Athletes beg for Competitions
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
US based high Jumper Ushan Thiwanka Perera and Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon shattered Sri Lanka records twice within a short time span, getting closer and closer to achieving their Olympic dream by gaining more points with each competition at which they participated. Meanwhile, Sri Lankan based athletes who were cheering for their mates overseas are in limbo as they have to beg for competitions from authorities to showcase their talent, for which they have been training throughout these long months facing several obstacles - both physical and mental - due to the present situation in the country.
The latest development regarding the National Athletics Championship 2021 is that Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) have decided to conduct events in stages, with the first stage to be held on 22 and 23 May comprising only 9 Olympic targeted events, while not giving any indication of possible dates for other events. To top that, some of the events that have been scheduled are for athletes who don’t even come close to Olympic qualification by a long shot, which has puzzled other athletes and coaches regarding the basis for selecting such events.
“Isn’t this discrimination? Don't we matter? Aren’t we to get a fair chance to compete which will allow them to judge our performance?” asked a group of National Athletes who did not want to mention their names. "Luckily Ushan and Yupun worked their way to those countries, where they have access to better facilities. If they were stuck here, they would have faced a similar situation and those 2.30s and 10.15s would have been a distant dream,” they added. The National Championship has been postponed several times already.
First it was set to be held in April, and then postponed to May 20-23. SLA then announced they will conduct it on four weekends commencing 22 May, and now they are yet to announce the schedule of other events. This uncertainty has left athletes in a dilemma. Several of them who are not included in the 22/23 May schedule have decided to pack their bags and go to their homes from the places where they are staying for training at present. “We give so much to this sport.
This is what we have been doing all our life without even thinking about another career, studies, family or future. We left our homes, boarded in a camp or boarding house, trained morning and evening 6 days a week eyeing to do better in a competition. And we don’t know what to do when we aren’t even informed about possible competition dates. How can we adjust our training every time they decide to postpone a competition?” complained another group of athletes who were packing their bags.
The whole of 2020 and up to May 2021 (17 months), there have been only two National competitions held in Sri Lanka, while many other countries which are more affected by COVID-19 than Sri Lanka, found ways to continue sports and competitions without changing their schedules. Italy, where Yupun resides, still reports over 8,000 cases per day, with the total number of cases a staggering 4.1 million and total deaths 123,745 as of 14 May, but they still continue with their sports adopting several protocols, and thrive on the world stage.
USA, where Ushan competes, reports daily deaths of over 700, with total deaths exceeding 500,000, but continue to conduct competitions without any change in scheduled dates. Meanwhile, SLA state they are not in a position to take an independent decision regarding competitions due to the present situation, where the country is in virtual lockdown at the moment. SLA President Maj. Gen. Palitha Fernando stated they initially selected 9 Olympic targeted events, while they intend to complete the rest of the events before the Olympic qualification deadline of 29 June, as they have no other option than to adjust to the prevailing situation in the country. They also stated they have requested slots for their top athletes to participate in international competitions, including Diamond League.
99th National Athletics Championship – Stage 1 Day 01 (May 22)
08.00 - 100M Women Heats
08.15 - 100m Men Heats
09.00 - Long Jump Men Final
09.00 – Javelin Throw Men Final
09.00 – 800M Women Final
09.45 – 100m Women Final
10.00- 100m Men Final
Day 02 (May 23)
07.15 - 3000M Steeple Chase Women Final
08.00 - 400M Men Heats
09.00 - Javelin Throw Women Final
09.45 – 400M Women Final
10.00 – 400M Men Final