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Darsha expresses shock as budding athletes denied medals

Athletes who won podium places in one of the events are seen without medals at the Western Prince Schools Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Monday.(Pic by Saman Ranaweera)

Western Province Schools Athletics Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Asian Games medallist and Olympian Damayanthi Darsha, who witnessed the ongoing Western Province Schools Athletics Championships, expressed shock over the highly disorganized manner in which the four-day event is being conducted at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

The Department of Education, Western Province, the organisers of the event, which began on Sunday, were failing in their duty to conduct events on schedule and, in a shocking turn of events, the budding school athletes, who win podium places, are made to return home without medals as the Department of Education of Western Province is doing away with the aged-old custom, in a bid to cut costs.

“Certificates and medals are a huge motivation for young athletes. Medals will keep them engaged in this sport. I am really shocked to see these athletes being denied the opportunity to take home what they deserve,” Darsha who had her first medal success at these championships, told The Island yesterday.

“It is not an easy task to win a medal at the Western Province Schools Athletics Championships.

“This is a major championship in a young athlete’s career. They deserve appreciation for what they achieve. It is disappointing to see athletes getting down from the podium without medals,” Darsha, who is also a coach, said.

“It is not only the medals, the way they conduct the event itself is appalling. I have not seen such a disorganized event during my entire career. How long have the athletes have to wait, after warming up, before they come under starters orders. And the way they had scheduled events without giving the athletes some rest in between is also harmful for young athletes,” said Darsha who is also a vice president of Sri Lanka Athletics, the governing body for track and field in the country.

With the organisers opting for fewer qualified judges (from Sri Lanka Athletics) to save funds they had left room for major errors.

On Sunday, athletes competing in a lower age category sprint event had to run 65 metres instead of 60 metres due to erroneous measuring.

In some middle distance events (800m) the heats and the final were conducted without adequate rest.

On Monday, the organisers advanced the Under 18 boys’ 400 metres final which was to be held on Tuesday only to postpone it after the athletes had warmed up.

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