Sports Ministry, NOC set mind-boggling qualifying standards

by Reemus Fernando

Athletics, Sri Lanka’s single most medal-winning sport at Asian level, is likely to be the first casualty after the Sports Ministry and the National Olympic Committee (NOC) joined hands to issue a new set of qualifying standards yesterday to select sportsman and women to represent the country at future Major International competitions such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.

The Sports Ministry announced on Wednesday that the Ministry and the NOC, two warring parties a few moons ago, have jointly decided to select only those who are ranked below sixth (from 1-6) place in the world for major international events (Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games).

When asked for comments regarding the new standard an analyst termed the new standard as ‘mind boggling’.

A press release issued by the Sports ministry clearly states that the NOC chief Hemasiri Fernando too had welcomed the decision citing that the standard had been effective ten years ago and had appreciated the Sports Ministry move to reenforce the standard.

According to analysts, even Susanthika Jayasinghe had not been in the world’s first ten rankings when she was selected for Olympics. And if this new standard is adopted, not a single Sri Lankan athlete will be able to represent the country at Rio Olympics according to current standard. Majula Kumara, country’s highest ranked athlete, according to the IAAF points system, is not even in the first 50 rankings in the world in men’s high jump. Sprinter Chandrika Subashini, country’s highest ranked athlete in the women’s category is nowhere near world’s top level 400m athletes.

Nadeeka Lakmali, who featured in the women’s javelin final at the IAAF World Championships, is only ranked 37 in the world at present.

The Sports Ministry said that Professor Arjuna de Silva had been appointed as the head of a Committee to decide qualifying standards.

When contacted, de Silva said that the decision had been taken following much deliberation after only one medal was won by more than 100-strong contingent sent by Sri Lanka to the recently held Commonwealth Games.

When pointed out that not a single Sri Lankan athlete will be able to represent the country at global level competitions at present standards if the new method is adopted, he said that the sixth place winning performance at the last edition (of Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games) will be considered as the qualifying standard when selecting for those Games.

When pressed to specify the selection criteria he said that the proper criteria for selections will be announced later.

The news of the new qualifying standards came when the second day of the Athletics National Championships was in progress on a badly damaged synthetic track at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

The selectors of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka had immediately heeded to an Olympic Committee request not to select a women’s 4x400m relay team for the forthcoming Asian Games.

The ongoing Athletics Nationals is the final selection ground to pick the team for the Asian Games.

400m is probably the strongest single discipline at present in both men’s and women’s categories in Sri Lanka. Decision to drop the 4x400m women’s relay team is likely to effect the morale of more than half a dozen athletes who enthusiastically competed to qualify for Thursday’s finals.

"If you don’t send a team even for Asian Games then where do you think that our athletes would want to go," a disappointed coach said when asked for his comments.

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