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.
Exodus of white South African cricket talent
by Rex Clementine
Every time Sri Lankan teams go to South Africa, they ask the locals one question. ‘What happened to Marchant de Langa?’ The six foot seven inch tall quick, made his Test debut against the Sri Lankans in Durban in 2011. He took seven wickets in the first innings and his victims included Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, and Tilan Samaraweera et al. Yet, after that, he was hardly heard of. So what actually happened to de Langa? Well, he turned ‘Kolpak’ preferring County Cricket in England instead of Test cricket for his country.
Isn’t that absurd? One may wonder. The ultimate joy for any player is to represent your country. That too, after you had proven yourself in Test cricket, why do you want to return to First Class cricket? Well, the reason being, white South African cricketers get a raw deal in their country and they are seeking greener pastures in Europe or in places like Australia and New Zealand. Not just cricketers, this includes farmers, businessmen and other professionals. Australia in particular welcomes South African farmers with open arms.
For decades, the black South Africans suffered at the hands of white rulers and those terrible apartheid laws not only segregated them but deprived them of equal opportunities. The world took notice and imposed trade embargos on South Africa. Sports associations followed banning bilateral sporting ties with South Africa and in the end; they were left with Hobson’s choice but to give in for fair play.
Sadly, now white South Africans are at the receiving end due to the ‘quota system’ that is prevalent across all walks of life. When seeking employment, black South Africans get the preference, followed by coloured and those of Indian origin and the whites come last. So opportunities for them are few and rare. In sports too talent alone won’t get you there. The quota system encourages more black South African representation and as a result the whites are moving out.
In the Lanka Premier League, two South Africans share the new ball for Jaffna Stallions – Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier. Both were successful international cricketers before they turned Kolpak settling in England to play County Cricket.
Abbott was playing the New Year Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town in 2017. That he had signed a Kolpak deal was a poorly kept secret and the news was out during the Test match. Cricket South Africa reacted angrily and wanted to separate. The fast bowler announced his retirement at the conclusion of the Test match. This was the second Test. So for the third game in Johannesburg, the Proteas were short of a fast bowler. They drafted in Duanne Olivier.
Olivier on debut was on the money and his pace was too much to handle for the Sri Lankans. The game was lost inside three days. Two years later when Sri Lanka returned to South Africa, Olivier along with Kagiso Rabada was South Africa’s premier bowlers. Yet, after the second Test, Olivier too turned Kolpak and South Africa lost yet another fine talent in his prime.
All South Africans who have turned Kolpak are doing a terrific job for their respective counties. Their country meanwhile is struggling to make an impact in the sport. South Africa are ranked sixth in Tests and fifth in ODIs and T-20s. Not the true reflection of their sporting greatness.
What the Kolpak ruling means is that citizens of the country who have trade agreements with the European Union countries are eligible to work as locals. Now South Africa is not part of the EU, but they have a trade agreement with EU and that qualifies their citizens. So when English counties hire South Africans, it’s not considered an overseas signing.
In the last few years with Britain exiting from the European union more South Africans turned Kolpak in order to qualify. Cricket authorities in South Africa must be hoping that now their problems will end as Kolpak deal is no longer valid once Britain exits EU. However, unless they deal with serious issues like equal opportunities to all, they are going to face more problems.
Colombo win Super Over thriller in LPL opener
Colombo Kings came from behind to tie the curtain-raiser of the Lanka Premier League against Kandy Tuskers and then held onto a tensed win in the Super Over at Hambantota yesterday.
There was lot of exciting cricket and Kandy Tuskers looked to be having the game in the bag but Colombo Kings snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to some brilliant all-round performance from Isuru Udana, the only Sri Lankan to get an IPL contract this year.
Set a stiff target of 220, Colombo were well on course as Dinesh Chandimal produced a fine effort posting 80 off 46 balls. The T-20 format often requires improvisation but Chandimal’s were pure cricketing shots as he showcased that he can still excel in the shortest format of the game without slogging.
Chandimal was guilty of throwing it away though as he sliced a Naveen-ul-Haq delivery to third man where Nuwan Pradeep completed the catch.
Colombo lost Thikshila de Silva and skipper Angelo Mathews in quick succession but the presence of big hitting Andre Russell kept them in the hunt.
But Nuwan Pradeep returned for a second spell to claim two wickets including that of Russell and soon Kandy were in the driver’s seat again.
But Isuru Udana threw caution to the wind smashing 34 off 12 balls including four sixes to tie the game.
Colombo needed three to win in the last ball but Udana could only manage two sending the game to a Super Over.
Colombo managed 16 runs in the Super Over and then Udana was entrusted to defend it and he did a terrific job as Kandy could only get 11 runs.
Kandy owed it to their skipper Kusal Janith Perera, whose splendid effort gave them a competitive total of 219. KJP top scored with 87 runs off 52 balls with nine fours and four sixes.
Together with Rahmanullah Gurbaz (53), KJP gave his side a good start. Kandy’s 100 runs came in the eighth over and from thereon, they only had to bat sensibly to set a daunting target.
In the end, it all proved to be insufficient.
Successful staging of LPL would pave the way for other sports to resume – Dr. Lal Ekanayake
by Reemus Fernando
Dr. Lal Ekanayake, the Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine expressed hope that Lanka Premier League (LPL) cricket tourney which was scheduled to start in the evening yesterday would be the first step towards resumption of sports in the country despite a rise in the number of Covid 19 positive cases.
“Successful staging of the LPL tournament will pave the way for other sports to resume under new normal conditions. The sports minister too is looking at the possibilities of starting other sports events after the successful conclusion of the LPL,” said Ekanayake in an interview with The Island.
“The Covid 19 is unlikely to leave us soon. Experts say that this will stay for a couple of years. In such a scenario responsibility is on us to prepare ways to resume sports,” said Ekanayake.
“Even some countries which are worst affected by the pandemic have resumed sports under new normal. Sometimes there is confusion regarding health guidelines. But if we plan properly sports can resume,” opined Ekanayake.
“Many international sports events scheduled for next year will happen as scheduled. We cannot hold back. We are going to take part in these championships. The postponed Olympics is happening later next year. So are other international events,” said Ekanayake.
Ekanayake said that his institution was looking forward to support sports associations conduct their competitions. Sri Lanka Athletics is one of the hardest hit sports and the track and field governing body has scheduled the National Championship to December after the cancellations of many top level competitions throughout the year.
Ekanayake has expressed his views on resuming track and field sports on previous occasions as well. He has cited track and field sports as a low risk sports and has the ability to resume despite the pandemic.
Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women are scheduled to take part in a number of international events in 2021 and 2022. Resumption of local competitions including national championships is going to benefit them.
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