Sri Lankan Contingent that took part in the 22nd Asian athletic championship returned home today with Gold and 4 silver medals.

The team arrived in the Island at 07.2o in the morning and were received by the Athletic association officials and well-wishers and preceded to the ministry of sports where the Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara facilitated the winners and the members of the contingent at the Sports Ministry auditorium.

Gen. Plaitha Fernando Chairman of Athletic Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) congratulated the athletes and applauded them for making the motherland proud and achieving great heights performing at the Asian Level.  He went on to congratulate the exceptional performance by Nimali Liyanarachi and the Mens’s 4X400M relay team

“Nimali has been qualified to represent Asia at the world athletic championship next month and when we consider in the results in an international perspective after a lapse of many years we have run a time under 3.5 minutes in the Men’s 4X400M. In the Year 2017 our team’s performance is placed 15th in the world out of over 200 nations and only India is in front of us, this is a remarkable feat. We need to make it a start and take it forward”

He also had a stern message which was addressed to all but had implications of certain athletes and coaches with personal interests not falling in line with the interest of the team and specially the motherland they represent “ In athletics when you are representing your country there is no space for Individual gain. Next year we have two very important meets, Commonwealth Championships and the Asian Games if we are to excel at these meets we need to let go of these thoughts and focus on the fact that we are representing the motherland and the country”

Chairman Fernando had a strong message for anyone who fail to adhere to the country first attitude saying that “if any athlete or a coach cannot fall in line with this and has the attitude of I have to win my event or I have to do it for myself they can venture on their own but not as a team that represents the country”. He was also high of praise for the Minister of sports “The minster has spent over 5 million on this championship alone for all the athletes.  I believe we have done justice for that money spent. We have not received funding like this before for any event. ”

Minister of Sports Dayasiri Jayasekara congratulated all the athletes who excelled and urged the others to have a steady focus and excel in their events as there will be plenty of opportunity in the future. He also mentioned that from the government they have taken steps to get the required money for the upcoming events allocated and will make sure to support the athletes. He added that

“We have to look forward to the 2018 commonwealth games and the Asian games. I had conversation with the Chairman and the secretary of the AASL and advised them that they need to sit down with the respective coaches of the athletes and create a program for them to be trained in a foreign country with better facilities. I am not implying that the coaching here would do the job but we are hoping that the athletes will receive a cutting edged training from participating in foreign training programs”

Manjula Kumara the Sri Lankan skipper on the contingent profusely thanked the Minister on behalf of the whole squad for arranging a 10 day training program for the athletes prior to the Asian Championship in India and added that it was a huge advantage for the Sri Lankan contingent as they got acclimatized to the conditions well. He also thanked the minister for accommodating the request from the athletes provide two masseuses without   a second thought and added that these personnel aided the wins that they managed during the championship. he also went on to add the emotional tale of how one of the masseuse’s father passed away during the tour but he stayed back with the team missing the funeral putting country first so the athlete’s preparation  will not be hampered.

While Sri Lankan Athletes and their coaches are along with the supports staff are committing themselves to the national cause aided by the ministry it seems like the Sri Lankan athletics is on the up.  A major hampering fact in this process was the lack of a functional training facility for the athletes Minster promised that the Sugathadasa stadium will be handed to that athletes by November . With all the positivity it is sad to note that the medal winning athletes had to return home via a 24 hour flight that included a transit period of over 8 hours. When this concern was raised by Badra Gunawardane an official of the touring party the minster queries the secretary of the athletic association as to why this was the case. He received a prompt response that the flights via Chennai would have been shorted bu t would have been expensive.  We at sincerely hope and pray that the officials pay better attention to details going forward as lengthy he hardworking athletes who were returning home after representing the country were visibly exhausted after a flight that came cheap.