Sri Lanka,' now in its second printing. 

Professor Siri Kannangara is a well known international sports medicine expert having functioned as a Physician and Consultant to the Australian Olympic teams at the Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney Games, and at World Cup events for soccer, cricket, net ball and hockey.

 Prof. Kannangara is also the Director of the New South Wales Institute of Sports Medicine and he served in the FIFA Medical Committee Member from 1999 to 2006. In recognition of his contribution to Sports, Prof. Kannangara was inducted to the Australian Hall of Fame (Sports Hall of Fame) in 2004.

Professor Siri Kannangara has functioned as a consultant physician for visiting Sri Lankan Test and One-Day International cricket teams in Australia for several years and also for visiting athletics and other sports teams from Sri Lanka. He is an old boy of Royal College and a graduate from the then Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon, being a student of the late Professor, Kottegoda.


Bridge - National Championships

The pack led by Asoka Jayasinghe supported by K. Bhaskaran, Fritz Perera, Asoka Warnasooriya, and Dr. Dilanjan Soysa convincingly won the team event sponsored by Multiform Chemicals Limited thereby entitling them to the coveted Multiform Trophy in two days played at the Bridge Federation Headquarters located at Race Course.

The Runners up team captained by Anton Selvanayagam comprised of Rasika Karunathilaka, Dr.Asoka Thenuwara and Lucky Fernandez.


Christmas horse racing day on  December 24

THE Sri Lanka Turf Club is organizing a Christmas Horse Racing Day on  December 24, commencing from 10 a.m onwards at the Nuwara Eliya Race Course. The main event will be the "PRIME TROPHY" horse race sponsored by B.Premalal, chairman, Prime Land Pvt Ltd.

Another race will be run, sponsored by Nigel Coomaraswamy, in memory of his father, Wasantha Coomarawamy, who was also a chairman of the Sri Lanka Turf Club.

So far over 30 entries have been received. A grand day of horse racing will be witnessed at the Nuwara Eliya Race Course.


Patrick -  Mercantile tennis champion

The NDB Bank sponsored Mercantile tennis tournament entered its final stages last Sunday at the Green Path SLTA headquarters. Sohan Patrick of SJMS Associates emerged winner in the Open Singles Division I finals beating Kushal Wijewickreme of  MAS in two sets to one.

Kushal came into the finals having scored an upset straight set win over the  much fancied former Davis Cup player Asiri Iddamalgoda. The two youngsters clashed  on the  Sunday morning finals on the Brandix hard court.

Kushal opened the first set with an array of power packed strokes with Sohan responding with equal force. He broke Sohan's serve twice and  leapt to a three nil lead before Sohan found his touch and started moving the opponent around.

Kushal capitalising on the several unforced errors of the opponent stretched the lead to 5 - 2  before closing the set with a wave of  forehand drives deep into the base line.

Though the score line read 6-2 in favour of Kushal, the quality of tennis reached very high levels with both players giving nothing away and matching shot for shot.

Sohan started the second set with a blitz of forehand cross court drives  combining with some brilliant double handed back hand down the line.

Kushal found it hard to cope  with this aggression and side to side movement and the heavy top spin. He nevertheless unleashed his trump card of power, but Sohan by that time had taken complete control of the set finishing off with    6-0. Sohan was now on a roll and Kushal was showing signs of fatigue as the players walked out on court for the decider.

Sohan continued from  where he left  on the second set and found the side lines with  ease. The relentless movement due to the down the line  drives and drop shots left Kushal  trailing at 4 - nil before he held serve to make it  4-1.

Any chances of a late rally by Kushal was completely blown away by  Sohan heaping on further winners at will and taking the set at 6-1. Kushal maintained his power to the end but had difficulty in coping with the pace of the game.

SJMS Associates who dominated the Mercantile net ball scene several years ago have now produced their first tennis champion. Sohan came out with the championship trophy while Kushal emerged  a worthy runner up. 


At a Glance

Monday

Cricket

 Lawyers' cricket World Cup 2008 in Hyderabad

THE Indian  Advocates cricket Association  has organised  an international cricket tournament among Layers' to be held in Hyderabad from December 30 2007. Cricketing Lawyers' from Sri Lanka ,Pakistan, England ,West Indies ,South Africa ,Kenya ,Australia and India are expected to take part

Football

FIFA bans high altitude match venues

FOOTBALL'S governing body FIFA has banned all matches  it sanctions at an altitude of more than 2750 metres (9022 feet) "without acclimatisation" relaxing its earlier limit.

Golf

Wilson defies to take one stroke lead

ENGLAND'S Oliver Wilson defied the windy conditions  experienced at treacherous Pearl Valley Golf Club  on his way to a five under par and one stoke lead in the South African open.

