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Our 2008 Olympic qualifiers are both products of the village

 A message from Susanthika, Anuruddha

THESE are early days to be discussing the Beijing Olympic of next August, but it is comforting to know that at least Sri Lanka's presence is assured in what is the world's greatest sporting event. This is an achievement in itself, remembering that Olympics no longer opens its doors to all and sundry, which was the case some three, four Games ago.  Now, though, participation at the Olympics is strictly for only the proven best athletes, decided by qualifying standards set by the IOC or its designated competitions.

Old stagers of course will moan that Olympics of now runs contradictory to the very ideals on which it was re-founded by Baron Pierre de Coubertin way back in 1896. The Frenchman's ideals, in essence, were to "bring about a friendly intercourse between the nations" and to help achieve that "every nation should be invited to participate."

The rationale

That idealism might have been practical then but the world is quite another place now - for a start, the present global count of countries is far more than it was a century plus 10 years ago; ditto, world population. All of which meant that the Olympics too burgeoned, and alas, poor de Coubertin's noble thoughts had to go out of the window.

What this meant to Sri Lanka was that there no longer a guarantee that its flag can be shown at the Olympics. It is only the athletes that can earn the right of display of their national flags in the Games arena - an achievement which, especially for athletes of developing countries, is pretty much as difficult as claiming an Olympic medal. Said simply, participation at the Olympics is not as easy as getting down on your marks. With standards in world sport constantly on the rise, the Olympic qualification bar, too, is constantly raised.

In the face of such difficulties, to have already confirmed accommodation for two in the Beijing Olympic Village is no doubt cause for celebration. Susanthika Jayasinghe was the first to book a room in the Village. By finishing third in the 200m final in World Championships in Osaka last August, she qualified for the Olympics. At 32, many had considered her a has-been, and few were willing to put money on her qualifying against the world's best in Osaka. But her indomitable spirit and resolve triumphed. Beijing will be the third Olympics for the Sydney Games bronze medalist - so she is a girl who has been there and done it. Although her qualification is a commendable feat, it is not half as surprising as that of the other Sri Lankan Olympic qualifier.

Boxer Anuruddha Rathnayake's qualification for Beijing is surprising for more reasons than one. For one thing, Sri Lanka boxing's inability to win Games representation for 40 long years had hardened the belief that it was unworthy of the Olympics. This lowly status was a staggering comedown for a sport that once enjoyed automatic selection for every Games from 1948 to 1968. The reason for the descent is a subject for another story, but suffice it to say the sport was rendered moribund by self-serving administrators, unimaginative leadership and scanty resources.

Resuscitated

How Dian Gomes, ABA president over the past five years, transformed a long run-down, ragged administration into a corporate-like organi- sation has been well-documented. But to briefly recap: Huge investments were made in the boxers' and a mission declared; Medal/s in the 2012 Olympics. It was  a tad too ambitious a target given that arresting malaise of more than four decades was never going to be easy. "It had got to the point that the Olympics had disappeared from the horizon of administrators and boxers," said Donald Munasinghe, a long serving ABA official. "It was like, why waste time thinking about the unachievable. It became a belief."

 Small ambitions beget small deeds. And so, the winning of a few medals at the eight/nine-nation South Asian Games was trumpeted with the sort of exult an Olympic medal might evoke. At the Asian Games, though, the boxers were shown up for what they were - way behind even the Asian pack.

Despite Gomes' generous governance, last year's international performances didn't even hint that 2008 Olympic qualification was possible. The Asian Games last December was to be an indicator whether Beijing was possible or not. Six boxers were dispatched to Qatar,  but alas, five were eliminated on the opening night and the sixth won his first bout but lost the next. The disappointment was crushing.

Even so, the pursuit of 2008 Olympic qualification was not abandoned. Four boxers were sent off to the Commonwealth Championships in Liverpool last July in the hope that a medal success or two might revive the Olympic 2008 qualification campaign. Not to be: All four boxers were eliminated in their opening bouts.

Unable to get within even touching distance of a bronze against the best of Asia and the Commonwealth countries, any suggestion that Olympic qualification was yet possible might have, well, evoked the same disdainful reaction that the suggestion that dogs can fly would have.

Gomes himself publicly declared he had lost faith in his boxers. But then fate arranges the future without consulting you and me. Olympic qualification was pretty much dead in the water less than six month ago. And why an international dual with, of all countries, Tanzania was arranged for last September, was hard to comprehend. But fate so arranged the staging of this first ever international at the time when our Olympic qualification bid was as good as over.

