Hidden talent

Sri Lanka pinning its medal hopes on disciplines like chess, rowing, billiards and golf at the Asian Games indicates that uncut ‘gems’ can be found not only in the athletics field but in other sports as well

By Samiddha Kalmith Rathnayake
It is most probably athletics which carries our usual medal prospects at any kind of international meet. It is high time to change the situation. A contingent of 150 athletes will be leaving for Qatar to represent Sri Lanka in the 15th Asian Games and among these athletes there are members of four less popular sports.
Authorities have included chess, rowing, golf and billiards and they feel there are some promising medal prospects in these sports at the Asian Games. These four sports which are not much focused on in our sports arena seem to have some hidden talent in them.
Billiards and snooker are sports which continue to be conducted under a lot of difficulties. But still Tissa Samarasinghe, the secretary of the association says that they are sending some players including K.H.Sirisoma and Susantha Botheju who have reached the international level. “We are sending these players for three different events” he said.
Billiards and snooker, eight ball and nine ball pools will be the events that Sri Lankans will be taking part in. “This is a great opportunity for us to show our real talent to the world,” Samarasinghe said.
When it comes to rowing it will be really tough for Lankan rowers as they will be facing a challenge from some of the strongest teams in the world. This includes China, a country which is rated amongst the best five teams in world rankings. Sri Lankan rowers will have to be at their best to earn some sort of recognition during their fifteen day stay.
The Sri Lankans will be performing in the light weight category which includes the double scull and the single scull. The climatic conditions will be the key factor for the crew.
Lakmal Wickramage, who will bear the responsibility as the coach and the manager of the three member team said that according to what he had heard from the organisers the temperature is said to range from six to thirty-two degrees. “But we expect it to be somewhere around twenty-five. We only wish there is good weather during the event and we are determined to perform well there,” Wickremage said.
Chess is a sport that is slowly gaining popularity in the country. A three member team including the national chess champion, Athula Russell, will be taking part at the Asian Games.
In an era where the game of chess is becoming more and more popular in this part of the world, it is quite interesting to know the thoughts of the president of the federation.
Luxman Wijesooriya, President Chess Federation of Sri Lanka says that it is not the past records that matter for this type of event. “It is your initial performances that will count at the Asian level. It is not only the medals but the opportunity to also help improve the ratings of our players as well,” Wijesooriya said.
Though the silver medalist in golf at the last Asian Games, Anura Rohana, is not representing Sri Lanka, the island nation still has some promising talent. The manager of the four member golf team, Nirmal Hettiarachchi, told The Nation that they are keen on repeating another noteworthy performance.
“We always face strong competition from Japan, Korea and India at this level of the game. But we are confident that we can do well at Qatar because we had the luck of participating at some very competitive tournaments during the past few months,” Hettiarachchi said.
Any medal from these four sports will be an extra advantage for us and it will help refresh not only the memories of the authorities, but also the sports lovers of this country.