By Susil Premalal
Central Crusaders led by Buwaneka Goonathilake emerged champions of the inaugural Li Ning–Lanka Shuttle Challenge after overcoming Sachin Dias-led Southern Stars 4-2 at Sri Lanka Badminton courts in Colombo yesterday.
The first high-profile franchise-based badminton tournament organised by SLB, the tournament featured six franchises of 12 players.
Central Crusaders swept to a 3-0 lead when Goonathilake and Hasara Wijeratne won the mixed doubles defeating Roshan Padma Kumara and Nilasi Balasooriya 21-12 21-14 before Dumindu Abeywickrama stunned Sachin Dias 21-11, 17-21, 21-2 in the men's singles. Sethum Perera won the boys' singles tie against Kaviru Sanjitha 21-19 21-14.
Southern Stars earned their first win in the final when Hasini Ambalagodage overcame Isuri de Alwis 21-15 21-11 in the women's singles. Southern Stars also won the girls' singles match with Panchali Adhikara outplaying Varangana Jayawardena 21-10 21-9.
With Central Crusaders having an unassailable lead of 4-2, there was no need of a women's doubles match between Hasara Wijeratne/Suhasni Vidanage (Southern Stars) and Buthmi Galagamage/Hasini Ambalagodage (Central Crusaders).
Southern Stars overcame Western Warriors led by Kavidi Sirimanage in the semifinals 4-2.
Central Crusaders on the other hand, had to take on fourth placed Island Titans, captained by Olympian Dinuka Karunaratne, before facing the Western Warriors. They beat Island Titans 4-2 and eliminated Western Warriors with a similar scoreline.
There were special awards to the Most Valuable Player in the Junior and Senior categories. Setham Perera (Boys) and Ranithma Liyanage (Girls) won the awards in the junior category while
Buwaneka Goonathilake (men) and Hasini Ambalagodage (women) received the honours in the senior category.
National Olympic Committee President Suresh Subramaniam was the chief guest at the closing ceremony and presented the awards to champions, runners-up and the most valuable players.
Sri Lanka Badminton President Rohan de Silva, Vice Presidents Palitha Hettiarachchi and Roshan Fernando, and Chairman of Flex Spots Pvt Ltd, Sanjeewa Akuretiya also graced the occasion as guests of honour.