The dual, though, gave Rathnayake his first opportunity to make a comeback to international boxing - after serving a two-year ban for failing a drug test in 2005. He produced quite a stunning performance in the dual, flooring his Tanzanian opponent cold with a short, sharp hook to the jaw in the opening seconds of round 2.

Fate intervenes

Fate had also arranged the World Cup Championship for last December in Chicago, and Rathnayake was No.1 choice. The World Cup is the first of three Olympic qualifiers, but our ambition here was not about qualifying. Rather, it was thought that experience gained from competing with the world's best might hold us in good stead for the two Olympic qualifiers for Asia next year in Bangkok and Kazakhstan.

But as things turned out, Rathnayake now need not worry about travelling to Bangkok and Kazakhstan in search of a ticket to Beijing; he made the booking in Chicago by stopping an Australian in the third round and then out-pointing an El-Salvadorian. Those two wins brought him to the quarterfinals of Fly Weight of the World Cup - assuring him and the country Olympic participation. The top eight boxers of each weight class win the right to fight in Beijing .

And that was how boxer Rathnayake came to join Susanthika Jayasinghe on the list of confirmed residents in Beijing's Olympic Village next August. There will be a sense of dj vu in the case of the sprinter, but for the boxer, life in the Village will be a new experience. Bar that dissimilarity, the two have quite a few things in common. They are both 32 years and both, products of the village - she from Athnawala in Alawwa and he - from a hamlet off Peradeniya.

Their qualification for the Beijing Games provides further evidence that our sporting talents are to be found in the provinces, which, sadly yet remains impoverished. At 32, this no doubt will be the last Olympics for both. That raises questions of the future - more pointedly, the question of development in the provinces.

Sound judgement

Jayasinghe and Rathna- yake might be village products, but it is an open secret that had the Colombo facilities not been made available to them, their talents might have perished in the wilderness. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a system that imports the better rural talents to Colombo for refinement, which is how it works now.

But that arrangement is only second best, and an admission that the provinces have been left in neglect. And that just does not make sense. Because the champions are in the provinces - so, the centres of excellence ought to be located there. Until that happens, the country, for every discovered Jayasinghe and Rathnayake, dozens of the same might be lost.


The turning point of cricket in Sri Lanka

by Outswinger

It was in the year 1991 that a team of senior cricketers undertook a tour of New Zealand to participate in the World Masters Cricket tourney. The Sri Lankan Test Team was also on a tour to New Zealand and the masters had the privilege of witnessing Martin Crowe and Aravinda de Silva excelling with the bat. Jayantha Paranathala was the Assistant Manager of the Test team and he sounded off some in the Masters Squad to be more actively involved with Cricket administration. Some did on their return after winning the trophy.

In a three cornered tussle for the President's position Tyronne Fern- ando emerged the victor by the narrowest of margins though the bulk of the executive committee was from another camp. What seemed like  impossible administration was turned into a superb cohesive unit by Tyronne Fernando ably supported by Neil Perera who was the Secretary.

By this time Sri Lanka had a barren five year period at international level due to prevailing conditions at home in addition to diaries of other Test playing nations being full. Remember that Test tours are planned at least two years in advance. A quick appraisal by the administration resulted in a decision that changed the fortunes of international cricket of Sri Lanka. A decision was made to stop being the poor boy on the block begging for reciprocal tours at 'summa' cost.

Though there was no money in the kitty even for a single tour to be financed at going rates, Tyronne Fernando and the Exco made a bold decision to invite other test playing nations to visit Sri Lanka on an equal footing for three test and three ODI's at market rates. A comprehensive marketing plan based on sponsorships instead of relying on ticket sales was drawn up. All top corporates were invited to lunch at the then Oberoi (Cinnamon Grand, now) where the plan was placed before them, discussed and fine tuned. Eureka! A window of opportunity loomed. Australia was interested. Sponsorships were obtained, best case barter agreements were put in place. One was when the Taj Hotel accepted to host the visiting and local teams at no cost to the Board in return for official dinners being held there in addition to the marketing tag 'host hotel.' Transport for the two teams were on the same basis. It was not as if there were no detractors within the administration then. One such with an eye to future position questioned whether better offers could be got, but was humiliated when he was asked to find a hotel and transport with a payment to the Board to better this offer. Sanity prevailed thereafter. President, BCCSL, Tyronne Fernando, Neil Perera and the Ex Co had a Treasurer who was a cricketer in addition to being a 'doer.'  This triumvirate moved swiftly when they visited Lords at an ICC meeting to invite all other Test nations to take up similar tours during their winters which they were extremely happy to do. This was going to let their players earn extra during lean periods. So, in one calendar year Sri Lanka hosted all nine test teams at home paying market rates.

