We’ve taken the simple step of promoting youth in this country with Crysbro. If there are more to target, I’m sure we need to look at the talent in this country, harness them and help them, similar to what was done during the time of Minister S.B. Dissanayake, who did a great job in producing world-class athletes,” said National Olympic Committee Secretary Maxwell de Silva.
“Athletes have to show that they are fighting, that they want to produce something, and if everyone gets together and puts a plan in place, I’m sure with the current minister we can produce results. The one thing I want to say is, ‘less talk and more results’.”
Further, an important area that still lacks attention in Sri Lanka is the psychological and mental health of athletes. In 2010, the NOC brought down mental health experts from Australia for a five-day program and, unfortunately, most of the national federation did not send their top athletes for that training, for the simple reason that it would disrupt their ongoing training for the Asian Games. “Sadly, we never won a medal, but they could have learned something. The athletes also needs to understand the importance of this. You need to understand how to manage the pressure,” he said. This year it was highlighted more by Yupun Abeykoon, who was running at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s a good lesson for all of us, but that area has to be looked at and athletes, as well as the National Federation and the Ministry of Sports need to pay more attention to mental health.
The path of an athlete heading towards the international centre stage is riddled with strenuous training and capacity building. The commitment, dedication and ‘never-give-up’ attitude are key characteristics that would give way to achieving their dreams.
Most budding young athletes from rural regions in Sri Lanka lack the support they need financially, physically and mentally to show their true potential. However, the ‘Next Champ’ program initiated by Crysbro, in tandem with the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL), has demonstrated the importance of private sector contributions, as it has uplifted over 150 talented youth athletes to help them reach the international sports arena.
The program aims to provide financial assistance to more competitive youth from underprivileged regions, who have the potential to enter flagship events such as the Youth Olympic Games 2022, Asian Games 2022, Commonwealth Games 2022, and 2023 South Asian Games. The initiative has also successfully produced a collection of athletes who secured gold and silver medals at the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal.
But the support isn’t just the athlete’s capabilities and potential, especially in Sri Lanka as the collective coalition of the National Olympic Committee, Ministry of Sports, Department of Sports Development and the private sector to support and provide exposure to the athlete is critical in local as well as international events, according to NOCSL Secretary General Maxwell De Silva.
“There must be a step-by-step process in place to ascertain how we are going to progress, and first and foremost is the proper identification of talented athletes, which is very important,” De Silva said. “For potential athletes, we want to find out whether they are fully committed and also whether their parents are committed – because it is a very tough choice.”