Niluka Latest to Qualify for Olympics
Sri Lanka’s badminton icon Niluka Karunaratne confirmed to Ceylon Today he has qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. This is the third time Niluka has secured a slot in the Olympics. Niluka is the second male badminton player after Niroshan Wijekoon to represent Sri Lanka at the Olympics. He was captain of the 2012 Sri Lankan Olympic contingent, and in his very first match he beat the World No.8 player to advance to the prequarter-finals. Sri Lanka’s No.1 player was once ranked as high as 34th in the BWF World rankings in 2013.
The 36-year-old has had a long run as Sri Lanka’s best shuttler, and was the flag bearer of the 2012 Olympic contingent in London, even though it was his first Olympic Games. Apart from that, he has competed in five consecutive Commonwealth Games from 2002 to 2018. Four months ago (in January) Niluka contracted COVID-19 after his younger brother (cricketer) Chamika tested positive.
Following Karunaratne’s positive test, the National Badminton pool was disbanded, while Niluka had to recover and regroup before making plans to conquer his third Olympic slot. This is not the first time Niluka had to face external circumstances to make it to the Olympics, as in 2015 leading up to the Rio Olympic Games, BWF suspended the local Badminton body, and Niluka lost several opportunities to compete as Sri Lanka’s representative to gain points to increase his world ranking position.
Overall, 172 shuttlers across five categories, including men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles, will compete at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Considering the talent and potential Sri Lanka possesses, badminton remains one of the best bets for a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics for the Sri Lankan contingent.