Niluka Karunaratne is into his third decade of playing the BWF World Championships. His first was in 2001, and he’s still keen to keep going.
Yet, at no previous World Championships had he arrived after training through the kind of economic crisis and civil unrest that unfolded in Sri Lanka recently. Karunaratne managed to train through it all. Badminton, in fact, helped keep the severity of the situation out of his mind.
“I was very occupied with badminton and not distracted by what was happening in Sri Lanka economically. If I didn’t play badminton, I would have had a lot of troubles and disappointments going through my mind,” says the 37-year-old. “I play five to six days a week, and it helps a lot psychologically and in my day-to-day work and in terms of comforting my mind.
“For me, the most important thing is family, my wife and my daughter, so that was the only thing on my mind and I knew I had to spend more time with them.”
Karunaratne says he personally wasn’t affected during the worst phase of the crisis, but the unrest had been deeply disturbing.
“Definitely badminton helped. Because badminton is my life, and we had to prepare for the Commonwealth Games rather than worry about what was happening all around.
“At the moment, Sri Lanka has settled down because we have a new president and a new government. So things have become much more settled than a few months ago.”
At Huelva last year, Karunaratne mused that the 2021 edition could be his last World Championships. But at Tokyo, having lost to Kevin Cordon in the opening round, the world No.122 said he’d no finish line in mind.
“It’s been a long career, but I still enjoy badminton, I love it. It is something I can’t stay without for a long time. So I still find it very exciting. And I’m still enjoying my game. So I would love to keep going, until I feel it’s really enough.
“I don’t think far away. I take it three months at a time. I keep finding what I have to do for the next three months. And I ask myself — do I feel good? Do I feel healthy? Is my body supporting me? My motives and my mind — I find that and I keep going.”