It was of paramount importance for Sri Lanka to start winning matches. A performance based, step by step system of incentives was introduced. Not just a win bonus but say, get 350 runs in the first innings for a bonus. This allowed Arjuna and the boys to aim at achievable targets on a step by step basis.  The finances were in safe and steady hands and backed by professionals in the private sector in an advisory capacity. Ajit Jayaratne, Sunil de Soysa, Arum Jayewickreme and Chula Jayasuriya were some who helped voluntarily. The then Australian High Commissioner. Howard Debenham and Secretary, Brett Farmer were approached with success to introduce televising of cricket through Rupavahini.  Samara- nayake and Upali Arambewela excelled.

It was not long before Sri Lanka started winning matches consistently. Additional support in the form of expert coaching was introduced. The services of Dennis Lillie and Frank Tyson were obtained. MRF in India followed quickly for training fast bowlers. Soon Sri Lanka had a crop of young fast bowlers, almost as quick as those from the other nations.

Most have forgotten that in 1991 Arjuna was sidelined and was not in the national squad. Tyronne Fernando and the administration brought him back, added Moratuwa as an alternate venue, revamped Asgiriya with required Press boxes, utilised the P. Sara stadium which was our first Test venue amongst a host of other positives.Vaas, Marvan, Sanath, Duleep Liyanage and Murali were discovered. Confidence in our tail to handle fast bowling without retreating to square leg umpire region, was routine now. Sri Lanka Cricket had arrived. More importantly, a firm foundation was laid for the future. Those in the hot seats today would do well to peer back into  recent history and dwell on the foundations laid by the then administration. Thank you Tyronne, Neil and the Exco.


It felt like a defeat rather than a draw

Matthew Hoggard

It was nice to touch down on home soil again when my plane landed at Manchester airport at 9 a.m yesterday, but it's never as good coming home after losing a series. Whatever has happened in the meantime, if you haven't won the series, you haven't achieved your goals on tour, so you miss that feeling of elation on coming home of a job well done. When we took off from Heathrow six weeks ago, we knew that we would have to be at our best to beat Sri Lanka on their own patch and we fell some way short. Quite simply, they performed better than us at key moments throughout the series. And that's what Test cricket is all about.

We were probably saved by the rain from another defeat in Galle on Saturday, but I can assure you there was no sense of relief in the dressing-room after the game. It felt like a defeat rather than a draw. And you can probably imagine how down the mood in the dressing-room was when we were bowled out for 81 in our first innings. That was a real low point, especially after we had allowed them to score 499 for eight in their first innings.

The worst part about their huge first innings was that the pitch in Galle really wasn't a 500 wicket. Nothing like it, in fact. It ought to have been a 150 to 200 all out wicket, which is why we put them in when we won the toss. But as bowlers we have to take responsibility for letting Sri Lanka's batsmen off the hook in a must-win game.

Thankfully, Alastair Cook came good in the second innings with our only century of the series. Amid the disappointments, it was great to see such mental toughness from someone so young, right at the end of the tour.

Of course, we hadn't helped ourselves with the number of catches that we dropped. If you do that against as strong a batting lineup as Sri Lanka's, you can only expect to get punished. It's strange how these things can be contagious. If the opposition have got off to a good start and built up a few partnerships, the edges don't quite carry, the one-handed chances don't stick and suddenly the pressure is on the fielding side rather than the batsmen. I suppose that's called making your own luck.

That run of dropped chances may also have had something to do with the heat and humidity, which in Galle was at its most oppressive. With all the stormy rainclouds around, it felt like playing in a steam room. And when you are being physically drained like that, you have to work that bit harder to maintain your concentration. At times in Galle, I felt as though I was carrying an extra four or five kilograms around with me in sweat.

Along with the heat, the intensive schedule during this series - three Test matches in three weeks - made this one of the most demanding tours I've been on. And I played in only two of the three Tests, having missed the second game in Colombo with my back injury.

I know how tired I felt after bowling 30-odd overs in the first Test in Kandy, so I can only imagine how tough it was on a bowler like Ryan Sidebottom, who played in all three. The recuperation period is very short in such a tight schedule, so you are pushing your body to function at its best again much sooner than you would like. Maybe that had something to do with our performance in Galle. That is not an excuse - you don't go out to Sri Lanka expecting sub-zero temperatures - just a possible explanation. At least when we go out to New Zealand in February, humidity is unlikely to be much of a problem. That is looking like a very important tour for us now. After our defeat in Sri Lanka, we're playing catchup and we'll be desperate to prove what a good side we can be against the Kiwis. 


