Sri Lanka’s badminton enters a new frontier | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka’s badminton enters a new frontier

Prof Ranjit de Silva
Prof Ranjit de Silva

It is a pleasant coincidence that August 9 will remain auspicious in the annals of Sri Lankan badminton. For it is on this date, two years running that the island nation’s athletes set two enviable records that will remain etched in its history.

On August 9, 2008, 23-year old Thilini Jayasinghe became the nation’s first woman badminton player to qualify for an Olympic Games and exactly a year later to the day, two teenagers Achini Ratnasiri and Upuli Samanthika Weerasinghe won the nation’s first gold medal in badminton at an Asian Championship.

The girls achieved this singular success at the 2009 Asian Under-16 Championship held in Colombo.

In fact, Sri Lankans will remember the most recent Championship for more than the gold medal won by Achini and Upuli in the girls doubles in the individual championship.

The ecstatic president of the Sri Lanka Badminton Association, Prof Ranjit de Silva explained. “We will recall the 2009 Championship for three historic reasons. Apart from the gold medal winning performance of Achini and Upuli, it was the first time in the 50-year history of the Association that the SLBA had been privileged with a Continental Championship and the first time that the national team had ever won a medal of any colour at the Asian level. A bronze medal was achieved in the Girls’ Team Event in Colombo,” he said.

Prof. Ranjit remembers the status of his association’s standing among other countries in respect of its athletes’ performance.

“Normally for an Asian championship, Sri Lanka sends a team of between 4 to 8 players who at best survive the second round. Where medals are concerned, we have never achieved that. But at this age-group Asian event this year, we fielded 23 players and the unexpectedly high performances from some of them, helped the nation to an unprecedented 12 medals. These were achieved in individual and the team events.

“Of course, the singular accomplishment of Archini and Upuli was exceptional and to believe that they were not even seeded. And what was more satisfying was that Sri Lanka also picked up the silver medal in this discipline through Oshadie Kuruppu and Sushmita Illangakoon. This was indeed remarkable.”

Prof. Ranjit, who is a member of the Executive Council of Badminton Asia Confederation, feels that this is the start of a new beginning for the sport on the island.

“We have one of the most vibrant junior programs in the region yet somehow we have not been able to convert that positive national curriculum to produce results.”

But the national body’s top ‘honco’ sees a silver lining on the horizon and explains the reasons: “In April last year, a new management took over the administration of the sport in Sri Lanka with a mandate to spread the game to every corner of the island. Our main task was to zoom in on the young ones and provide potentials with overseas exposure and specialized training. And the result of our efforts was seen at the recently concluded Asian Championship.

“Having set the base, we now have to plan and implement the next phase of development which would be to mould these youngsters to meet the stronger challenges of the higher age groups.

“Hopefully in the not too distant future, Sri Lanka will be able to produce players in the calibre who will be able to hold their own in the company of the best in the game,” explained Prof Ranjit de Silva.

Results of Asian under-16 2009

GIRLS DOUBLES

Achini Ratnasiri and Upuli Weerasinghe (SL) beat Oshadie Kuruppu and Sushmita Illangakoon (SL) 21-5, 21-11

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