Official bungling makes athletes lose Asian Games opportunity | Sunday Observer

Official bungling makes athletes lose Asian Games opportunity

Asian Games which is hailed as the ‘Olympics in Asia’ has always been a favourable arena for Sri Lankan athletes. Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darsha, Sugath Thilakerathne, Shriyani Kulawanshe were some of the shining stars in Asian Games history who brought glory to this island nation.

Ushan Thiwanka is an emerging sport star who has produced the third best high jump performance (2.24m) of the country so far. He achieved this triumph at the recently concluded Junior Athletic Championship.Also Thiwanka was adjudged as the best athlete in Under 23 age category. But the promising sportsman missed not just his opportunity but also Sri Lanka’s opportunity in bagging a medal at Asian Games 2018. Ushan lost his opportunity not due to any mistake made by himself but a technical error made by sports officials, as it was reported.

The Athletic Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) and the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) are the responsible bodies for sending athletes to the Asian Games. According to reliable sources a dispute between the two organisations had resulted in a massive fuss in the sports sector, creating an unfortunate situation for sports persons.

At Asian Indoor Athletics Championships, held earlier this year in Tehran, Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar won the gold medal for Men’s High Jumping reporting 2.38 meters. Meanwhile Keivan Ghanbarzadeh, an athlete from Iran bagged the silver medal reporting 2.15 meters. Therefore, the stage was well set at least for a silver medal for UshanThivanka or rather Sri Lanka at Asian Games 2018.

Sarnath Fernando, the coach of UshanThivanka had placed a Facebook post recently showing his disappointment regarding the sports officials.

“There are no words to express the frustration. After sacrificing half of our lives to the Sri Lanka Athletics sector, this is what we gain. We both are losing Asian Games because of some officers who just don’t know how to fill a form. I never wish to be born in this country again…” he had posted.

On this very Asian Games, Sri Lankan Tennis players also faced some difficulties. Earlier, It had been decided to send Anika Senevirathne, Savini Jayasuriya and Anjalika Kurera to Asian Games as NOCSL had given 03 spots each for both Men’s and Women’s tennis teams. But later the number of spots were cut down from 06 to 04 and the result was,reducing one member from each team. It seemed that Savini Jayasuriya who claimed to be the second best in the country, was disqualified for no reason. Savini Jayasuriya’s parents went to courts seeking justice and won their case.

Transparency International Sri Lanka had sent a letter on July 24, 2018 to the Minister of Sports , Faiszer Mustapha, calling his attention about the dispute selecting female tennis players.

“…We believe that it is of utmost important to protect integrity within sports ranging from administration to the spirit in which it is played. This is important in maintaining the public trust and encouraging the next generation of budding sports persons…”the letter further denotes.

Meanwhile, speaking to the Sunday Observer, Secretary to the Ministry of Sports, Kamal Padmasiri said that the Ministry has yet received no complaints on any of the above charges.

“We know nothing about a so called dispute between AASL and NOCSL. But as we heard from them some of the players have been disqualified for the Games.

AASL and NOCSL are the ones who are in charge of the selection process. We have received no complaints from any party about a dispute. If there is a complaint we can inquire into that” he further explained.

It was not only Ushan and Savini who faced a similar situation. Upamali Ratnakumari who was selected under the mixed relay category also lost her opportunity due to another mistake made by the sports officials. In the applications only her name was sent for the mixed relay team despite the fact that it’s a four member team event.

It is in fact a terrible humiliation to Sri Lanka, nominating one sports person for an event where four sports persons are needed. This clearly shows nothing but the lack of integrity in the system of sports in Sri Lanka.

“Sports is a very unique thing. Sports is something that needs Integrity and Transparency as the young generation is more engaged in sports. I cannot comment on individual incidents. But as a general opinion, we need to strengthen our legal system in order to overcome this type of incidents.

So, while we are following existing legal procedures, new legal procedures should be implemented too” said Maheshi Herath, Legal Officer at Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre of Transparency International Sri Lanka, sharing her thoughts.