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De Grasse wins men’s 200m crown

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Canada’s Andre de Grasse became the new 200 metres king, blazing to Olympic glory leading a new generation of speedsters across the line at the Tokyo National Stadium on Wednesday.

De Grasse held a slender lead coming out of the bend but had Bednarek and Lyles for company with the Canadian holding on to cross the line in a time of 19.62 seconds. Bednarek followed in second with a personal best of 19.68, with Lyles bagging bronze in 19.74.

Three nights earlier, Italy’s Marcell Jacobs became the surprise heir to Usain Bolt’s vacant 100m crown, with De Grasse now laying claim to the iconic Jamaican’s title in the 200m.

The Canadian has demonstrated his propensity to perform on the big stage, stepping onto the podium at every major championship he has competed in since 2015.

Five years ago, he locked horns with Bolt in the 200m final in Rio 2016 but like so many before, he bowed the knee to the Jamaican to claim a creditable second place.

The 26-year-old often operates under the radar between major competitions but produces the goods when it matters most.

While De Grasse has three individual medals at the world championships – including the 200m silver medal from Doha in 2019 – the top step has evaded him over the past six years.

Highlighting his temperament for the big moment, De Grasse improved on his previous personal best he set at Rio 2016 again in the semi-final at the Olympic Games. He qualified for the final as the fastest man with a national record of 19.73, chopping 0.07 off the mark from five years ago.

Emmanuel Korir leads Kenyan 1-2 in 800 metres

Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir won the men’s 800m final, leading home a Kenyan 1-2 in 1:45.06 seconds. The 26-year-old athlete, who is the sixth-fastest 800m runner of all time, stormed to the front to take an impressive gold ahead of teammate Ferguson Rotich (1:45.23).

The bronze medal went to Poland’s Patryk Dobek who finished the race in 1:45.39. However, there was disappointment for Botswana’s Nijel Amos – the fastest man in the world this year over 800m – who finished eighth in 1:46.41.

There was always going to be a new gold medallist in the 800m, after double Olympic champion (London 2012 and Rio 2016) and world record holder David Rudisha withdrew from contention due to injury in May. And with the legend missing it left the door open for others to write their names in the history books.

Korir has taken that mantle in Tokyo, winning gold and the title of Olympic champion.

Botswana’s Amos was the presumptive favourite prior to the race, having posted a personal best of 1:41.73 and a season’s best of 1:42.91 – faster than anyone in the field.

His preparations for the final were far from ideal after a fall in his heat saw him jog to the finish line along with fellow stumbler Isaiah Jewett. However, the 27-year-old Amos was reinstated and given a place in the final, with the gold medal event taking place with nine competitors instead of eight.

The second-fastest this year was Korir, with fellow Kenyan Ferguson (named after Manchester United legend Sir Alex) Rotich third after a COVID-disrupted athletics season.

But it was Korir who stormed to victory, driving for the finish line to secure a memorable win and with it the top spot on the Olympic podium.

“It’s amazing I mean I’m so happy and grateful, this is a big achievement,” he said. “I’ve been praying and hoping to maybe one day have a medal and today I have it and I’m so thankful,” said Korir.

“I will still continue running the 400 and 800m. I want to achieve the 43 seconds in the 400m and maybe to do my best and maybe one day 1:40 in the 800m and maybe a world record.

“It’s going to be my happiness if I make it.”

While Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai won the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase, Wojciech Nowicki of Poland bagged the gold in the men’s hammer throw.

Chemutai won gold with a time on 9:01.45 as she edged out USA’s Courtney Frerichs, who won silver and Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng, who clinched bronze.

Wojciech Nowicki of Poland threw farthest to claim gold with a distance of 82.52 metres.

It was a personal best for Nowicki, who completed a Tokyo 2020 hammer throw double for Poland as his win came just a day after Anita W?odarczyk won the gold medal in the women’s event. The Pole was followed to the podium by Norway’s Eivind Henriksen who threw a national-record distance of 81.58. The bronze medal was scooped by Pawel Fajdek of Poland after a throw of 81.53.