Queen Sirikit Cup will receive 15,000 pounds

Golf's Ruling Body the R&A Announces Grants for Queen Sirikit Cup 2008 to be staged in Sri Lanka.

In a recent press conference the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew's - the R&A - announced a series of grants totaling œ1.3 million aimed at developing golf around the world.

The Queen Sirikit Cup will receive 15,000 pounds (Rs 3,300,000) as part of this development and it's a significant grant for a relatively small golfing nation such as Sri Lanka. "We feel the grant of some 3.3 million rupees is an endorsement of the Sri Lankan Golf Union's policy of growing the game in Sri Lanka," commented Mike Varney who sits on the Sri Lanka Golf Union committee as an observer. "The support given by the game's governing body is a clear statement that the Sri Lanka Golf Union's efforts to stage such prestigious events as the Queen Sirikit Cup over the past decade have paid off."

The R&A has long had a policy of encouraging the development of golf globally and these latest awards reflect that, with support being provided across men's, women's, boys' and girls' golf, and to both amateur and professional areas of the game.

Duncan Weir, The R&A's Director of Golf Development, said; "In addition to financial support, The R&A will send referees and other officials to many of the championships and events listed here.

Meetings were held with 22 different countries at this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie and this has led to an increase in the number of nations now in receipt of R&A support or being considered for assistance in the future." 


Sports happenings at a glance

Monday

Cricket

SSC wins Rupavahini  ODI Premier League tournament

SSC EDGED out Moors SC narrowly by four runs under the Duckworth and Lewis scoring method to win the SLC organised Division one Premier limited over tier 'A' tournament sponsored by the Rupavahini Corporation final worked off at the SSC ground  in Maitland Place, in a rain shortened game.  Nuwan Zoysa for his whirlwind 48 runs made in 29 balls with 3 sixes and 3 fours was named man of the match.

Scores: SSC 243 for 7 wickets in 48 overs, Moors SC 205 for 7 wickets in 42.3 overs.

Bangladesh thrashes Kiwis in Twenty/20 match

BANGLADESH gained a psychological advantage over a hapless Kiwis cricket side when they beat a New Zealand XI by four wickets in a Twenty/20 charity match.

Scores: New Zealand 133 for 7 wickets in 20 overs, Bangladesh 134 for 6 wickets in 17 overs.

Sanga ousted from the top slot

AUSTRALIAN Ricky Ponting regained sole possession of the coveted top slot of the LG ICC Player rankings for test batsman after Sri Lanka's batsman Kumar Sangakkara dropped two places to third places to occupy third position despite the teams 1-0 victory.  Sangakkara had snatched the top position from Ponting after the first Test in Kandy following knocks of  92 and 152 runs in the two innings.

Cricket Australia to impose life bans for racism

FANS in Australia's first test against India could be banned from the Melbourne cricket grounds for life if they are found to be involved in racial taunting of players and other fans, Cricket Australia has stated. There will be under cover surveillance officers would eject those out of the ground and further action would be taken.

Athletics

Marion Jones has pleaded guilty for drug abuse.

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee stripped Jones of her five medals  for drug use won at the Sydney Olympics. The ledgers and calendars were seized  in a 2003 raid of BALCO -The Bay Area Laboratory designer steroid THG. The documents detail the doping regimen Jones followed before the Olympics.

Tuesday

Cricket

India must match Aussies ' aggression - Laxman

SENIOR batsman V.V.S.Laxman said that India must match attitude and aggression in the pursuit of their series win in Australia.

Gilchrist takes aim at critical former players.

AUSTRALIAn vice captain Adam Gilchrist hit out at continued criticism of the National side cricket team from high profile players, Warne and Ian Chappel who had recently attacked former national coach John Buchanan having labeled him a 'goose'

ICC donates 250.000 USD to Bangladesh relief fund.

THE INTERNATIONAL Cricket Council ICC has donated 250,000 USD to the Bangladesh flood relief fund.

Kiwis told to do or get out

NATIONAL Selector  Sir Richard Hadlee  said" clearly we've been disappointed by a number of the performances in the One dayers  and a number of those of those guys  are a part of the Test set up. So we need to see some improvement in both batting and bowling"

Rugby

South Korea clinches Youth World Cup beating Hong Kong.

SOUTH Korea clinched the Youth World Cup in the Youth Rugby Asiad beating Hong Kong by 15 points to 10 in the final. Sri Lanka with their giving a terrific display took third place in the play off with a smashing 43-0 over Malaysia.

