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Chinthana not ready to throw in the towel yet



by Reemus Fernando  

It is 14 years since he first rose to fame winning an unprecedented gold in weightlifting at international level. Chinthana Vidanage who inspired a generation of athletes to take up weightlifting with his Commonwealth Games gold in Australia is not ready to throw in the towel yet.  

Vidanage whose highest international success have been achieved at the Commonwealth Games said in an interview with The Island that his long-term plans run at least until 2022 Commonwealth Games.  

“I have the 2022 Commonwealth Games in my long term plan. I can’t stop the initiatives I have taken without supporting as many as I could to take up this sport,” Vidanage said. 

Vidanage who last enjoyed international success at the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal was a member of the weightlifting team that competed at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where he finished fifth. 

“Last year when I established two national records in the 81kg category I proved that I still have the ability to win at Commonwealth Games level. The Covid 19 pandemic has prevented me from accessing my current strength,” said Vidanage who will be 40 when he competes at the 2022 Birmingham Games. 

 “I consider it my responsibility to continue in this sport for as long as I can. Many Olympians have given up on their sport too early. An Olympian has a wealth of experience that he can give back to fellow athletes who are eager to achieve that top level. Take for example Manjula Kumara (high jump national record holder). He competed for many years. An Olympian like Manjula Kumara could have been an inspiration to many had he been here to guide budding athletes. At the time Manjula gave up athletics he was in his mid 30s. The younger generation even today are struggling to accomplish what he achieved nearly a decade ago. It is not totally about winning. It’s about what you can give back to the next generation of athletes for that particular sport to survive,” said the sailor of his contemporary who competed for nearly two decades as the country’s top high jumper.  

Asked whether he has faith in the country’s sports authorities to obtain the knowledge of such Olympians for the betterment of the sport he said: “The Sports Minister himself is a sportsman and I firmly believe that he would take necessary steps to engage the services of veteran sportsmen and help top level athletes who are keen on continuing” 

Commenting on the contribution he has made towards his sport as a veteran he said he was able to inspire many both during competition and training. “If you take top weightlifters who are doing well now I can be happy about the contribution I have made. If you take Indika Dissanayake and Palangasinghe, they all trained with me. You can not only give instructions on techniques when you have young people training with you but also one can help them on how to think like a champion.”    

Asked for his comments on the impact the Covid 19 pandemic had on his training and preparation he said: “I don’t think that the Covid 19 pandemic had a big impact on training of the top level weightlifters. I did not stop training. I trained according to a plan where I could peak at any given time. In my training plan I don’t have an off season. If you relax you cannot achieve your targets. All top level athletes are training as hard as they can. What we greatly missed was competitions. In the economic front there are problems to many who are not coming under Sports Ministry’s supervision.” 

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Angelo Perera stars as Dambulla earn hard fought win



A change of tactics by Dambulla Viikings earned them a much needed win in the Lanka Premier League over Kandy Tuskers at Suriyawewa yesterday.

Dambulla had been relying on their big hitters to bat most of their overs in the competition but yesterday they promoted Angelo Perera to number three although he had batted at six previously. 

Perera was scratchy to start with not being able to time the ball sweetly but as he spent time at the middle, his knock gained momentum and soon he cashed in putting the loose balls and not so bad ones away.

Perera was eventually dismissed for 67 that came off 49 deliveries but by that stage, Dambulla were cruising needing only a further 22 off 23 balls. In the end, Dambulla won with four balls to spare. 

There was a scare as Perera and skipper Dasun Shanaka were dismissed in successive overs but chasing a mere 157, they could afford a few mistakes. There will be no lapses against stronger teams like Jaffna Stallions though and Shanaka admitted the need to for set to batsmen to finish things off.

Although Kandy managed only 156, there was some superb batting on display earlier in the day. 

In order to be meaningful in T-20 cricket these days, you need to at least maintain a strike rate of 100 plus. What is so special about Kusal Mendis is that he fulfills that requirement without having to slog. His elegant cricket strokes are finely timed, bisects the fielders and more importantly mighty effective as well.

Mendis has been the mainstay of Kandy Tuskers batting and he held the innings together posting a half-century with his 55 coming off 45 balls.

But Tuskers lost three wickets in the space of seven balls for the addition of four runs including Mendis and Brendan Taylor to hand Dambulla the initiative.

A target in the range of 170 would have made it a close encounter.

