Shaylon Gunaratne won a gold medal at the Asian Rowing Beach Sprint Championship currently being held at Jomtien Beach in Pattaya, Thailand. After winning the gold medal in the CJM1x event, he partnered with Rovinya Wijesekara to win the bronze medal in the CJMix2x event, the double skulls event for teams in the mixed category.

Gunaratne, 16, of Asian International School, bettered among six other competitors to finish first in the single skulls event (CJM1x) held under the men’s category. He finished first beating Febrian Febrian of Indonesia, Omar Al-Sayed of Saudi Arabia, Watchara Pangthong of Thailand, Azman Hakeem of Malaysia, Hamad Aamer Al-Shamsi of the UAE and Johannes Engelmeier of Hong Kong, to claim the gold medal, creating history in Sri Lanka rowing.

Gunaratne and schoolmate Wijesekara, 17, then partnered in the mixed sculls category to finish third and claim the bronze medal among teams in contention from Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Wijesekara also competed in the CJW1x, the event of single sculls for women, but finished fourth among five competitors.

The two medals won yesterday, comes as the best achievement in rowing, after having won a bronze medal at the Asia Cup by the Sri Lanka women’s squad in 2019. This is the very first time Sri Lanka is featured in the Asian Rowing Coastal Beach Sprint Championship, organised by Asian Rowing Federation and hosted by Rowing and Canoeing Association of Thailand. This event also serves as a qualifier for the World Rowing Beach Sprint of World Beach Games 2023 to be held from August 5 to 12 in Bali, Indonesia. The meet ends today, following the awards ceremony.

However, after few hours from the double achievement, Sri Lanka’s celebrations were marred after an official from the Ministry of Sports had called the top authorities of the Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka (ARASL) and questioned them on how the team was sent to the Thailand event. The Ministry of Sports officials have stated that ARASL had not followed the ‘protocols’ of sending a team to overseas, where in contrast the ministry had not given any support in helping the rowers to travel to Thailand.

Few months ago, the Ministry of Sports cut down the rowing squad from the Asian Games 2023 list, stating that rowing has no potential of winning any medals at regional level. However, later the ministry reversed the decision, but had firmly stated that it would not financially support with logistic needs. The two rowers had travelled to Thailand after their parents had personally gathered the necessary finances with their Spanish coach Pedro Lopez.

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