Favouritism galore in boxing, badminton and archery for Asian Games : Sri Lankan athletes caught in dirty crossfire | Sunday Observer

Favouritism galore in boxing, badminton and archery for Asian Games : Sri Lankan athletes caught in dirty crossfire

Ushan Thiwanka and Upamalika Ratnakumari
Ushan Thiwanka and Upamalika Ratnakumari

The rot that is taking place in Sri Lanka athletics and the attitude of the so-called National Olympic Committee (NOC) which has jurisdiction over all Olympic sports bodies in the country, has come full cycle with the shocking omission of 20 year old high jumper Ushan Thiwanka from the ongoing Asian Games in Indonesia..

Thiwanka qualified to represent Sri Lanka as the number one jumper in the island but because of a closed-door game by the NOC and the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) his name was rejected by the Asian Games Committee.

The NOC points the finger at the AASL saying they (AASL) had sent in the wrong particulars of Thiwanka to them (NOC) to be submitted to the Games organizers. In turn the AASL charge that the NOC had blundered by sending what it called wrong information about the high jumper.

But independent analysts allege that the game played by the NOC and the AASL had only sabotaged Thiwanka’s entry to the Games while the two entities settled personal scores.

According to the National Olympic Committee (NOC), Thiwanka’s entry had not been included in the list by the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) as per the online system which only came to the attention of the NOC on July 9 which was passed the June 30 deadline.

But the AASL claims it was the NOC that had sent an in complete or incorrect list that caused Thiwanka to be shut out from the Games.

The NOC also claimed that they did not enter the names of any athletes as they (NOC) gave access to each and every National Sports Federation to make the entries in the long lists on their own.

“It’s the responsibility of all National Sports Federations to properly enter the names of their respective athletes using the online system”, said Maxwell de Silva, Secretary General of the NOC.

However according to Thiwanka’s coach Sanrath Fernando the scenario was brought about by both the NOC and the AASL who he said “are not in good terms” for personal and political reasons.

“The bottom line is that neither the NOC nor the AASL took the responsibility to submit the necessary documents properly to the Games organizers.

“When I questioned the NOC they blame the AASL and when I ask the AASL they blame the NOC. They keep passing the buck and the athletes pay for it”, said Fernando.

Thiwanka hails from Maris Stella College in Negombo and is now ruefully watching the Games at home on television.

Analysts contend that whatever has happened only shows the sordid state of Sri Lankan athletics that is being influenced by some shady characters who are hell bent at sabotaging the efforts of genuine officials for self gain at the expense of soft targets like Thiwanka and several others who have been victims of bad governance over the years. Some even say that it is not cricket but athletics that needs to be brought under a government appointed Interim Committee.

In another case Sri Lanka’s entry for the 4x400m mixed relay event was also rejected as the Games organizers found only the name of Upamalika Ratnakumari on the list.

The other three athletes were Aruna Darshana, Dilip Ruwan and Rumeshika Ratnayake who should have been entered to run in the relay. In this case the AASL had been blamed for its appalling behaviour that shut out the three runners.

Badminton player Buwaneka Gunatilleke was also removed from participating in the Singles event and authorised only for the Doubles event which was also blamed on the part of the NOC for making an arbitrary ruling on the entry for reasons best known to it (NOC).

In a further development it has been revealed that the NOC had included two men as boxing coaches for the Asian Games without the approval of the sport’s governing body.

Sri Lanka sent six boxers to the Games.

The Boxing Association had wanted Amila Tissera and Harsha Kumara as coaches along with Dian Gomes as manager. But approval has been granted for coach Manju Wanniarachchie along with a Ukraine coach to make it to the Games.

Sri Lankan boxers came up with three bronze medals at the last Commonwealth Games and are top contenders for medals at the Asian Games.

The list of screw-ups and omissions also has another episode where only one archer who was placed sixth in the rankings was given the nod for the Games.

Originally four archers were to make it.