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Galle Gladiators problems compound after fourth straight loss



Game one of yesterday’s double header proved to be a stalemate with Jaffna Stallions proving their might and Galle Gladiators struggling to make an impact yet again. Jaffna continued their impressive run collecting their fourth win in the competition and despite them having four more games in the league stage, they are through to the semis. Galle meanwhile now have lost all four encounters and there’s not much indication that they can fix the problem.

Galle got a few things wrong in their campaign and selections is one of them. To quote Sanjay Manjrekar they have got too many, ‘bits and pieces cricketers’ and their over reliance on all-rounders has resulted in absence of a couple of solid batsmen.

Leading up to their game against the in form Jaffna side, Galle had to come out all guns blazing but they were dealt a heavy blow when captain Shahid Afridi flew back to Pakistan due to personal reasons.

They got off to a good start with Danushka Gunathilaka posting yet another half-century. But Galle depend too much on Gunathilaka and although a few batsmen chipped in with useful contributions nobody was able to take on the bowling and put pressure back on Jaffna.

Shehan Jayasuriya often said to be not being given enough opportunities by Sri Lanka’s selectors; despite his impressive shows in domestic cricket and here was a perfect opportunity for him to make an impact. But his seniority has not meant much in this competition and he was run out off the last ball of the innings for eight that came off 13 balls.

Then during a crucial stage of the run chase, Jayasuriya made a mess of a chance off Man of the Match Avishka Fernando not attacking the ball. The very next ball, Fernando was put down by the wicket-keeper with Dhananjaya Lakshan being the unlucky bowler.

Jaffna had a scare or two especially when they needed 18 off 12 balls. But they got home with four balls to spare.

Avishka Fernando was in red hot form. Together with Minod Bhanuka he added 99 runs for the second wicket as both batters found the boundary frequently.

Given Thisara Perera’s big hitting skills, often fans have wondered why Sri Lanka do not promote him up in the order to get them some quick runs. They have been very conventional limiting him to number seven or eight, but yesterday, Perera – with little pressure on his side – promoted himself to number four. He managed only nine off nine but the experimentation is commendable nevertheless.

Fernando was Man of the Match. He made 84 off 59 balls with seven fours and five sixes.


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Pandemic forces Sri Lanka Athletics to take unprecedented steps



Two banned athletes included pending Appeals Committee decision

by Reemus Fernando

The current pandemic situation has forced Sri Lanka Athletics to take an unprecedented step in including two track athletes, who are currently serving drug bans, in the list of eligible athletes to compete at the forthcoming National Athletics Championships.

Names of sprinter M.G.C.M. Jayasekara and 800 metres specialist S.K. Wedagedara, who were banned for failed drug tests appear in the list of eligible athletes published by Sri Lanka Athletics.

“The two athletes had been included in the list pending an Appeals Committee decision,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics said in reply to The Island queries.

“The pandemic situation has forced us to limit participation. Only the top ranked athletes are allowed to compete. We have already published the top list to avoid confusion and only those who are in that list wiil be allowed to enter the Stadium. In the event the Appeals Committee take a decision within these few days to allow the two banned athletes to compete, they would not be able to enter the stadium if we do not include them in the list now. They are included, pending the Appeals Committee decision,” said the official.

When contacted in this regard the Sri Lanka Anti Doping Agency sources confirmed that M.G.C.M. Jayasekara and S.K. Wedagedara have both appealed their bans.

The senior official also said that the athletes whose names are not listed in the eligible list to compete at the 98th National Athletics Championship can appeal for their inclusion before December 8 as the sport’s governing body struggles amidst the pandemic to provide top athletes with the final opportunity to earn ranking points for this year.

“There is no need to panic if your name is not there. What you need to do is to make an appeal. Then we will consider including them,” said the official.

Sri Lanka Athletics released a list of top athletes who are eligible to compete at the flagship event following a series of cancellations throughout the year due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The track and field governing body took the decision to limit the number of participants due to the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic.

The eligible list includes the highest ranked athletes who are currently in Sri Lanka.

“All top athletes excluding those who are based overseas are included in the eligible list. There are a few athletes who had gone out of our radar during the last few months. They can appeal if they consider themselves fit to compete,” said the official.

The championship will commence on December 26 with only athletes, coaches and masseurs allowed inside the Sugathadasa Stadium.

Top athletes winning their respective National Championship events earn 100 ranking points which augur well for those aspiring to earn better World Athletics rankings and qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.

If held as scheduled the 98th National Championship will be the first track and field event at which local athletes are taking part after the South Asian Games in Nepal in December 2019.

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