Unclear Qualification System Leave Athletes in Quandary
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
For the first time in history, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa took steps to ensure 21 National track and field athletes entered into a contract and would receive Rs 100,000 per month apart from nutrition allowances. The Minister stated that now it’s up to the Athletics Association to carry out the technical aspects, by setting qualification standards and making recommendations, while the High-Performance Committee of the Sports Ministry will oversee the funding.
With the latest development, National athletes are wondering how exactly they could get into the said pool, as even athletes who achieved qualification standards have been excluded despite being recommended by Sri Lanka Athletics. As per Sri Lanka Athletics, entry standard for the Elite pool is also considered entry standard for the high-performance pool.
Entry standard for the Elite pool was revised and made more demanding, hence, SLA had clearly stated in the qualification guidelines that there won’t be a limit to the number of athletes in each event for entry to the elite pool if they can meet the tough qualification standards.
“We are not arguing about the qualification system. but we should be informed about the system clearly. We thought it’s the same as the elite pool entry standard, but if not, if there is a limit per athlete for each event, and if there's a clear time frame when they alter the pool. If the Sports ministry can publish clear qualification guidelines for the high-performance pool, it will give clarity to both athletes and coaches,” said a coach who wished to remain anonymous.
Since the highperformance pool was initiated, Sri Lanka Athletics conducted three competitions - National Trials in April, a fitness Test and National Championship in May. Based on the performance in the three competitions, SLA recommended three changes to the highperformance pool. 800m runner Champika Dilrukshi achieved Elite pool qualification standard of 2 minute 06 seconds by clocking 2 minute 03.86 seconds in the event. Her performance ranks as 11th best performance in Asia this year. Vinoj Suranjaya de Silva (100m) and Pasindu Kodikara (400m) were removed from the pool.
Vinoj came in 4th place at the National Trials and gave up the race in the National Championship. His seasonal best stands at 10.64 compared to his personal best 10.27 achieved in 2018. Pasindu Kodikara did not take part in any competition citing injury, while his performance to get into the pool was 47.71 seconds in 2020 December where he finished 5th.
In his place they included Sahan Rajapaksa who finished second in the 100m at the National Championship and Senira Gunarathne who finished second in the National Trials clocking 46.82 seconds. But despite these changes being made, they have still not been implemented. This has res ulted in Athletes wondering about their targets, as several who have performed better than high performance pool athletes, continue to get nothing from the authorities.
It has also created confusion among athletes, and they are now trying to petition the HighPerformance Committee individually in a bid to be included in the pool based on their performance after each competition, as they have lost hopes about being treated fairly by SLA authorities even after they meet the given qualifying standards.
Another athlete, Javelin Thrower Dilhani Lekamge, achieved the qualification standard (55.40M) with a throw of 56.94m during Stage One of the Army Athletics championship held on 15 June, but the former Asian Championship Silver medalist has slim hopes of being selected to the highperformance pool with these developments.