by Reemus Fernando
With another outstanding solo run at the hastily arranged athletic event held at Diyagama over the weekend, Nilani Ratnayake has once again exhibited her prowess in the demanding endurance event of 3,000 metres steeplechase. But will the near record-breaking feat be enough for her to maintain her current position in the ‘Road to Oregon’ World Championship rankings before the qualifying period for the major athletics event expires this week?
With the qualifying period for the World Championships closing on Sunday Nilani will have an anxious wait to know whether she could win the rare honour of representing Sri Lanka in the women’s steeplechase in Oregon.
She is currently in the 38th position in the ‘Road to Oregon’ rankings.
The official results of the weekend’s competition show a notable time of 9:46.39 seconds against Nilani’s name in her pet event. Like in so many races this season, she remained unchallenged during the entire race. The only other athlete to compete against the national record holder finished more than three minutes after Ratnayake.
The Sri Lanka Army athlete has produced three outstanding performances this year. The first was the 9:47.47 seconds feat at the First Selection trial held in February. At the Centenary National Championships in April, Nilani broke her own national record with a feat of 9:40.24 seconds, a performance better than the bronze winning feat at the 2018 Asian Games. Her feat of 9:46.39 seconds at the weekend’s event was better than that of the silver medallist’s feat at the Asian Championships in Doha in 2019.
Two years ago, Nilani was one of the medal hopefuls at the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha but her hopes shattered when she stumbled at the final barrier to settle for the fourth place. So much has happened during the last two years. She was the favourite to earn a place in the team to Tokyo Olympics last year but lack of quality competitions prevented her from improving her ranking and earning the rare honour.
Her coach Sajith Jayalal wanted to help Nilani accomplish that rare honour this year by earning the World Championship spot and made meticulous preparations. The only disappoint again was the lack of quality competitions where she would get some challenge to improve her personal best.
While almost all other top athletes including long jumper Sarangi Silva and Gayanthika Abeyratne received at least one competition opportunity abroad, Nilani was not lucky to get a top-grade competition to improve her rankings.
Despite the setback Nilani was still in the 38th position in the in the ‘Road to Oregon’ rankings yesterday.
The top 45 athletes in the ‘Road to Oregon’ rankings are selected for the women’s steeplechase.
While Sarangi Silva was ranked 32nd in the list for the women’s long jump (top 32 are selected), Gayanthika was in the 45th position (top 48 in the list are selected) in the list for the women’s 800 metres. It will be an anxious wait for all three female athletes.
Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament
by a Special Sports Correspondent
The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.
The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.
The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.
“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.
Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.
Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.
Chathurya, Dinara, Saajida, Vishmi advance to second round
ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament
Chathurya Nilaweera ousted India’s Dhanush Varma to reach the second round of the ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament continued at the SSC Tennis Courts on Tuesday.
Nilaweera was the only player in the boys’ category from Sri Lanka to advance from the first round as he beat Varma 6-2, 6-0.
In the girls’ category Dinara de Silva, Saajida Razick and Vishmi Serasinghe reached the second round when they won their respective first round matches on Monday.
Dinara beat Yu Ching Wang of Taipei 6-3, 7-6(4) and Razick beat Indian Anushka Bhola 6-1, 6-1, while Serasinghe ousted Wei Chiao-Chen also from Taipei 6-1, 6-1.
In the other matches Dinethya Dharmarathe, Dahamna Methnadi, Nesangi Hemakumara, Vinethya Dharmarathne and Gehansa Metnadi conceded first round defeats.
In the boys’ category Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne, Abdul Bashit Cader, Thilina Dissanayake and Zahid Zihar were eliminated in the first round.
The boys’ and girls’ second round matches will be played today.
The tournament which commenced on July 4 will culminate on Friday.
Sri Lanka add more spin options after first Test disaster
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka have taken some desperate measures leading up to the second Test against Australia in Galle by adding more spin options indicating that the team management and the selectors are willing to make wholesale changes after the pathetic performance in the first Test which they lost before lunch on day three.
Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya has been sent home after he failed to make an impact following the ten-wicket loss last week. In an inexperienced attack, the 25-year-old with 17 Test caps is the senior most bowler but he had got his lengths wrong in a game dominated by Australian spinners. Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh as well and was dropped. Instead of letting him fight his way back, he was drafted into the first Test against Australia and it wasn’t surprising to see him failing to make an impact. Now with the series at stake, Sri Lanka have pressed the panic button.
Even if Dimuth Karunaratne’s side win the second Test, Australia will retain Warne-Murali Trophy since they are the holders having blanked Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2019.
Sri Lanka’s desperation is evident by the fact that they have recalled Maheesh Theekshana, who hasn’t played a First-Class game in four years. In fact, Army had been told not to consider Theekshana for the ongoing one-day competition to help him recover from niggles but suddenly he finds himself in the hot seat with a Test series at stake.
Uncapped Dunith Wellalage also has been added to the squad giving the left-arm spin option that has been taken away following the axing of Embuldeniya. Support left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama had tested positive for COVID.
Former captain Angelo Mathews who was in isolation after testing positive for COVID has returned a negative test and has rejoined the team.
Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe is the third player to be added to the group. He had an impressive series against Australia ‘A’ too. It is expected that Wellalage will make his Test debut while the slot for the third spinner is a toss-up between Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana. The leg-spinner was untidy in the opening Test and the more realistic option seems to be that Theekshana debuting alongside Wellalage.
Although three replacement spinners have been added, some wonder why Sri Lanka have not thought of some batting replacements. It was a pathetic display by the team in the second innings where they were shot out inside a session and faced only 22.3 overs.
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