Row­ing makes waves at Diyawanna Oya

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Naushad Amit

Row­ing, a sport that boasts a rich history in Sri Lanka, was, un­til re­cently, cat­a­logued among the elite sports of the coun­try. How­ever, the trend is now chang­ing with the in­ter­ven­tion of its gov­ern­ing body, the Ama­teur Row­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Sri Lanka (ARASL).

History de­picts that Row­ing has been a pri­or­ity sport among elite schools in Sri Lanka, par­tic­u­larly in Colombo, and were held on the Beira Lake at the Colombo Row­ing Club ( CRC), estab­lished in 1864. Since the ARASL came un­der its in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Ro­han Fer­nando, dras­tic changes have been tak­ing place.

One of the key changes was set­ting up a new venue at Ra­ja­giriya on the wa­ters of a man-made canal on Diyawanna Oya. This al­lowed the ARASL to hold 2,000-me­tre events, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional re­quire­ments, in­stead of the tra­di­tional 1,000,me­tres. The ARASL, with sup­port from higher au­thor­i­ties, set up its head­quar­ters on the banks of the Diyawanna Oya at Ra­ja­giriya, which en­cour­aged them to venture into new av­enues.

"It was not a cake­walk, to see ARASL achieve much within a short time span. To be able to shift to a place close to the coun­try's cap­i­tal city, was a huge plus point. The cen­tre has been in op­er­a­tion for a cou­ple of years now, and today it's a place with daily ac­tiv­i­ties," said Diyawanna Row­ing Cen­tre (DRC) Oper­a­tions Man­ager Sithira Wick­ra­masekara.

The DRC does not con­sider it­self fit­ting to host the coun­try's top Row­ing events such as the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships. The ARASL has taken a step fur­ther from hold­ing events and is a venue for prac­tice ses­sions. It pi­o­neered the Diyawanna Row­ing Academy (DRA) with the motto 'Row­ing for all and All for Row­ing'. Cur­rently, the DRA is more fo­cused on train­ing new­com­ers to the sport, in ad­di­tion to tak­ing the sport to the gen­eral pub­lic.

"Since the in­cep­tion of the DRA, I must say that we have had very pos­i­tive and en­cour­ag­ing feed­back from many. Usu­ally, it's the ath­letes from schools and clubs that flock to train here, specif­i­cally, prior to a main event. But I'm proud to say that, the ARASL's bid to pop­u­larise the sport has been a suc­cess to date, with over 50 novices reg­is­tered with the DRA. They are at­tend­ing train­ing pro­grammes on a reg­u­lar ba­sis," re­vealed Wick­ra­masekara, the pi­o­neer of Eights Row­ing boats in Sri Lanka, .

The ARASL has as­signed a team of qual­i­fied coaches with FISA (World Row­ing Authority) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and ARASL regis­tra­tion, to im­part tech­niques of Row­ing, Phys­i­cal Train­ing and Safety pro­ce­dures. In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing nec­es­sary train­ing fa­cil­i­ties to be­gin­ners, the DRA also pro­vides coach­ing to ad­vanced Row­ers.

"The ARASL has un­der­stood the need to con­duct it as a com­pet­i­tive sport, as well as for leisure and as a ther­a­peu­tic ex­er­cise for phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties. This is ev­i­dent from the num­ber of se­niors among the 50 plus new­com­ers at the DRA. Row­ing is a sport with the least amount of in­juries, and safe to prac­tisce from a young age. After ev­ery event held here, we are happy to note that, the Academy wel­comes a new set of in­takes," added Wick­ra­masekara.

Not all those who take up Row­ing and un­dergo train­ing will end up at com­pet­i­tive level. But it surely gives some pos­i­tive light to the lo­cal Row­ing fra­ter­nity of ac­tive 600 ath­letes of both gen­ders af­fil­i­ated to 18 in­sti­tu­tions of schools, clubs, uni­ver­si­ties and other en­ti­ties. The DRC, by now, is the hub of lo­cal Row­ing for many rea­sons, of which the Academy is one.

"Noth­ing comes with­out hard work and dedication. There are many who have worked tire­lessly to at­tract to­tal strangers into Row­ing and, at the same time, main­tain the stan­dards and in­tegrity of the sport. Within a cou­ple of years, this lo­ca­tion will be a fully-fledged cen­tre for Row­ing, with the in­clu­sion of all its ne­ces­si­ties. The ARASL, un­der the lead­er­ship of Ro­han Fer­nando, has been do­ing a fine job so far, by tak­ing the sport beyond its tra­di­tional pa­ram­e­ters to at­tract the in­ter­est of the gen­eral pub­lic."

The DRC and the DRA ex­pect to make many break­throughs in time to come. At present, the DRA has a com­pre­hen­sive train­ing sched­ule for its new­com­ers, who first un­dergo an ori­en­ta­tion pe­riod on the wa­ters, in a boat spe­cially for train­ing novices. At present, the Diyawanna Oya is ca­pa­ble of ac­com­mo­dat­ing over 100 boats at a time, with its in­her­ent sup­port fa­cil­i­ties.

"As I said ear­lier, noth­ing comes with­out dedication and hard work. The care­taker of the DRC and the DRA, Tissa, is a livewire and an un­sung hero of ARASL's re­cent suc­cesses. He has a rich ex­pe­ri­ence of build­ing boats and main­tain­ing them to the high­est stan­dards, and a ver­i­ta­ble store­house of knowl­edge of the sport. He is equally en­thu­si­as­tic as the rest, to see Row­ing reach higher stan­dards among lo­cal sports and an Olympic medal, which is the hope and dream be­hind all these de­vel­op­ments," con­cluded Wick­ra­masekara.

Tissa, the care­taker of the DRA - Pix by Amila Ga­m­age

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