Sri Lanka has made a commendable advancement in the field of sports
since gaining independence in 1948. Apart from our traditional games,
there had been a few sports here before the independence. That too was
at a comparative less competition level and standards.
But since Sri Lanka gained independence 59 years ago, the standard of
our sports have gone from strength to strength and that we have been
able to emerge champions at World level. One of the best achievements in
Sri Lanka sports were achieved recorded during the very same year Sri
Lanka gained her independence.
Sri Lanka‚Äôs only world champion M.J.M. Laffir
That historic moment came in the 1948 summer Olympic Games when
Duncan White bagged a silver in men's 440 yards hurdles. White's silver
was the first and the only medal Sri Lanka won at the Olympic Games
until 2000 in which sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe won a bronze
Mainly due to the influence of the British rule until 1948, the
passion for cricket is evident not only in Sri Lanka but also the whole
of subcontinent: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all former British
colonies like ours.
However the cricket went amongst the rural community in Sri Lanka
with Sri Lanka gaining Test status in 1981 and more significantly,
winning the World Cup in cricket 15 years later.
Winning the 1996 World Cup under Arjuna Ranatunga was one of the
greatest ever achievements in Sri Lanka sports.
Ranatunga was one of the top cricketers Sri Lanka has ever produced
and his able leadership made way for Sri Lanka to crush favourites
Australia by seven wickets in the final played in Lahore on March 17,
1996. It was a red letter day for Sri Lanka sports with Aravinda de
Silva and Asanka Gurusinha being the architects of that sweet success.
Sri Lanka cricket passed many milestones under Ranatunga's
leadership. Sri Lanka's first ever Test win was achieved in 1985, under
Duleep Mendis, when they beat India by 149 runs at Sara Stadium.
There have been many occasions that Sri Lanka won one day
international cricket tournaments both here and abroad. They were
equally successful in Test cricket and were rated world No.3 a few years
ago. Sri Lanka team accounts for the highest ever totals in Test cricket
In the early 70s, Sri Lanka produced its first ever world champion in
individual sport. That was when the late M.J.M. Lafir emerged world
champion in billiards.
Sri Lankan Susanthika Jayasinghe's success in women's 200m at the
2000 Sydney Olympic Games in Australia could probably be the greatest
ever achievement in local sports, considering the top level competition
she had, and the number of over 200 countries taking part at the world's
greatest sporting event.
Jayasinghe's bronze here was Sri Lanka's first Olympic medal in 52
years and came only three years after she won women's 200m silver medal
at the 1997 IAAF World Championships in Athens. Immediately after the
Olympic triumph, Jayasinghe was rated No.3 in IAAF women's world
In track and field, Sri Lanka has been one of the notable forces in
Asia. Sri Lankans showed their class on many occasions at the Asian
Games. But the most notable performance in the past came in 1974 Teheran
Asian Games in which Sri Lanka's W. Wimaladasa emerged undisputed sprint
king, winning gold medals in men's 400m and 4 x 400m relay.
But the first Sri Lankan gold medallist at Asian Games was high
jumper Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam in 1956. In 1970 S.L.B. Rosa won a
long distance gold for Sri Lanka.
There had been a lean patch at Asian Games for Sri Lanka until
Sriyantha Dissanayake broke the hoodoo and made a revolution in Sri
Lanka athletics, winning a silver and a bronze in Beijing, 1990.
But it was Damayanthi Darsha who ended the gold drought for 24 years
when she bagged two gold medals in women's 200m and 400m at the Bangkok
Asian Games in 1998. At the same event, Sugath Tillakaratne won men's
400m gold and 200m bronze.
Sprinter Darsha has been the most successful ever Sri Lankan athlete
in Asian Games history winning three gold medals and a bronze. Her
fourth Asian Games medal, after the first in 1994 Hiroshima, came in
Busan 2002 when she accounted for women's 400m gold. Susanthika
Jayasinghe won her first Asian Games gold in Busan in women's 100m but
missed a possible second in 200m due to an injury.
Sri Lanka's first gold medal at a major sporting event was by
Hendricus in 1938 Empire Games, ten years before independence. At the
1950 Empire Games, Duncan White won another gold medal for Sri Lanka in
his pet event.
Apart from cricket and athletics, shooting has been one of Sri
Lanka's successful sport in international arena. Sri Lanka's first ever
gold medal at Commonwealth Games was won by our leading women shooters
Pushpamali Ramanayake and Mali Wickremasinghe in 1994.
Four years later, hurdler Sriyani Kulawansa won women's 100m hurdles
silver medal at 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Sri Lanka has emerged champions at Asia Cup netball tournament twice
and has shown a reasonable form in international arena. In 1995 Sri
Lanka won the SAARC Gold Cup soccer tournament, beating India. Sri Lanka
has done well in tennis, especially our junior players have shown great
form and have come out with success in number of international
Sri Lanka's best show in swimming came at the 1991 SAF Games in which
Julian Bolling and Deepika Chanmugam made a clean sweet with a rich
harvest of gold medals. Their performance was coupled with the success
of our athletes as hosts Sri Lanka won a record number of 44 gold medals
at the 1991 SAF Games in Colombo.
Sri Lanka has fared reasonably well in boxing, badminton and a few
other sports but they have not been able to go beyond Asian level. Sri
Lanka hosted the South Asian Games for the second time when the tenth
edition came here last year.
Sri Lanka won a record of 37 gold medals at the 2006 SA Games with
14-year-old female swimmer Mayumi Raheem winning a record of ten medals,
including three golds.
Athletes Susanthika Jayasinghe and Rohan Pradeep also win three golds
each. Veteran Sri Lanka cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya became the most
capped player in ODI cricket last month.
Our ace driver and only formula racing competitor Dilantha Malagamuwa
became the first foreigner to win the Malaysian Super Car championship
Susanthika Jayasinghe won a silver and bronze medal at the 2006 Doha
Asian Games while Rohan Pradeep bagged a bronze.
Overall, Sri Lanka could be proud of what they have achieved in the
field of sports, considering the facilities, coaches, infrastructure,
population and modern training facilities they have. If we develop these
factors, our sportsmen and women should be able to bring more glory.
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