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.
Openers star in India’s crushing win
India tour of Zimbabwe, 2022
Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill struck unbeaten 80s after a clinical performance with the ball, helping India take a 1-0 lead with a 10-wicket victory against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club on Thursday (August 18). Deepak Chahar, playing his first international game since February 2022, bagged a three-wicket haul and was complemented by Axar Patel and Prasidh Krishna who also picked up three wickets apiece as India bowled Zimbabwe out for 189. Gill (82* off 72) and Dhawan (81* off 113) then put on their third 100-plus stand in the last four innings to lead India over the line with 19.1 overs to spare.
Dhawan and Gill weren’t in any hurry in the chase, taking their time to get going. Apart from a couple of fours at the start of the innings, Dhawan was mostly watchful, as was Gill as they negated the new-ball bowlers who were finding swing. But Victor Nyauchi struggled for rhythm and erred with his lines, bowling as many as eight wides in a four-over opening spell. Gill was dealing in singles while Dhawan capitalised on the loose deliveries for a couple of boundaries. The vice-captain also got a reprieve, put down by Evans at square leg off Sean Williams.
Having gone without a boundary till the end of the 13th over, Gill finally broke loose in the 14th, scoring three fours (one off an outside edge) off Brad Evans while taking the run-rate past five an over. With the field spread, there were easy opportunities to milk singles and twos, and the Indian openers went about in a risk-free manner to build their partnership. Dhawan got to a 76-ball fifty and then struck a four over extra cover off Sikandar Raza in the 20th over to bring up the century partnership.
Gill’s fifty was the next milestone as the right-handed opener reached there off 51 balls with two successive fours off Ryan Burl. The first six of the innings came off Gill’s bat as he clubbed a Wesley Madhevere delivery over the midwicket fence to power India past 150 in the 26th over, and the 22-year old soon outscored the 36-year old veteran despite facing lesser deliveries. Both Gill and Dhawan added to their boundary count, getting the scoring rate past six. The left-hander struck the winning boundary in the 31st over as India recorded their 13th successive ODI win against Zimbabwe and also their ninth victory in the last 10 ODIs.
Earlier, with a generous amount of swing and bounce on offer in the morning, Chahar and Mohammed Siraj bowled a testing spell to the Zimbabwe openers after KL Rahul opted to bowl. Having gone past the outside edge multiple times and losing a review for a leg-before decision, Chahar finally bagged the wicket of Innocent Kaia with a short delivery and also dismissed Tadiwanashe Marumani a short while later. Siraj then got the better of Williams with a short of a length delivery to get the batter to edge to first slip, while Chahar bagged his third wicket by trapping Madhevere in front as Zimbabwe slipped to 31 for 4 in the 11th over.
Zimbabwe captain Regis Chakabva took the attack back to India by scoring a flurry of boundaries. Meanwhile, the visitors lost their second review when Chahar, who bowled his seventh straight over, rapped Raza on the pads and replays revealed that the ball was missing the stumps. Chakabva and Raza built a steady partnership but their association came to an end on 35 when Prasidh found the outside edge of the in-form Raza. Chakabva had a lucky break when he reviewed a leg-before decision in a Kuldeep Yadav over after being given out. At the other end Burl played some confident-looking shots but fell to a short-ball ploy from Prasidh.
The first wicket to spin came in the 27th over when Chakabva, looking to play the cut shot, was bowled by Axar for 35 and the left-arm spinner also dismissed Luke Jongwe. While India would have hoped to wrap up the innings quickly, Evans and Ngarava kept them waiting as they put on a fighting half-century partnership. The pair rotated the strike well, scored boundaries from time to time while Evans also struck the first six of the innings when he sent a Kuldeep delivery over the midwicket fence as they raised Zimbabwe’s highest ninth wicket stand against India. Ngarava also struck a six, sending an Axar delivery wide of long-on, before a yorker from Prasidh ended his stay. Axar dismissed last man Nyauchi as Zimbabwe’s innings ended with 9.3 overs still remaining.
Zimbabwe 189 in 40.3 overs (Regis Chakabva 35, Richard Ngarava 34; Brad Evans 33*; Deepak Chahar 3-27, Axar Patel 3-24, Prasidh Krishna 3-50) lost to India 192/0 in 30.5 overs (Shubman Gill 82*, Shikhar Dhawan 81*) by 10 wickets.
Raducanu’s promising Cincinati run ends
Emma Raducanu’s dominant form at the Cincinnati Open ended as seventh seed Jessica Pegula proved a sharp step up in class for the British number one.Raducanu had trounced veterans Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, but lost 7-5 6-4 to Pegula in the last 16.
Now the 19-year-old switches her focus to defending her crown at the US Open, which starts in New York on 29 August.British men’s number one Norrie, seeded ninth, won 6-0 6-2 against the teenage American wildcard Ben Shelton as the gulf between the pair showed.
