Sri Lanka Badminton Association (SLBA) will conduct the Satellite Badminton Championship from August 25 to 28 at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. This will be an historic occasion for the SLBA as a highest number of foreign participants will be seen in action at a major tournament in Sri Lanka.
Already nine countries have confirmed their participation in this event and that is a big improvement. Three more countries are expected to join.
Sri Lanka has conducted two Satellite tournaments previously in 1998 under the SLBA President Eraj Wijesinghe and in 2003 under the SLBA President Reza Jumar. This time under Sumith Guruge they plan to conduct the event in a big scale.
Sumith Guruge the present President of SLBA, who was appointed Vice President of the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC) recently, invited other Asian countries for the event and their response has been good.
`Dimbulla` first badminton club
Going back to the Sri Lankan Badminton history, the game was introduced to Ceylon after the advent of British nearly 200 years ago. It`s on record that the first badminton club was formed in 1909 in `Dimbulla` by the British plantation community in the general area of the hill country. Dimbulla club has been conducting badminton tournaments regularly at inter-club and individual basis, during the early part of the 20th century.
However, it was in 1950 that Badminton Association of Ceylon was formed and first Senior National men`s and women`s championships were conducted in 1953. N. M de Silva who pioneered the formation of the association was elected the Founder President of the Badminton Association of Ceylon. The active contribution of E. R. S. R. Coomaraswamy who succeeded him a few years later cannot be forgotten. Basil P. de Silva, the founder Honorary Secretary played a key role in nurturing and developing the game, having served for well over two decades.
From 1950 up to about 1970, however, the game at competition level was confined to a few clubs and a handful of schools mainly in Colombo barring one or two outstation schools.
However, an important milestone was achieved in the latter part of 1970 when the Schools Badminton Association of Ceylon was formed by the legendary Ariyadasa Silva of Ambalangoda. With the Schools Association conducting it`s first ever Junior Nationals in June 1971 saw a huge participation amongst the school children from all parts of the Island.
Today, the Badminton Association could boast over 600 children taking part at the Junior Nationals (2004) from 150 schools which is arguably the singular largest tournament in Sri Lanka. It has 20 active District Associations and arrangements are being made to popularize the game in an organized manner in the other districts as well.
From 1972 onwards it was renamed as the Sri Lanka Badminton Association (SLBA). The Wijesekeras`s and badminton are inseparable, Dr A. R. L. Wijesekera, his wife Nanda (who was the first women`s champion) and both their sons having represented the country at the highest level. Dr A. R. L. Wijesekera continues to serve the game in an advisory capacity at the SLBA up to date.
Dr R. Vigneshwaran, who served with utmost love and dedication needs special mention. Apart from the grooming many players, for his singular effort to obtain the block of land from the Ministry of Sports and getting an indoor stadium and head quarters complex for the SLBA.
Sri Lanka Badminton Foundation
Late Minister, Lalith Athulathmudali, who was the President of the SLBA during the period 1985 to 1990, did yeoman service for development of badminton in Sri Lanka by establishing the Sri Lanka Badminton Foundation to help and encourage deserving and talented players on the same lines like his brain child, the `Mahapola Scholarship Scheme`. Today, Badminton Foundation gives good support to talented players like Niluka Karunaratne, who is ranked 71 in the world.
P. Sivalingam, the first men`s national champion, guided the SLBA as the President of the Badminton Association of Ceylon, during the period 1967 to 1973 and again from 1977 to 1979.
Former national champions like L. R. Ariyananda, Gerry Chandrasena, who was an outstanding doubles player, Lucky Dharmasena, Ravi Kuruppu, Chandi Mallawarachchi, Niroshan Wijekoon, Kaushalya Dissanayake and Chandrika de Silva all have excelled. Chandrika is still plying the game having won nine women`s titles.
The present national men`s champion 21-year-old Niluka Karunaratne easily can be named the most outstanding shuttler Sri Lanka has produced so far. He is the first Sri Lankan shuttler to play at an IBF World Badminton Championship ( held in Los Angeles USA last week).
Eraj Wijesinghe was the first Sri Lankan to be appointed as a Vice President of the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC). He is also a council member of the International Badminton Federation and also the first Sri Lankan official to enter IBF Executive Committee. The present SLBA President Sumith Guruge is also a Vice President of ABC as well as being entrusted the task of Director Regional Development of the SAF region by the ABC.
During this period badminton has become so popular Island wide and it could boast to be second only to cricket.