Cancellation of events puts Niluka on pins
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
Sri Lanka’s number one shuttler Niluka Karunarathne was among several affected by the lastminute cancellation of BWF international events leading up to Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The 36-year-old two-time Olympian was on a mission to achieve his third Olympic berth with two more international events in Malaysia and Singapore leading up to the Olympics to come, which would have easily ensured his qualification without a hassle. Niluka who tested positive for COVID-19 in January this year underwent 28 days of quarantine following that, which pushed his game and fitness back, but the experienced shuttler regained his form to come up through the ranking.
During the 56th Portuguese Championship last week, he beat Danish shuttler Kim Bruun and Estonian shuttler Raul Must and qualified for the semifinals. He was then set to play in the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open 2021 (from 25 to 30 May) and Singapore Open (01 to 06 June), but both events were cancelled. Niluka has now to wait until the Badminton World Federation (BWF) finalizes the qualification list for men’s singles. Niluka was earlier affected by cancellation of Asian Regional Championships. Competitors earn higher points at these championships compared to other tournaments. On his return, Niluka was faced with a sudden change in Government rules, and is now undergoing 14-day quarantine without a place to train, just two months away from the Olympics.