News ≫ Chaminda Dharmawardena first ever Sri Lankan: Judo representation in Olympics for the first time

Chaminda Dharmawardena first ever Sri Lankan: Judo representation in Olympics for the first time

Jun 27, 2016
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Sri Lanka, for the first time in the 120-year-old history of the modern Olympic Games, has been granted a rare opportunity of fielding a judoka at the forthcoming summer Olympiad in Brazil.

Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC), Maxwell de Silva told the Daily News that Sri Lanka has been offered a wildcard entry for the judo competition of the Rio 2016 Games. Accordingly, South Asian Championship gold medallist Chaminda Dharmawardena will become the first ever Sri Lankan judoka to compete in Olympic Games’ history.

Airman Dharmawardena, who has excelled in several international competitions, has been a key member of the Sri Lanka Air Force judo team which has proved its class at National Championship and the Defence Services Championship. Dharmawardena won the silver medal in his pet event of men’s 73kg category at the last South Asian Games held in Guwahati this year. He was beaten by India’s Manjeet Nadal in the final.

Identifying the talents of the emerging Lankan judoka, the NOC arranged an international Olympic solidarity scholarship for Dharmawardena with the assistance of the Ministry of Sports.

He is currently training in Slovenia under the month-long IOC solidarity scholarship. Unfortunately, he could not make the full use of the IOC solidarity scholarship as he did not get the clearance from the Air Force to begin his scheduled program from June 1.

“The NOC and the Director General of Sports appealed to the Sri Lanka Air Force to release Dharmawardena for intensive training under world renowned coach Marjan Fabjan in Slovenia for a period of one month.

Unfortunately, the Air Force did not release him for the full period insisting that he should represent his services team at the national championship. He was only granted permission to leave after the meet on June 14,” the NOC Secretary General said.

Dharmawardena is currently training under Slovenian national champion turned coach Fabjan who had won national titles between 1977 and 1992 in under 78kg weight category. A multiple champion of Slovenia, Yugoslavia and Austria, the 58-year-old world class coach has produced many international stars, including Olympic champion Urska Zolnir and European champion Rok Draksic.

It was due to De Silva’s good relations with the International Judo Federation and the IOC that the NOC of Sri Lanka was able to secure passage for a Lankan judoka for Rio Olympic Games under the guidance of NOC President Hemasiri Fernando.

The NOC Secretary said that Sri Lanka has also been assured of a wildcard entry in weightlifting. The slot will be decided between Sudesh Peiris and Indu Dissanayake.

According to De Silva, there is a strong possibility of another wildcard entry for Sri Lanka in wrestling, making it a total of ten competitors in the Lankan contingent for the Olympiad which is due to commence on July 5.

Already, three Lankan athletes – Anuradha Indrajith Cooray (men’s marathon), Geethani Rajasekera (women’s marathon), Sumedha Ranasinghe (men’s javelin throw), have gained Olympic qualifying standards. The trio will be joined by swimmers Mathew Abeysinghe (men’s), Kimiko Raheem (women’s), national badminton champion Niluka Karunaratne (men’s singles) and rifle shooter Mangala Samarakoon (men’s).

Cooray will be competing in his third Olympic Games while Karunaratne and Samarakoon will be making their way to second successive Olympics.

Meanwhile, Secretary of the Air Force Sports Council, Group Captain Padman de Costa said that they have requested to reschedule the training program of the judoka in Slovenia.

“It was a fair request from the Air Force which has looked after the sportsman for ten years.

Our intention was not to block him but to get his IOC training rescheduled so that he could represent Air Force at the Defence Services Games’ judo competition,” he said.

He added that even in case of a rescheduling of the one-month training stint in Slovenia, the judoka could finish it more than two weeks before the commencement of the Olympic Games.

“We will continue to provide him every possible assistance, including financial assistance,” Group Captain De Costa said.

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