Wednesday

Cricket

Aussies have the bowlers to take wickets -  Ponting

SKIPPER Ricky Ponting  is certain that Australian bowling attack still pack a punch  in the post Shane-McGrath era and prove it against India  in the Boxing day Test,

Gayle remains doubtful ahead of first Test.

CAPTAIN Chris Gayle remained a doubtful starter two days ahead of the first Test against South Africa as he continued to struggle to overcome a hamstring injury who is yet to lead West Indies in a Test match.

Football

Arsene Wenger starts his title countdown

ARSENE Wenger is already counting down the days until the end of the season as Arsene try to hold on to their position on top of the English Premier League football. Wender's side lead Manchester United by one point.

Carragher urges Liverpool not to concede title race JAMMIE Carragher has urged his Liverpool team mates to keep their nerve as Rafa Benitez's side battle to stay in the title race

Thursday

Cricket.

Skipper Kumble spins India into test contention

SKIPPER Anil Kumble inspired a dramatic Indian fight back  to almost bowl out Australia in the opening day of the first test on Boxing day at the MCG.  Anil Kumble claimed five wickets while Zaheer Khan took three wickets as the World's No. 1 side slumped to 337 for 9 wickets after being 135 for no wicket, a very good come back.

Scores: Australia 1st innings 337 for 9 wickets at close in 90 overs.

New Zealand wins first ODI to lead Bangladesh 1-0

BANGLADESH posted their largest total in a limited overs match against New Zealand but could not stop the Kiwis from cruising to a six wicket win in the first ODI played in Auckland.Scores: Bangladesh: 201 all out in 48.3 overs, New Zealand: 203 for 4 wickets in 42.4 overs.

Gales half  century sets up West Indies

CAPTAIN Chris Gayle smashed an explosive half a century  as the West Indies made a good start on the first day of the first test against south Africa at St. George's Park, Port Elizebeth, South Africa.Scores: West Indies 281 for 4 wickets in 84 overs at close of play

Boxing

South Korean Boxing champ in a coma after a fight

SOUTH Korean boxer Choi YO-Sam fell into a coma after successfully defending his World Boxing Organisation Intercontinental fly weight title. Choi 33 fell unconscious after challenger Heri Amol of Indonesia threw a right to his jaw five seconds before the end of the fight.Choi underwent surgery but was still in a coma.

Tennis

Australia's top women's player, out of open

AUSTRALIA's top ranked women's tennis player Samantha Stosur will miss next month's Australian Open after failing to recover from a lingering illness, tennis Australia said.

Friday

Cricket

Lee and Clark strike against India

PACEMEN Brett Lee and Stuart Clark captured four wickets each to dismiss India on a wearing pitch.  At stumps Australia were on track  for their 15th consecutive test win  and were cruising at 32 for no loss at the end of play on day 2 in the frrst Test at the MCG.

Scores: Australia 1st Innings 343 all out and 2nd Innings 32 for no loss, India 1st Innings 196 all out

Australian Brett Lee joins 250 -Test wickets club

BRETT Lee 31, man of the series against Sri Lanka last month claimed 4/46 and in the process claimed his 250th test wicket to become the sixth all time leading Australian wicket taker overtaking Richie Benaud.

Shivarine Chanderpaul scores his 17th Test century

West Indies made 408 runs in the first Innings of the first Test against South Africa on day 2 played at Port Elizebeth,South Africa .Chanderpaul made 104 to score his 17th Test century.  In reply South Africa were 122 for the loss of 5 wickets.

Scores: West Indies 408 all out in 133.4 overs,  South Africa 122 for the loss of 5 wickets in 34 overs at close of play

Football

Kandy the team to beat at Hopman Cup

The Kandy football league final between the Kandy York SC and Golden Stars SC for the 'Sri Lankan Telecom'  trophy will be worked off at the Bogambara Stadium. Winners of the final will receive the Sri Lanka Telecom Trophy. Winners of the final will receive the Sri Lankan Telecom Trophy and Rs 50,000 in cash while the runners up will receive Rs 25,000 in cash and the Ceylinco on-the spot Trophy

Tennis

 Serbia the team to beat at Hopmon Cup

SERBIA will go into the Hopman Cup as firm favourites when the tournament starts in Perth on Saturday in Perth . But the unique mixed teams tennis competition has a history of being unpredictable but the Serbian pair of Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic are the highest ranked players in world tennis.

Compiled by Sunil Thenabadu


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Kiran appointed advisor

Businessman Kiran Atapatu has been appointed advisor to the Sport Ministry this appointment was made by the Minister of Sports, Gamini Lokuge.

 


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