Sports Opinion

Memorable Sporting Moments – Bolling and Chanmugam excel in 1991 SAG

Deepika Chanmugam

The fifth South Asian Games (SAG) was held in Colombo from 22 to 31 December. The main venue of the event was the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo. It was the time when President Ranasinghe Premadasa was ruling Sri Lanka. It was Premadasa who officially declared the SAG open that year.

The 1991 created an immense boost in Sri Lanka’s sports. Sri Lankan participants did remarkably well in almost all sports in those Games. Their swimmers, athletes, and tennis players competed on par with the region’s top other athletes winning 44 gold medals in the event when India won 64 and Pakistan won only 28.

The SAG were first held in 1984 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Before Colombo hosted the event in 1991, Dhaka in Bangladesh (1985), Calcutta in India (1987), Islamabad in Pakistan (1989) were hosts to it on the four previous occasions.

1991 SAG Colombo final medals tally:

It was one of the most memorable sporting events for Sri Lanka. Out of the seven participating countries, Sri Lanka became second. They won 44 gold, 34 silver, and 40 bronze medals to have a total of 118. The first-placed India won 64, 59, and 41 to have total tally of 164.

Pakistan (28+32+25=85), Bangladesh (4+8+28=40), Nepal (2+8+29=39), Maldives (0+1+0=1), and Bhutan (0) shared the other medals.

At Colombo in 1991, in terms of medals tally, India took the top spot as it had been doing since the inception of the SAF Games in 1984. Sri Lanka earning 44 golds was a showing a marked improvement in their performance as they had won only six gold medals at Islamabad in 1989.

Bolling and Chanmugam

Julian Bolling

A significant feature of the Colombo edition of the SAF Games was that two swimming records were shattered in the women’s category. In fact swimming was dominated by Sri Lanka, in particular the cousins Jullian Bolling and Deepika Chanmugham. Between them they bagged 13 gold medals to rightly earn the titles of best sportsman and sportswoman of the games respectively.

Bolling won golds in men’s 200, 400, and 1,500m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 400m individual medley, while he being part of the victorious Sri Lanka team in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Chanmugam won gold medals in 200m freestyle, 100 and 200m backstroke, 100 and 200m breaststroke, 200 and 400m individual medley before being part of the Lankan team that won the gold in 4x400m medley relay.

The positive impact created by the “1991 SAG” in the Sri Lankan sports contours were felt even after many more years to come.