LNP – Olympians Sunil, Sriyani back decision to scrap competitive sports for Under 13 age category

While highlighting the need to have sports events to keep the youth athletes interested in sports, Olympians Sunil Gunawardena and Sriyani Kulawansa backed the Ministry of Education (MoE) decision to scrap competitions for the Under-13 age category from 2021.

Both Asian Games medalist cited the quest of result oriented coaches to win at any cost at lower age categories as one of the reasons for the waning of standards at senior level.

‘The Island’ interviewed coaches and enthusiasts for their views on the decision by the MoE and their views were carried in these columns during the past few days. The thoughts of Olympian Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam were carried yesterday.

“I have introduced athletes to specific event training after they reached a certain age. You take the case of Damayanthi Dharsha or Shehan Ambepitiya, they were introduced to specific event training when they were 15 plus or so. They continued for years at senior level. There are coaches who ruin young athletes by providing them with various supplements and persuading them to achieve mindboggling performances at very young ages. But we can not see them performing at senior level,” said Gunawardena.

Teheran Asian Games gold medallist (1974), Gunawardena has been a top athletics administrator and one of the best track and field coaches the country has ever had.

“On this backdrop I back the Ministry of Education decision to scrap competitive sports for the lower age categories. But there should be events for the athletes in the lower age categories to take part in,” opined Gunawardena.

Kulawansa who had a glittering athletics career stressed the importance of promoting alternative events for kids in the wake of the Ministry decision to scrap competitive sports for the Under-13 age category.

“Look at the results of all island schools competitions. There are outstanding performances at the Under-16 age category. But those who achieve them are not seen at senior level.

“There are some parents who are crazy on getting their children to achieve outstanding performances at national level in sports at a very young age. There are also coaches who are prepared to get them those instant results giving little regard for the long term goals they could achieve. Yes. To stop that this decision will help,” said Kulawansa who is currently a project officer at the Ministry of Education but had no say in the Ministry’s decision.

“If you stop all sports in Under-13 category that will end sports in Sri Lanka. Children should be encouraged to do the sports they like. There are alternative methods to keep them interested. ‘Cool volleyball and kids athletics are some examples,” said Kulawansa.

Kulawansa who played volleyball, netball and elle at her early teenage years before concentrating on a track and field career still holds the national (100m Hurdles) hurdles record 24 years after it was established at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

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