ASIAN GAMES

Rugby offers Sri Lanka last hope

Azad Majumder . Jakarta | Published: 00:05, Sep 01,2018

 
 

Sri Lanka’s Mudiyanselage Wijekon (L) fights for the ball with two Chinese players during their Rugby 7s quarter-final match of the 18th Asian Games at the Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Thursday. — Courtesy Asian Games website

Bangladesh’s physical presence in the 18th Asian Games has not yet ended as they have still a game to play in men’s hockey’s fifth-place decider against South Korea in Jakarta today.
But the medal hunt for the country officially ended late on Thursday when men’s bridge pair finished 22nd among 24 semi-finalists at the Jakarta International Expo Centre.
There could have been one consolation for Bangladesh if they were the only major South Asian country to end the Games empty handed with Nepal and Sri Lanka also staring at the prospect of similar humiliation.
But Nepal already won a silver medal in men’s paragliding and Sri Lanka, who sent 173 athletes from 28 disciplines, remained firmly on course to a podium finish in men’s rugby7s.
The Islanders have reached semi-final of rugby7s by overcoming a late surge from China to prevail over by 17-12 points on Friday and keep their hopes intact.
It would be a bigger disappointment for Sri Lanka compared to Bangladesh if they finished the meet without any medal as the Islanders had a good history in Asian Games.
When Bangladesh won only one gold medal in last 32 years, Sri Lanka had 11 gold medals in their bag and 10 of their Asian Games gold medals came from athletics.
They have lost their tradition in athletics long ago and had to rely on cricket and some fringe sports for medal in the recent editions. Even cricket could not earn any success for them in 2010 when they were without any medal for the last time.
Sri Lankans now pinned their hopes in rugby, where they came very close to winning their first medal four years ago in Incheon. But they lost the third place deciding match, making their wait for an Asian medal from rugby longer.
Speaking to New Age at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex, Sri Lanka’s Kiwi rugby coach Peter Woods said he did not want to put any pressure on his players to win the medal.
‘We try not to think about winning medal as it will keep us free from pressure,’ said Woods, the former assistant coach of Fiji, a rugby powerhouse, which won gold medal in the last Olympics.
‘Yes, we do have a realistic chance of winning a medal. But we have to show a bit more patience and improve our game than the last time around,’ said the New Zealander.
Woods hoped a medal in Asian Games would give rugby a further boost in Sri Lanka, where the game already has a good base.
‘In Sri Lanka we have many rugby players as the game is played in schools. But to attract the sponsors we need some success at Asian level,’ he said.
Unfortunately for Bangladesh there are no similar hopes left in the Asian Games.

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