A competition with a cause | Sunday Observer

A competition with a cause

The competition aims to utilise all funds received to provide sanitary facilities for the less privileged schools in the Haputale area where the hiking trail extends

Sri Lanka’s hiking competition - the Thornton Competition Hike 2019 was held recently with the participation of over 50 teams from universities, higher education institutes, corporate and government sector organisations as well a few foreign nationals.

Don Amila Pradeep and Reshadie Sandeepa won the Overall Winner title at the end of competition. In the men’s category, Rasika Gayan and Ruwan Lakmal won second and third place while Dinushika Munasinghe and Ama Bandara won second and third places in the women’s event.

The award for supporting other competitors and extraordinary sportsmanship was won by Sanjaya Rathnaweera who engaged in the competition alone and completed in the 9th position. The Bravery Award was given to Patalee Perera.

Hiking is walking through natural pathways containing arduous trails. It requires a high level of physical fitness and mobility to walk along rigorous trails containing hills and mountains. Although hiking is not so popular and competition hiking is a completely new concept in Sri Lanka, it is a widely popular sport in the world.

The hiking route of the Thornton Competition Hike 2019 extended to approximately 38 kilometres uphill from the Bambarakanda falls to the World’s End Junction at the Ohiya- World’s End Road, a picturesque trail that includes scenic areas such as Worlds End, Nagrac Estate, Devils Staircase, Great Worlds End Drop and the renowned Ohiya Village and railway station.

The competition conducted on two days consisted of three stages. The extreme category was a distance of approximately 38 kilometres which was meant only for men. The female category extended for 10 kilometres and the children’s category was a distance of five kilometres uphill. Each group consisted of three members from the same organisation.

Although hiking is exciting, it was not a cake walk for the participants. The journey through the mountains was challenging. Participants were given a map to reach their destination as fast as possible but some were stranded in the jungle without knowing which direction to move. However, the organisers located them to give them the necessary aid.

Event Director, Thornton Competition Hike 2019, Deepthi Perera is an off road racing and rallying enthusiast who saw the possibilities of opening avenues for hiking, especially competition hiking, while he was taking part in four by four competitions in various parts of the country.

“There are many hiking enthusiasts in the country. People still love hiking and do hiking in small groups such as with their families and friends. They cannot engage in hiking at their liberty due to certain restrictions such as the requirement of obtaining permission from various authorities to trek and hike in certain areas such as forest reserves. These are the most exciting and ideal places for hiking. My objective for organising a national event is to encourage those who are interested in hiking as a sport as well as to popularise competition hiking in Sri Lanka which will also support the tourism industry in the country”, he said.

There was no age limit for participants and anyone with a good level of fitness to hike a distance of over twenty kilometres were qualified to take part in the event. The youngest participant Lee is a 14-year-old Thai national who shared his experience with Youth Observer.  
“I have travelled extensively in Sri Lanka and have seen many beautiful places. This was the first time that I took part in a hiking competition. The competition was very exciting as well as challenging. Apart from requiring a good level of fitness, hiking teaches us to accept life’s challenges, as any other sport. If the competition is held annually, I will surely take part in it, because I know I can gather a lot of experience,” said Lee.  
“Hiking is a good sport. It is a good cardio workout that increases the heart beat. It allows inhaling fresh air. It gives strength  and helps shed body fat,” said another competitor.
The competition was also conducted for a cause. It aims to utilise all the funds received for the event to provide sanitary facilities for the less privileged schools in the Haputale area where the competition hiking trail extends. “Some of the schools in that area are in a deplorable state. The community is backward and the children have no proper facilities to study. Engaging in a sport is a luxury for those children who struggle to even attend school. In order to extend a helping hand to these children we are improving the schools with sanitary facilities and necessary sports items to promote sanitation as well as their physical fitness,”said Perera.