The ‘Sinhala Kolla’ who created an int’l upset | Daily News
LIYANAGE RANJAN ARIYANANDA

The ‘Sinhala Kolla’ who created an int’l upset

He was an immensely talented, disciplined player. Always learning and earned recognition in Sri Lanka's records of Badminton. He was LIYANAGE RANJAN ARIYANANDA.

The game of Badminton, unlike today, in the 1960s and 1970s was a big craze with schools, clubs playing the game with great interest and zest and many tournaments attracting the players’ interest.

As a cub reporter, I remember the then world badminton champion Rudy Hartono of Indonesia playing in Sri Lanka and at the Army Badminton Courts in Panagoda in 1964. I covered this tie between Sri Lanka and Indonesia for the ‘Times of Ceylon’ and count it as a privilege to have watched Hartono’s brilliance with the racquet as a teenager and describe it. He was All England champion for a record eight times.

That was also the era when the country had some marvels at play and names that are still etched in my memory are that famous duo of N.Raslingam and Lucky Dharmasena, Ranjit de Silva, C.Thurairaja, G.W.Chandraseana, A.R.L. Wijesekera, Sam Chandrasena, V. Sriskandaraja, S.Veeravagu, Sarojini Apte, Namal de Silva, Shirani Perera and the lanky Tony Perera and many others whose name do not come to mind.

Prodigy in the game

But our own LIYANAGE RANJAN ARIYANANDA who can be described as a prodigy in the game. He had great recognition in the local and the international scene .

In that period a coach who made waves with his excellent abilities and whose name was household was none other than Ariyadasa De Silva who is still spoken of in awe by some of the living badminton players of that era.

Ariyadasa had the rare ability of watching and picking talent and coaching and directing that talent to reach not only local but also international class. He was a much sought after coach.

Talented players

In that era Dharmasoka College, Galle was famous to produce talented players who could hold their own and even beat international players of repute, with their clever strokes that bemused and bewildered opponents.

And one such rare and talented player to emerge from Dharmasoka guided by Ariyadasa who was the master in charge of the game was a keen, immensely talented, disciplined player ARIYANANDA.

ARIYANANDA took to the game like duck to water as a 14 year old and his devotion and dedication helped him rise phenomenal like. Ariyadasa took special interest in the young ARIYANANDA because he quickly spotted the brilliant natural talent in the youngster.

Competitive badminton

ARIYANANDA’S first foray into competitive badminton ended in failure when he could not proceed playing for the first time in the under-15 junior national championships. But that defeat did not disappoint the youngster, but it went to make him determined to succeed in future tournaments.

But revenge was sweet for ARIYANANDA. Playing in the under-18 junior nationals he put to second best the guy who beat him in that championships. That victory was the rock on which ARIYANANDA built his phenomenal rise to international fame.

In the All Island Under-18 Championship in 1960 he won a triple crown – Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles. From then on there was no stopping ARIYANANDA as he rode to fame to leave his mark in the game he loved and adored most.

Practicing for hours

Continuing in the game, practicing daily for hours on end and believing in himself and urged on by his coach, it did not take long for him to enjoy the sweet taste of success when at just 21 he won his first national title in 1964.

He retained the title in 1965. He missed playing in 1966 nationals, but made a roaring comeback in 1967 and set up a record by winning the title till 1971. Like he did at the junior nationals he bagged a triple crown winning all three categories – Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles.

His success did not go unnoticed by the selectors. At age 17 he had the makings of a champion and his first international exposure was unforgettable because he was picked as captain for the Asian Junior Badminton Championships in Malaysia.

Momentum

As his game began to gather momentum and fame, he had the good fortune of captaining the Sri Lanka teams for international tournaments in Indonesia, Philippines, India, China, Singapore and Thailand.

ARIYANANDA’S most memorable moment which is still vivid in his mind was when he dumped India’s top ranked Thomas Cup player Amrit Lal Devan in straight sets which shocked the Indian. This victory earned him accolades from all round as he was just 17. One newspaper described the triumph as an ‘incredible upset’ and a Sinhala paper ran the headline – BHARATHA SHOORAY PARADAVU SINHALA KOLLA’.

Then sporting the country’s colors in the 1971 Asian Championships he put to second best in the singles event favourite a Pakistani Aqim Wasti. In doing so he became the first Sri Lankan to beat a Pakistani champion. He also pocketed a triple crown at the National Shuttling Championships in 1971. He had the distinction of being invited to be the national coach by the Ministry of Sport.

National coach

After he put aside his racquet from international shuttling his appointment as national coach took him throughput the island including the North and East and he performed a job to the satisfaction of his backers by spotting talent and promoting the game.

He was the founder of the All Provincial Badminton Association in Sri Lanka, formulating constitution and created a Badminton Federation, but since affiliation was not granted by the Sri Lankan Badminton Federation at that time but later with the intervention of the Sports Minister, all provincial associations were granted SLBA affiliation.

But what ARIYANANDA could rightly treasure most was the invitation extended to him by the Maldivian President Abdul Gayoom to train his country’s badminton team that played in the Commonwealth Games in the early 1980s. He thus became the only country’s coach to train a national team outside his own country in badminton.

Many positions

ARIYANANDA held many positions in the governing body and was President of the Western Province Badminton Association and during his tenure badminton benefited youngsters all round.

During his playing days and even after he played his part well to promote and develop the game and recognition came his way when the International Badminton Federation honoured him with a Meritorious Service Award in 2001.

ARIYANANDA’S doubles partner was another famous shuttler Ranjit de Silva. His mixed doubles partners were Namal de Silva and D.G.S Kusuma. He was also coach of two of Sri Lanka’s national champions Ravi Kuruppu and Niroshan Wijekoon.

Unforgettable moments

One of the most unforgettable moments in his chequered career was when he toured Bangkok for the Asian Games in 1966. The national team had to fly in a four engine light aircraft of the Air Force which could seat only 14 passengers , because the Sports Ministry did not have the funds to send the team like they now do in a commercial flight.

The flight made four stop overs for refueling in India until it finally arrived in Bangkok with no meals for the players. ARIYANANDA had nothing but but memories of his performance to consume...and that would have filled his belly!

Shuttle champions who later gave their all to coaching and scouting talent of the calibre of ARIYANANDA are hard to find in today’s shuttle scene. [email protected]


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