Motor Racing

Malaysian Super Series champion arrives

THE JAPAN based Sri Lankan champion driver, Dilantha Malagamuwa who created history at the Malaysian Super Series at the Sepang Circuit, winning the title for a second successive year will arrive in the Island today. The southern and Asian Motor racing clubs has made arrangements to  to give him a grand welcome.

Tuesday

Cricket

Sri Lanka looking for a win to improve on ICC rankings

IN The event Sri Lanka takes a 2-0 lead series win they will climb up to No 2 position in ICC Test rankings while England could consolidate their present ranking if they can force a draw. The prevalent inclement weather would be the key factor.

West Indies survive

FAST bowler Jerome Taylor took three wickets in his first over as the West Indies   beat South Africa in the rain shortened  Twenty/20 International played at St.Geoge's Park.However Steyn stunned the Windies  by capturing four wickets ,all of which were clean bowled by yorkers.

Tennis

Sohan and Dinali take mercantile tennis titles

A NUMBER of upsets were created in the Mercantile Tennis tournament concluded at the SLTA courts sponsored by the National Development Bank (NDB).Bottom seed Dinali De Silva of HSBC defeated top seed Suwini Fernando in straight sets 6-0,6-0 to take the Women's title. In the men's division the bottom seed Sohan Patrick (STMS) defeated Kaushal Wijewickrema who stunned top seed Aasiri Iddamalgoda (HSBC) in three sets 2-6, 6-0, 6-1

Golf

Woods closes out the year with a seven-shot win

TIGER WOODS closed with a 4-under 68 to match the tournament record at the Target World Challenge and set a record for the largest margin of victory by seven shots over Masters Champion Zach Johnson.

Wednesday

Cricket

 Honours shared on day 1 in the third Test.

THE RE-CONSTRUCTED Galle International Cricket Stadium was re-christened after the tsunami devastation when England and Sri Lanka commenced the final and third Test in the Ivensec Test series. On day one of fluctuating fortunes after shortened days play due to damp ground conditions Scores: Sri Lanka 1st innings 147 for the loss of 4 wickets at close after 55 overs

Sri Lanka U-19lose again as Bangladesh U-19 takes series

SRI LANKA lost the fourth ODI in the five match series against Bangladesh U-19 by 49 runs to take the series,Scores: Bangladesh U-19 167 all out in 48 overs, Sri Lanka U-19 118 all out in 36.5 overs.

Chess

Sampath Bank lead in Division A and B

SAMPATH BANK has taken the lead in Divisions A and B at the end of three rounds in the Mercantile Chess Championships held at the Lions Activity Centre,Vidya Mawatha, Colombo.

Table Tennis

Record entries for Table Tennis National championships

THE 61ST National Table tennis Championships will be held at S.Thomas' Indoor Stadium on January 6 and 7 2008.The National championships for juniors will also be held for the 61st time at the same venue on January 4 and 5.A total number of 809 players will participate.

Football

Kaka wins FIFA World Player of the year. Award

BRAZIL'S midfielder Kaka completed a virtual sweep of annual awards by winning FIFA's World Player of the year. The award was given on a point's basis.

Thursday

Golf

Sujeewa and Suweni win

SUJEEW Lankatilleke and Seweni Selvaratnam won the men,s and ladies gross events respectively at the monthly medal golf championships of Victoria Golf and Country Golf Resort worked off at the Golf course at Rajawella off kandy.

Athletics

Susanthika  tested

 THE IAAF as a part of its random tests on elite athlete4s conducted routine checks on National sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe at the Athletic Association premises by a Mayasian Doctor a representative of IAAF anti doping arm.

Friday

Cricket

ENGLAND were shot out for a paltry 81 runs their lowest total against Sri Lanka in reply to Sri Lanka's huge total of 499 for 8 wickets declared. At close of play following on England were 2 for no wicket after one over from Muralitharan. Scores: Sri Lanka 1st Innings 499 for 8 wickets declared, England 1st Innings 81 all out and 2nd Innings 2 for no loss at close.

Sri Lanka Under 19 beats Bangladesh Under 19 in 5th ODI

DHENUWAN Fernando and Chatura Peiris shared 9 wickets between them to help Sri Lanka Under 19 team beat the Bangladesh Under 19 team by 6 wickets in the 5th ODI played at the Share Bagta National Stadium in Mirpur,Bangladesh.But Bangladesh Under 19 won the series 3-2.Scores: Bangladesh Under 19 123 all out in 40.3 overs, Sri Lanka Under 19 125 for 4 wickets in 33.5 overs

Ponting's century help Aussies beat New Zealand

AUSTRALIA'S bowlers backed up captain Ricky Ponting's second successive  ODI century, to lead their side to a 114 run win in the 'Chappel-Hadlee' series which helped them to regain the trophy.Scores: Australia 282 for 6 wickets in 50 overs, New Zealand 168 all out in 34 overs.

 Compiled by Sunil Thenabadu

 


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