Like Father, Like Son
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