Like Fa­ther, Like Son

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE -

Niluka Karunaratne is a house­hold name in the world of bad­minton, and the best men’s sin­gles player that Sri Lanka has ever seen. Hail­ing from Am­balan­goda where he at­tended both el­e­men­tary and high school, it was his fa­ther, Louie Karunaratne, who in­spired him to pick up a rac­quet and smash his way to suc­cess.

Louie was a for­mer na­tional level bad­minton player and na­tional coach him­self, and is Niluka’s men­tor and great­est in­spi­ra­tion. Niluka was 8 years old when he picked up a bad­minton rac­quet for the first time and he re­calls this as his most mem­o­rable mo­ment in sport. Since then, the pair’s im­pres­sive syn­ergy and ad­di­tional fam­ily in­volve­ment in the sport has led to a Karunaratne legacy in bad­minton.

Niluka com­peted at the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games, an im­pres­sive achieve­ment. He was also the 2005 World Rank­ing Tour­na­ments win­ner and the holder of an Olympic Schol­ar­ship in 2006.

For those who may be un­fa­mil­iar with the sport of bad­minton, play­ers hit a shut­tle­cock over the net into their op­po­nents’ half. The aim is to score points by play­ing the shut­tle­cock so that it can­not be re­turned over the net in­bounds. If the server wins the point he/she con­tin­ues to serve. If he/she loses the point, serve goes to the op­po­si­tion. Play­ers serve from al­ter­nate sides of the court – the left if their score is even, the right if it is odd. Matches are played over the best of three games. The first player to reach 21 points by a mar­gin of two points wins the game. How­ever, if the score reaches 29-29, the vic­tor of the next point wins. Olympic shut­tle­cocks weight be­tween 4.74 and 5.5 grams, and con­tain 16 feathers, each plucked from the left wing of a goose. They can travel at speeds in ex­cess of 400km per hour!

At the Olympic Games, there are 5 dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines in bad­minton: Men’s Sin­gles, Men’s Dou­bles, Women’s Sin­gles, Women’s Dou­bles, and Mixed Dou­bles. Niluka will be com­pet­ing in the Men’s Sin­gles di­vi­sion and be the sole rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Sri Lanka in the bad­minton event.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Olympics is de­pen­dent on the Bad­minton World Fed­er­a­tion (BWF) rank­ing list. This list is used to al­lo­cate a to­tal of 38 places for each sin­gles event, one of which Niluka was able to snag. In each sin­gles event, there must be at least one player from each of the five BWF Con­ti­nen­tal Con­fed­er­a­tions.

This year, the BWF rank­ing list was based on re­sults dur­ing the pe­riod of 2 May 2011 to 29 April 2012. Niluka com­peted in the fol­low­ing events which all counted to­wards the BWF rank­ing list: Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Sudirman Cup Grand Prix In­ter­na­tional Chal­lenge In­ter­na­tional Se­ries His cu­mu­la­tive per­for­mance at these events led to his world rank­ing of 47th and ul­ti­mately, a prized spot at the Olympic Games. Niluka con­sid­ers qual­i­fy­ing to the Olympic Games the big­gest hu­man chal­lenge, and the best pure de­sire of his life. As he heads to London, his sole am­bi­tion is to serve his coun­try. It is clear that Niluka takes great pride in his na­tion as he shows his Sri Lankan colours be­fore ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion. His rit­ual in­cludes chant­ing and pray­ing to Lord Bud­dha to get him ready to com­pete. He says, “My time has ar­rived and I will do it.”

The men’s sin­gles event for bad­minton will take place at Wem­b­ley Arena, start­ing on 1 Au­gust 2012 in its pre­lim­i­nary stage: rounds of 16. Each player will play ev­ery­one else in their group and the win­ners will qual­ify for the knock­out stage of the com­pe­ti­tion. This will whit­tle down to a final tak­ing place on 5 Au­gust. The play times are as fol­lows:

1 Au­gust – Round of 16 (13:30 IST)

2 Au­gust – Quar­ter Fi­nals (22:30 IST)

3 Au­gust – Semi Fi­nals (18:00 IST)

5 Au­gust – Sin­gles Fi­nals (13:30 IST) Cour­tesy Na­tional Olympic

Com­mit­tee Sri Lanka

Niluka Karunaratne

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