Track and field athletes make NOC eat humble pie with 15 golds


by Reemus Fernando

Track and field athletes made the National Olympic Committee ‘eat humble pie’ as Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Indunil Herath, Hiruni Wijeratne, Dilhani Lekamge and men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams won golds on Saturday to concluded the campaign at the 13th South Asian Games with a record equaling 15 golds in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Track and field athletes’ ability to win medals was questioned by Maxwell de Silva, the secretary of the NOC prior to the Games in Kathmandu. The athletes made their medal count do the talking as they equaled the record number of gold medals won by Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka won 15 golds when the country hosted the event in the early 90s.

"We are proud of our athletes. They have made the National Olympic Committee secretary eat humble pie," Palitha Fernando told The Island yesterday.

Fernando who did not make the trip to Nepal said that the athletics team will be sent on a trip to Lumbini as an appreciation of their efforts.

The remarkable achievement was made possible by the contribution of many but Dilshi’s achievements stands out in retrospect.

Nadeesha Ramanayaka (400m) and Nimali Liyanarachchi (800m) were Sri Lanka’s favourites in their events. While Nimali met with an accident on the eve of the team’s departure, Nadeesha fell ill in Kathmandu. But Dilshi made sure the country won golds in both events. She achieved her personal best in the 400 metres to win gold. Yesterday she won gold in 800 metres with a time of 2:06.18 seconds and within an hours time came back with a stunning feat for the women’s 4x400 metres team to win an unlikely gold. Team were trailing behind in the third place when she started the anchor leg but she sprinted past the rest to win.

The men’s relay team inclusive of Aruna Dharshana (400 metres gold) and Lakmal Priyantha (400 metres silver) performed as expected to win gold ahead of India.

In the men’s 800 metres Indunil Herath clinched gold with a time of 1:50.52 seconds.

In the morning the US based athlete Hiruni Wijeratne created a piece of history when she won the country’s first ever gold medal in SA Games marathon.

She clocked two hours, 41 minutes and 24 seconds to win.

Dilhani Lekamge (55.02m) and Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali (54.41m) won gold and silver respectively in the women’s javelin throw.

Sumeda Ranasinghe settled for bronze in the men’s javelin throw. Gayanthika Abeyratne won silver behind Dilshi in the 800 metres.

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