Norrie, who beat Andy Murray in the previous round, secured victory in just 57 minutes and will play Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who is seeded third, in the quarter-finals.Following her defeat by Pegula, Raducanu said her time in Cincinnati had shown that making mistakes is not necessarily a step backwards.
“In the past year it’s one of the few tournaments that I have started going for my shots more,” she said.
Optimism around Raducanu increased after her statement wins against 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams and fellow major winner Azarenka, albeit with the caveat that both of her ageing opponents are nowhere near their prime.
Against Williams, the world number 13 produced probably her best performance since her shock win at the US Open last year, backing that up with another confident display against an out-of-sorts Azarenka.Dropping just six games combined in the two victories – each lasting a little over an hour – was a welcome boost for Raducanu after a tough year.
But facing the consistent Pegula was always likely to provide a better assessment of where the Briton’s game is.It was only the second time in Raducanu’s burgeoning career that she has faced a top-10 ranked opponent and, in Pegula, one who has racked up the second highest number of WTA 1000 match wins since the start of 2021.
After losing serve in the third game of the match, Raducanu broke straight back but continued to be put under pressure by Pegula’s heavier ball-striking.Raducanu fought off three more break points to hold for 3-2, and another in the ninth game, before Pegula finally took another chance for a 6-5 lead.That left the 28-year-old American serving for the opening set and she took the chance without conceding a point.
Recent defeats in Washington and Toronto saw Raducanu edged out in tight opening sets before fading quickly against both Liudmila Samsonova and Camila Giorgi.Raducanu hit an untimely double fault to fall a break down early in the second set against Pegula and while her opponent’s level remained slightly higher, showed resilience to stay within a single break.
The narrow lead was enough for the impressive Pegula – who is enjoying her breakout year after struggling with injuries at the start of her career – to serve out the match without facing too much pressure.She will return to Flushing Meadows with renewed hope after a productive and confidence-boosting week in Cincinnati.Elsewhere in the WTA draw, top seed Iga Swiatek lost in the third round for the second successive tournament.
French Open champion Swiatek, 21, was beaten 6-3 6-1 by American Madison Keys, who earned the first win of her career against a world number one.Poland’s Swiatek has lost four of her past eight matches since her 37-match winning streak was ended at Wimbledon.Keys will face Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals after the Wimbledon champion beat American Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2 6-4.Czech Petra Kvitova won 6-1 4-6 6-0 against Tunisia’s Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur, while Estonian second seed Anett Kontaveit was knocked out by China’s Zhang Shuai who triumphed 2-6 6-4 6-4.
In the men’s draw, world number one Daniil Medvedev wore down Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 7-5 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals before he starts his US Open title defence.The Russian faces American Taylor Fritz, who beat Medvedev’s compatriot Andrey Rublev 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 7-5.
Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, Canadian seventh seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and American John Isner are also through, along with Croatia’s Borna Coric who followed up his win over Rafael Nadal by beating another Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
Southern Brave make it three in a row
Women’s Hundred 2022
Southern Brave made it three wins out of three following a narrow nine-run win over Manchester Originals on Thursday. Chasing 137, Originals found themselves in a very good position to register their second win of the campaign before a huge collapse saw them lose their grip on the game.
Lizelle Lee took some time before taking on Georgia Adams for 16 runs in the space of three deliveries to give her side a strong start. With Emma Lamb also making an impressive start, Originals’ openers added 46 for the opening wicket. The wicket didn’t deter the batting side as they continued to motor along in fine fashion and at one stage were 102/2 with 35 needed off 23 deliveries. Eight wickets in hand at that stage meant the target was definitely achievable.
However, Lauren Bell and Amanda Wellington struck to trigger a collapse. Under pressure, Originals also suffered a run out at that stage as Lamb continued to watch the procession from one end. She went on to make a half-century but she departed when her side needed 19 more runs to win. Brave then managed to close out the innings in perfect fashion to eke out a win.
Earlier in the day, a strong performance from the top order laid a solid foundation for Brave. Smriti Mandhana hit just the second ball of the innings for a boundary and then went berserk by smashing five more fours and a couple of sixes to race to 43 off just 24 balls. Her wicket gave the bowling side some much-needed respite as they started to pull things back.
Even though Danielle Wyatt made 31, a couple of quick wickets pegged back the batting side. Vital cameos right at the death from Maia Bouchier and Freya Kemp ensured Brave went past 130, which was just about enough to remain unbeaten in the competition.
Southern Brave 136/5 in 100 balls (Smriti Mandhana 43, Danielle Wyatt 31; Sophie Ecclestone 2-32) beat Manchester Originals127/8 in 100 balls (Emma Lamb 57; Amanda Wellington 3-27, Lauren Bell 2-17) by 9 runs
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