For a tiny Island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has always been a keen competitor in the world of sport.
This nation is blessed with sportsmen & women who strive for excellence to make the motherland proud by achieving greatness on the world stage through sheer hard work despite the limitation of resources and technical knowledge compared to leading countries in the world.
With a vision to provide much needed state recognition and felicitate the gallant efforts by the sportingcommunity, the 1 st ever “Presidential Sports Awards”, an initiative by the Minister of Sports Hon.Dayasiri Jayasekara was held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall (BMICH) withthe patronage of His Excellency the President Hon. Maitripala Sirisena and the Prime minister Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe.
Sportsmen/women, Coaches, Administrators, officials and media personnel, who achieved great heights in their respective discipline in the Calendar year of 2015 were felicitated at the event. Also of note was the 14 life time awards presented to individuals who had rendered invaluable service to the sporting sector and were true ambassadors of the Island.
Welcoming the gathering, Minister Jayasekara thanked all involved in making this much needed event a possibility as an event of this stature will encourage and drive the countries sporting fraternity to achieve greater heights. The Minister went on to add that “It’s time we evolve from being a country which would win an one off medal or have moments of brilliance, to a consistent high achiever in the world stage. Today’s event is a stepping stone for a long journey ahead as we are looking to develop the grass roots levels. A mechanism is already in place to make squads starting from 14 year olds which would have approximately 50,000 young sports men/women who would be nurtured and ably supported to achieve their potential and bring glory to the motherland”.
A golden token of appreciation was presented to officials who had completed 25 years of service in the sporting sector by the Deputy Minister of Sports Hon. H.M.M Harees.
President Sirisena was then accompanied by Minister Jayasekara to give away the life-time awards. 14 individuals who have served the country were honoured with Kreeda Prabha, Kreeda Rathna, Kreeda Lanka Pradeepa, Kreeda Keerthi, Kreeda Deshoththara and Kreedadimani awards.
Three “Kreedabimani” awards, the highest state honour any Sri Lankan sportsman/women can achieve, were presented at the event. Susanthika Jayasinghe who won the Silver medal at 2000 Sydney Olympics, Arjuna Ranathunga the 1996 world cup winning captain and Muttiah Mularitharan world’s leading Test wicket taker were the recipients of this prestigious awards.
Presidential award for the Most Outstanding Sportswoman of 2015 was won by Nimali Liyan Arachchige, Bronze medal winning athlete at the Asian games.
Kumar Sangakkara was adjudged the Most Outstanding Sportsman for 2015.
Veteran ICC Match referee Ranjan Madugalle, who recently became the first match referee to officiate 300 One Day internationals was adjudged the Sports Personality of the Year 2015.
The Sri Lanka Cricket team won the presidential award for the Most Outstanding Sports Team of the Year while Asian champions, the national youth netball team won the award for the Most Outstanding Junior Team of the Year.
Accepting the invitation from Minister Jayasekara to address the gathering, President Sirisena commended the remarkable work done by the organizers headed by the Minister of Sports for planning and delivering a much needed event of this stature. He further stated that “A country needs a national plan and policies to excel; similarly in sports it’s necessary to have a national plan and policies in place to execute them. If you look at the countries which have excelled in the region they have had long term plans in place , unfortunately in Sri Lanka policies have changed when politicians, administrators, officials change . We have now established a national policy for sport and we will strive to achieve excellence”.
Awards for the most outstanding players were awarded in an array of sports, including, Archery, Athletics, Automobile racing, Badminton, Basketball, Chess, Cricket, Cycling, Fencing, Football, Golf, Karate, Life Saving, Netball, Powerlifting, Rugby, Shooting, Swimming, Squash, Table tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Wrestling, Weight Lifting.
A vote through a ballot introduced at the event adjudged the Most Popular Sportsman/Woman while the Most Popular Junior Sportsman/Woman was awarded at the end of the event.
Kimiko Rahim, Sri Lanka swimming sensation was voted the Most Popular Junior Sportswoman of the year while Devshan Wijeywickrama the young Trinity weight lifter was voted the Most Popular Junior Sportsman of the year.
The Sri Lanka youth netball team skipper and national team deputy Gayani Dissanayake was voted the Most Popular Sports Woman of the Year. In the men’s Category to no-one’s surprise, it was Kumar Sangakkara who was voted the Most Popular Sportsman of the Year 2015 having being already awarded the Most Outstanding Player of the Year, Most Outstanding Cricketer of the Year and President Colours awards for 2015.