Cyclists need more opportunities - Hemantha Kumara

Hemantha Kumara, who is among leading cyclists in the country, believes the facilities that the Sri Lankan cyclists get now must be improved quite a lot. He aired these views with ‘Sunday Island – Sportstar’ in a recent interview.

"I am the number one ranked cyclist in the country according to last year’s rankings but even I don’t have shelter to live. These flaws in cycling in Sri Lanka must be corrected and the children of poor families, who perform well in this sport, must get more opportunities," said Hemantha.

With an overall timing of 9 hours, 13 minutes and 4 seconds, Hemantha who is attached to Sri Lanka Navy set the track on fire on his way to win the Air Force cycle tour that was held last week.

Air Force Cycle Tour –

The race, which was about 350 kilo meters, was divided into two stages. The first stage was flagged off from the Air Force headquarters in Colombo, which reached Nuwara Ealiya passing Palmadulla and Bandarawela. The second stage of the race was flagged off from Nuwara Ealiya and reached the Air Force headquarters to finish the 2009 edition of this annual Air Force cycle tour.

The first stage of the race was won by K.S. Kumara of Sri Lanka Navy while Indika Warnasuriya of Sri Lanka Army came second. The third place was won by Janaka Samarasekara of Wing Wheel Club.

The sailor clocked 2:31:12 seconds in the first part of the first stage (Colombo to Bandarawela) and went on to time 2:47:34 seconds in the second part of the first stage (Bandarawela to Nuwara Ealiya). Then he finished the third and the final stage with the quickest timing of 3:54:18 seconds (Nuwara Ealiya to Colombo) to win the Air Force cycle tour 2009 in a grand manner.

Kotadeniya to SL Navy –

Hemantha, an old boy of Karunaratne MV Kotadeniya, joined Sri Lanka Navy in 2004 when he was 24. He had his first experience in cycling during an ‘Avurudu Uthsawaya’ at his home town Kotadeniya and went on to participate in ‘bigger’ races from then onwards. Representing in well-known cycle races opened up his door to join the Navy and he grabbed that opportunity with both hands as the Navy was an ideal place to improve his cycling abilities.

"When I was 18 or 19, Ajith Sisirakumara was a famous cyclist in my hometown and the way he raced impressed me. That was the main point why I turned to competitive cycling," said Hematha explaining his beginnings in the sport.

Apart from cycling, Hemantha was a fine athlete representing in long distance running and discus throwing during his school days. He has won medals in the district sports meets in 1,500m, 10,000m and discus throwing events.

Milestone in Career –

The sailor later went on to make his country proud by winning two SAG medals in the South Asian Championship held in Colombo. He won a silver medal in the team event and a bonze in the individual event.

The Pakistan Cycling Tour 2008, which includes 11 stages, is an important milestone in Hemantha’s career as he was placed fifth there in the overall standings (according to timing) including becoming first in the seventh stage.

"At the end of the day, I must say that, as Sri Lankan cyclists, we need more and more support, opportunities and facilities. In that case, Sri Lanka Navy does a handy job for their cyclists. We have to request that others too should come forward and support this sport," pleaded Hemantha.

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