On your mark. Get set………...well; ladies and gentlemen now it is time to focus and set your target on how we Lankans are completing the final leg of preparations for the Commonwealth and Asian Games which are lined up in a perimeter of approximately four months in mid-2022.
Customarily GoodSport once again is running the extra yard focusing upon preparation and take you through the pros and cons of the exercise of letting you how it’s going to be through the eyes of experts.
The ice-breaker for this would be athletics. By far the most popular of the events in the module of the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games and going through the motions of building up the momentum is none other than youthful junior commonwealth games triple gold medalist (short distance) Shehan Ambepitiya who once was tagged as the fastest man in South Asia.
GoodSport inquired – “Considering the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games the track and field segment how ready are these athletes to are going to be …. It is a huge task indeed? Yet, between the lines the authority also given the message to the effect that there will be no freebies at these at these games. Qualification will be the open sesame for participation.
Ambepitiya who is really in the midst of the build-up said “It’s really a huge task when it comes to Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games. What I believe is that the Commonwealth Games when it comes athletics, it’s quite a task. Because when you take the Commonwealth globe; except for the US most of the other big guns are on the track. So, at the Commonwealth Games athletics may be a difficult proposition—there is Jamaica and the other Caribbean nations, then some of the European challenges then Australia and New Zealand and it is a different challenge, most of these countries produce good track and field athletes. However, when it comes to the Asian Games, I feel that we have a huge potential in winning several medals. Even in the past Sri Lanka has won eleven gold medals at the Asian Games and out of which ten have been brought home by the athletes.”
At that point GoodSport pointed out that nonetheless Sri Lanka has not won any athletics medals during the past two to three Asian Games?
Ambepitiya observed “What I do believe is that we have always been there. If you delve into the performances during the past couple competitions, we have been in some good positions. In the 400metres we became the fourth. There was an instance in the 4 x 400 relay we ended up in the fourth position. So, we have been there and in contention for a medal and not rank outsiders. I feel we have the potential, but then again, we have not had a really good plan. We won the last Asian Games medal in athletics in the year 2002 in Busan and there has been blank sheet in athletics thereafter. I believe the reason is that we do not have a proper plan prior to the Asian Games. Now if you take the 2022 Asian Games in athletics, I do not think that we are ready for it or we have a proper plan to face the challenge and win medals. Now at these games we have some good athletes but do we have a plan? How are going convert these opportunities to medals? So, what I believe is we have another six months and if we start from today, we might be able convert these potential athletes into medal winners.
GoodSport then asked what about the lack of real international exposure in a planned manner?
“Exactly that is the reason. That is what I have been talking about. We should have a plan as to how we could give international exposure to these athletes. They should be competing at regular intervals and enhance their exposure and only then that the athletes could convert that experience into Asian and other high-end medals. But, I have not seen any athletes competing in any international events – may be last year there were less openings because of the Pandemic, but if you take Yupun Abeykone who is the current 100metres national champion in Sri Lanka; he is training in Italy. He is based in Italy and he have had the opportunity to take part in many international events. That is why he got the opportunity to be a part of the 2020 Olympics also.
“Then there is the high jumper Ushan Thivanka. He is out High Jump champion. He got many opportunities because he is based in the United States of America. He improved his performances. When it comes to Asian Games my trump card would be Ushan Thivanka – the High Jumper while for Yupun it would be a task. In China there is 100m runner who does a 9.5secs. Then we have the 4 x 400 relay. Women’s long jump, the men’s long jump and there is the women’s 800metres. We have four to five potential athletes but, we have to go with a proper medal winning plan.
“However, except for these two athletes none of the other athletes have quality international exposure. As a result, the others have not elevated themselves as expected. What our athletes need is international exposure.
Then GoodSport queried about the upcoming talent and any one noteworthy?
Ambepitiya said “We have several programmes to identify young athletes like Crysbro Next Champ. There we identify talented young athletes and groom them for the next Commonwealth and Asian Games and the Junior Asian Championships as well. I believe such programmes will give the opportunities to the next generation of Sri Lankan athletes who are knocking on the door.”