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2002 world medals that Sugath and Rohan never received

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Sri Lankan duo’s unknown world medals

by Reemus Fernando  

It was a time when Sri Lanka had in possession some of Asia’s best sprinters. Sri Lanka was so strong in the men’s 400 metres from mid 90s to early 2000s, when the IAAF conducted its World Athletics Continental Cup in 2002, the Asian continental team fielded two Sri Lankan sprinters in the 4×400 metres relay team. It was at this meet in Madrid that the Asian Games medallists Sugath Thilakaratne and Rohan Pradeep Kumara achieved their best feat (according to placing) at a world event, a fourth place finish which was later upgraded to bronze. While Sugath and Rohan competed in the relay, Susanthika Jayasinghe competed in women’s 100 metres to win the bronze which was upgraded to silver years later. However, 18 years after the achievement and many years after their fourth place was upgraded to bronze, Sugath and Rohan are yet to receive the medal and the cash reward that accompany it.   

“To be placed fourth in the relay was a huge achievement. During the previous edition (in Johannesburg in 1998) I was placed sixth in the individual event. I was disappointed that time because I could not get accustomed to the weather there. As I remember, in Madrid the race had to be rescheduled due to rain. We were able to finish fourth. Later it was upgraded to bronze. However I did not know that our fourth place had been upgraded to bronze until 2014 or 2015,” recalled Thilakaratne in an interview with The Island. 

It was Sri Lanka Athletics’ respected statistician Saman Kumara Gunawardena who informed Thilakaratne of his highest achievement at World Stage to the amusement of the Sri Lankan record holder. However, Thilakaratne and Rohan are yet to receive the medal years after the USA team were stripped off the gold medal and the other medals were upgraded to gold and silver and fourth place to bronze. 

“Some huge prize money was offered for winners at these championships. For relays they offered close to US $ 100,000 for the gold, 60,000 for the silver and 40,000 for the bronze. We received neither the medal nor the prize money. It was many years after the event that we came to know. The Sri Lankan public deserved to know our achievement. But that did not happen,” said Thilakaratne. 

Why USA were disqualified  

The World Athletics’ (formerly IAAF) quadrennial event featured Americas, Africa, Asia, USA, Great Britain, Oceania, Germany and Europe. USA were inclusive of James Carter, Leonard Byrd, Godfrey Herring and Antonio Pettigrew. Of them Byrd and Pettigrew were part of the US team that won the 4×400 metres relay gold medal at the 2001 World Championships and Pettigrew was part of the US team that won the 2000 Sydney Olympic 4×400 metres gold. USA clocked 2:59.21 in winning the gold medal and the lucrative cash award. Americas team largely inclusive of athletes from the Carrabin islands (Félix Sánchez, Alleyne Francique, Michael Mcdonald, Michael Blackwood ) returned a time of 2:59.19 to be placed second. Africa clinched the bronze returning a time of 3:01.69 seconds while Asia finished just outside medals. The result of this event and several World and Olympic sprint events were changed many years later after Pettigrew admitted to using Erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO. Giving evidence in a 2008 trial involving his coach Trevor Graham, Pettigrew admitted using the performance enhancing drug between 1997 and 2003. World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee stripped off the gold medals won by US teams involving Pettigrew.  

“When I look back at what has happened we can be happy that we competed as clean athletes though we could not win a medal that day. Sanity has prevailed. They have rectified the records. But the World Athletics and the Asian Athletics Association can send a message even now to present day athletes by retrieving the medals and awarding them to the teams who were placed behind the USA team,” said Thilakaratne who did not make that request on his behalf during his tenure as the president of Sri Lanka Athletics.  

A senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics said that awarding of medals were the responsibility of the Asian Athletics Association as the three athletes had represented Asia at the World Cup. 



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Dilshi stamps her class with national record

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Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.

The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.

Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).

On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.

In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.

In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.

The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.

Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.

The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.

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COPE; a toothless tiger?

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by Rex Clementine

Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the  legislature.

Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.

In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.

There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.

However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.

At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.

The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law.  From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.

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Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title  

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Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday. 

Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final. 

In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.  

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