Sri Lanka may not be your standard rowing destination but it is far from devoid of the sport and the 150th anniversary of rowing in Sri Lanka is just a couple of years away in 2014.

Rowing is not new to the nation. It came via the British in 1864 when the Colombo Rowing Club was established. “It was considered an elitist sport until recent times,” says Sri Lankan President Rohan Fernando, “and was exclusively patronised by a few schools in Colombo and members of the Colombo Rowing Club.

Crews battling for position at the Sri Lanka National Rowing Championships

“For years the main rowing events were limited to inter-club competitions,” says Fernando who adds that the Sri Lankan Rowing Association has been working hard to create awareness amongst your people to take rowing as a sport.

Sri Lanka has about 300 rowers at the school level and over 500 at the club level of 20 clubs. The annual rowing championships attract about 500 athletes.

There are natural and manmade lakes for rowing with three main water courses available to use. One is in the heart of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city, called Beira Lake which has a 1000m straight course. To the south of Colombo, on Bolgoda Lake there is a 2000m multi-laned course.
Posing for a photo are a medal ceremony at the Sri Lanka National Rowing Championships

Fernando says in the last five years rowing activity has grown. “The ending of the war in 2008 allowed the service personnel to get involved very actively in rowing and the military forces and the defence university have strong squads of athletes in water and indoor rowing.”

The sport, however, still has to overcome a level of exclusivity as, Fernando says, it’s mainly limited to Colombo and suburbs. “The ARASL (Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka) is making a valiant effort to make the sport more visible and accessible to the masses and make the rowing events attractive to spectators.”

Drysdale is part of this push to boost the sport. He was brought to Sri Lanka by a tea sponsor, T-sips. While in Sri Lanka Drysdale did some coaching and had an evening discussion on his rowing journey.

The next big event for Sri Lankan rowing is their 150 year celebrations in 2014. It will also be a celebration for the ARASL 50 years of activity. “The birth place for rowing (in Sri Lanka), Colombo Rowing Club has elaborate plans to conduct several international regattas and also celebratory activities during 2014,” says Fernando. “A of the Madras-Colombo regatta which is one of the oldest regattas in the world will be a main event in celebrating 150 years.”

Sri Lankan rowing’s website: www.srilankarowing.org

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