ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has identified shooting, archery and weight lifting as potential Olympic winners and the government is forming a long term plan to win medals in the world’s top sports event, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Namal Rajapaksa told parliament.
Sri Lanka’s hopes of winning a medal in the 32ndOlympics were shattered as ten athletes representing the country performed below the expectations with some even failed to reach their personal best in the qualifying events.
Sri Lanka has won only two medals in the 125-year Olympics history. Duncan White won a silver medal at men’s 400-meter hurdlesin the 1948 London Olympics, while Susanthika Jayasinghe won another silver medal in 2002 Sydney Olympics in 200-meter sprint.
“We have specially identified shooting, archery, and weight lifting as such sports,” Minister Rajapaksa told the parliament on Thursday (5).
“We expect to send select athletes for foreign training. Already five athletes are in foreign training and some others have been identified for 2024 and 2028 also are on the training.
“A country works 10-15 years to win an Olympic medal. For instance, Japan has come to third place (in the current Olympics) because it started working on this 15 years back. But what we see in our country is our sports programmes is being changed every six months.
“That’s why we are in the process s of formulating a long term plan, targeting 2032 through Sports Council to win medals.”
Sports analysts say the key reasons for the lack of medals in South Asian countries is poor investment in infrastructure and training, interference by corrupt politicians and lack of promotion and interest in sports at grass roots level.
Lack of opportunities to compete at regional or international events is also a barrier.
Countries that win the most medals are able to provide athletes with better infrastructure and training and competition opportunities.
State intervention had been seen in former communist bloc, but in most Western countries, sports bodies and booster clubs are independent and funded privately.
Sri Lanka 2020 Olympic team included athletes representing swimming, shooting, gymnastic, athletics, judo, equestrian, and badminton.
In terms of performance, teenager Milka Gehani performed better-than-expected. Sri Lanka represented in equestrian and gymnastic events for the first time in the history.
Minister Rajapaksa said the country should understand that the selection of athletes to Olympics depends on the performance in the International Amateur Athletic Federation approved events.
Only three athletes – Mathilda Karlsson(Equestrian), Milka Gehani (Gymnastics), and Yupun Abeykoon (Athletics) – were selected from Sri Lanka based on their international performance.
“All others were given opportunity on awild card system,” Rakapaksa said. “So we are in the process of developing a long term plan targeting Olympics. When implementing the plan, we have identified sports events which can win medals for the country, apart from track and field events.”
In a bid to promote sports, the government has decided to build six-lane 400-meter running track in both Torrington and Kurunagala grounds while the country will see 130-meter running track in five sports schools, Rajapaksa told the parliament.