by Ilika Karunaratne - Daily News, Sat Feb 15 2003
We have among us today, many sports stars, who excel in their particular field of sports, bringing credit and accolades, to themselves and to the country. I thought it would be fitting with the prevalent accent on sports, to talk to a sports star of the sixties, who was selected sportswoman of the year in 1967.
Lucky Alagoda nee Dharmasena still continues with her interest in sports and is far from being retired. She recently won the coveted gold medal for women's singles in the 2002 Master World Championships in Melbourne. Lucky has had a successful run in many sports. "I have played netball, volleyball, basketball and badminton for Sri Lanka.
I was educated at St. Thomas' Kotte, which was a mixed school and played both volleyball and netball during my schooldays. It was during that period that I first went to England to take part in the world netball championship tournament. Sports have always been my main interest and an important aspect of my daily life; since I was a child. I was the badminton champion in Sri Lanka for a continuous period of six years. After that I concentrated on training my niece, Kaushali Dissanayake, who followed my trail and was national champion for seven years."
Lucky, who married in 1969, lived in England from 1970, for 20 years. She worked in the health services, in the Westminster and Hammersmith Councils.
"We lived in Ladywell and there too, I continued my badminton, but gave up active participation in other sports. I played badminton for the county of Kent and did coaching too, at the sports centre in Willesden. My husband continued to live and work in England, but after much reflection, we thought it would be good idea for our son to have a spell of living in Sri Lanka and do his O levels here. So my son and I came back here from 1982 till 1988 and I am proud that he got a distinction in Buddhism in the O'levels."
How does it feel to be back living permanently in Sri Lanka as you do now, after living so long in England?
"We came back two years ago for good and I love it here. There's nothing really like life here. This is our country which we love and we are enjoying a relaxed life here. Life is very much a rat race over there, and one has no time to relax and enjoy the finer things of life. We have good friends in England and our son lives there too, so we go back once a year for a visit."
What does Lucky think of badminton in Sri Lanka at the moment?
"We are doing very well, I think we can do even better if we get a foreign coach. We can undoubtedly attain a higher standard. We must insist on discipline. This is vital for anyone keen on sports. In England, at my workplace, they were impressed that I was always on time. This habit was instilled in me by my father, who would not permit us to be even one minute late."
I agree wholeheartedly with Lucky on this point, but would go a step further by saying that both discipline and punctuality are essential for anything at all in life. As I get older, I get very impatient with people who are not punctual. My father too, insisted on punctuality; as a result of this training, my watch is kept five minutes fast. My father stressed that keeping people waiting is a sign of arrogance. There is a sad lack of time management among people of all walks of life here, which is most distressing.
What steps can we take to improve our standards in sports?
"I think a sports academy would be a good idea. Our sportsmen and women must be taught to have the right spirit and learn to take defeat too. "If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same." India has a sports institute for badminton which has helped the game immensely. Athletes and players must wear correct and suitable sports gear for the game."
Lucky's contribution and love for sports has been recognised as she is on the National Council and The National Sports Committee. She takes her duties in these bodies very seriously; never misses a meeting or an opportunity to help in the field of sports. In addition to being singles champion for six years, she has been National Doubles champion for seven years and won the National Triple Crown for four years - so, she has reached the pinnacle in badminton.
"I have represented Sri Lanka at several international games; coached the national team from 1982 to 1988, been team coach for the SAARC Games, in Hyderabad, where our team was the runner-up; have been to a badminton training camp in China and was national selector for the Badminton Association here. I have been successful in a Badminton Association of England summer course and also attended the summer school of IBF coaches in Germany."
Lucky has also been conferred with the Meritorious Services Award, which is a much-coveted one, at a ceremony in England. She has had wide experience in her field and earned international recognition. She has an easy rapport and attitude, with no hang-ups, which naturally leads to mutual respect with pupils and fellow players. She is knowledgeable, cheerful and self-assured as she talks of sports and has a sincere desire to lend her weight to improve sport in the country. She is very much a hands on leader in badminton, who has nurtured her skill into a talent, which she would like to share.
She is all smiles and amiability - her love for sports, and for our country supersede all her other commitments. Her logical progression in her field are to be admired and should be used.
"It is good for all young people to do some kind of sport. I have learned so much; mutual love for sports builds unbreakable bridges of friendship between different races and cultures. It develops self confidence, team spirit and one gains a wealth of experience which helps to deal with life itself. It helps to channel energy into something worthwhile and wholesome. One learns to get on with one's peers and leaves little time for anything else. My life revolves round my interest in sports. I still go for courses in badminton in England to follow new trends and aspects of the game."
Her smile is wide and bright; her voice confident and strong - all the hallmarks of a person who knows who she is and where her path lies.
"For when the one great scorer comes, to write against your name, he asks not if you won or lost but how you played the game."