Niluka signs off in style
Sri Lanka’s badminton icon Niluka Karunaratne announced his retirement from local events after he claimed the men’s singles title for the 17th occasion at the 68th National Badminton Championships worked off at the Mercantile Badminton Association Courts in Colombo yesterday.
However,the 36-year-old two-time Olympian will be competing in the international arena as he targets a berth in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Playing for one last time in local events, Niluka got the better of Rasindu Hendahewa to claim the title after a thrilling two setter (21-17, 21-16) to retain the trophy at the Karunaratne residence for 20 years.
The encounter between the two top seeds was a close tussle, with Olympian Niluka setting up the tone from the get go to frustrate his opponent in the early exchanges to take a 1-0 lead by winning the first set 21-17 With his vast experience, Niluka was in the driving seat for much of the second set and began producing the type of game he is well known for, and clinched it comfortably 21-16. Niluka once again proved that he is one of Sri Lanka’s brightest prospects in the international arena.
Earlier, the famous Karunaratne brothers, Niluka and Dinuka, also walked out as the men’s doubles champions, overcoming Lakindu Ranaweera and Ruhan Wijesinghe in a two setter (21-17, 23-21).
Born on 13 February 1985 in Galle, Niluka Karunaratne is probably the best badminton player the Island nation has ever seen. Niluka, the eldest of the Karunaratne brothers, has won the National championship for 17 long years and has represented the Olympics in 2012 and 2016. He is followed by Dinuka, who is a national Badminton player, Dinuka who has won the national Badminton championship thrice, and then the youngest of the lot, Chamika who plays badminton and is also involved in Cricket too.
Niluka is the second male badminton player after Niroshan Wijekoon to represent Sri Lanka at the Olympics. Captaining the 2012 Sri Lankan Olympic contingent, Niluka beat the World No.8 player in his first match to advance to the pre-quarter-finals. The Sri Lankan No.1 was ranked 34th in the BWF World rankings in 2013.
Indeed, the Karunaratnes have dominated Sri Lanka badminton, let’s say, this millennium. The National Badminton Championship Trophy sits pretty at the Karunaratne family home for 20 long years, untouched. Sri Lanka is yet to find a player to beat this two time Olympian.