Decision made by the Air Force to compel their athletes to undergo a compulsory 10-week Military training in China Bay has left several top National Athletes of various sports disciplines in misery. Air Force consists of many top national athletes, international medal winners and Olympians who are aiming at strong performances at the upcoming Asian and Commonwealth Games and the said decision comes as a big blow to them, as well as the whole nation’s sporting future and hopes.
Athletes who have a service of over five years without the said training have been notified that they should undergo the compulsory training schedule starting in China Bay just after the National Sports Festival to be held in Matara from 21-24 this month.
It’s no secret that many of these athletes joined the Air Force for the betterment of their sporting career where they also competed on behalf of the Air Force with shining performances to their name at national and international sport circuits. Also officers who are making those sports recruitments promise the sun and moon to athletes during the time of recruitment with promises such as, they barely need to come to camps, they will be allowed to train freely as they wish and there won’t be any military training etc etc.
According to athletes and coaches the 10-week Military training is going to be the end of their sporting careers for at least a few seasons. As they described, it will be hard for them to come back to their usual form or to improve their performances following a Military training especially in this stage where they are preparing for an important season next year which includes Commonwealth and Asian Games.
When it comes to track and field Air Force has 10 national champions and four Sri Lankan record holders and Olympian Manjula Kumara Wijesekara. Sole Gold medallist at the Asian Championship Nimali Liyanarachchi too represents Air Force. Long Jump record holder Amila Jayasiri , Shot Put record holder Tharika Fernando, Hammer Throw record holder Ayesha Madhuwanthi, Pole Vault record holder Ishara Sandaruwan, Long Jump National Champion Dhanuka Liyanapathirana are also a few such top athletes who represent Air Force.
Commonwealth Games 2018 is schedule to start in April where Sri Lanka will have their trials in February and these athletes will find it hard to come back from a 10-week Military training which also keeps them out from their necessary off season schedules, which prepares them for next year’s glory.
The likes of Nimali Liyanarachchi are prime medal hopes of Sri Lanka at the Asian and Commonwealth Games and neither Athletics Association nor the Sports Ministry is in favour of the said training programme.
When inquired, the Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said he too is aware of the situation and has already communicated with Air Force to sort out the matter where he is strongly against the said training programme, which is set to put SL sports in misery.
Meanwhile, Acting Air Force spokesperson Andrew Wijesuriya said that this training has been overdue for years where various other sports men and women have gone through since 2013 and mainly track and field team were given excuses as above, until now. He further described the two and a half month is not a full combat course, but specifically designed basic training.
Nevertheless, most of athletes state that they will have no option but to leave Air Force in this situation as their main focus is upcoming Commonwealth Games, which is just 7 months away followed by the Asian Games next year and said training will do not help for them to win medals at those meets.