By Susil Premalal
The President of the Cycling Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) N. Karunaratne has decided not to come forward for any key position at the upcoming election of office bearers to be held before August 31.
Having begun his long journey in cycling as a national level rider while being a student at St. Joseph’s College Anuradhapura in the 80s, he went on become a leading national cyclist, international cycling official and President of the CFSL.
“I was involved in cycling for a long time because I loved the sport and had a goal. For a period of five years from 1982 to 1987, I won many major cycling competitions. This included the most popular cycling event in the country, the Tour de Lanka, in 1982 winning in the Standard category. In addition, I was placed twice in the Tour de Lanka finishing third in 1985 and second in 1986. I also won the Gam Udawa Race (1984) and Rakshana Sawariya (1987) as a schoolboy. I used to compete with leading riders of the day such as Boniface Perera, A. M. Sumanaweera, Kingsley Mendis, Leslie Rupasinghe and the Henderson brothers. I consider this to be the highlight of my cycling career and personal life,” said Karunaratne.
Affectionately known as ‘Karu’ by cycling fans young and old in the country, he is the only international cycling official from Sri Lanka and is one of the few UCI (International Cycling Union) Commissaries in the world.
Karunaratne served two stints from 1998 to 2000 and 2018 to date as president of the CFSL, a coveted position which has been headed by Cabinet ministers, Chief Ministers, medical professionals and other renowned people.
“I am not coming forward as an office-bearer of CFSL not because I have any grievances with the sport or my team of officials. I can be honestly proud and happy of the service I have rendered to the sport. However, I took this painful decision because I want to leave with my head held high because it is difficult to work with Sports Ministry officials who don’t have a clue about the sport. Not only cycling, other sports bodies are also having issues with some of these Sports Ministry officials,” said Karunaratne.
The veteran cycling administrator who has vast experience in the organizational and technical aspects of international competitions, observed that although sports bodies in most countries are run independently, some Sports Ministry officials here influence decisions of national sports associations adversely affecting those who administer the sport.
Accusing the former Director General of Ministry of Sport’s Development of Sports Department of giving weak leadership resulting in several shortcomings they faced at the Kathmandu South Asian Games, the unproven allegations of match-fixing in cycling and some other sports had greatly tarnished the image of the respective sports bodies, he added.
Karunaratne has officiated at the Asian Cycling Championship 18 times, four Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup, in addition to serving as President of Commissaires panel in several international competitions.
Having contributed diligently to develop the standard of the sport, welfare of the riders in the country and raise the profile of the sport internationally, Karunaratne was instrumental in introducing a Diploma Course for cycling at the National Institute of Sports Science and adding cycling in the curriculum at the Ministry of Education’s School of Sports.
I was involved in cycling for a long time because I loved the sport and had a goal. For a period of five years from 1982 to 1987, I won many major cycling competitions. This included the most popular cycling event in the country, the Tour de Lanka, in 1982 winning in the Standard category
An Honours graduate in Social Science from the University of Peradeniya, Karunaratne is Deputy Manager (Logistics) at the Ceylon Petroleum’s Storage Terminal in Kolonnawa.