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A championship in November might hurt athletes’ preparation for next year’s key events

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by Reemus Fernando  

Sri Lanka Army’s decision to schedule their flagship athletics event to November is likely to hurt top athletes’ preparations for next year’s major international events. The Army’s decision has come just a couple of weeks after Sri Lanka Athletics decided to windup the pandemic plagued season in October to allow enough time for off season as top athletes will have several crucial international competitions in 2022 including the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.

“Sri Lanka Athletics took the decision to conclude the season with the remainder of the National Championship in October in consultation with coaches as we have a busy schedule in 2022. Most of the coaches whose athletes had already completed their National Championship disciplines had started off-season training when the Army decided out of the blues to conduct their championship in November,” a senior coach told The Island.

Most of the top track and field athletes of the country are employed by Sri Lanka Army and athletes are bound to give equal prominence to the Army Athletics Championship. However, preparing them for the championship in November is likely to derail training plans of coaches who are eager to bring the best out of their athletes at two major international events in 2022.

Not having a proper Competition Calendar has been a problem that has hurt track and field athletes for decades now. Though Sri Lanka Athletics continue to announce their competition calendar in advance other stakeholders in the sport including the tri forces and the Sports Ministry have at times failed to announce theirs.

True the Covid 19 pandemic has hampered all schedules but it is important that all stake holders come together to take decisions vital for national athletics.

Despite the Covid 19 pandemic hampering sports events, Sri Lanka Athletics conducted a number of disciplines of the National Championship 2021 at the first leg in May to give opportunities for athletes who are closer to earn Olympic qualifying standards. The remaining legs of the National Championship 2021 which were rescheduled several times due to the pandemic will now be held on October 30 and 31.

The track and field governing body which will celebrate its centenary year in 2022 is eager to prepare strong teams for both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games as it has not experienced medal success at these championships for years now. Country has won 46 medals at the Asian Games. Of them 27 are from track and field sports. From the 11 gold medals it has won in the history of the Games ten have come from track and field. However, Sri Lanka has not won a medal in track and field after the men’s 4×400 metres relay team won a bronze in 2006. Sri Lanka has won only three track and field medals at the Commonwealth Games but non during the last two decades.

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MJ to work as consultant during World Cup

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Sri Lanka’s ICC T20 World Cup campaign has received a massive boost after former captain Mahela Jayawardene agreed to work with the team as a consultant during the tournament.

MJ will not be available for the entire campaign as his stint will last just one week, which means he will be only available for the qualifying round. He will not be available beyond the games against Namibia, Ireland and Netherlands.

SLC also stated that MJ has accepted a consultancy role with Sri Lanka Under-19 team for a period of five months lead up to next year’s ICC Under-19 World Cup. He will be working alongside his former SSC team mate Avishka Gunawardene, who is the Head Coach of the Under-19 side.

MJ known as a brilliant tactician in the game was one of Sri Lanka’s most successful captains across all forms of cricket. He was skipper when Sri Lanka won overseas Test matches in England, New Zealand and West Indies. He was also captain when Sri Lanka blanked England 5-0 in their own backyard. Under his leadership, Sri Lanka reached the finals of the ICC World T20 in 2012.

Since retiring from the game, he’s been a highly sought after coach having guided Mumbai Indians for multiple IPL titles and having worked with the England team as a consultant.

Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur welcomed the appointment. “I have worked with Mahela before and really looking forward to having him with us. He is one of the best cricket brains I have worked with and just very excited to have him with us,” he told The Island.

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Sri Lanka Athletics gives priority to Asian Games

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by Reemus Fernando

 Sri Lanka Athletics will give priority to Asian Games over the Commonwealth Games as the two major sports events take place within five weeks from each other in 2022. The track and field governing body indicated their priorities at a meeting with the National Olympic Committee yesterday.

“Our best chances are at the Asian Games. We are trying to get the best out of the talent we have. To achieve that we have set our priorities right. Though we are going to select a team for both events at the same stage we might not send some athletes for the Commonwealth Games,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics told The Island after a meeting with the NOC yesterday.

“For example our best chances for the men’s 4×400 metres relay team is at the Asian Games. We might not field that team for the Commonwealth Games,” Saman Kumara, the statistician of Sri Lanka Athletics said.

“In 2002 we had both the Commonwealth Games (July 25- August 4) and the Asian Games within a span of two months. We had three men who could run 400 metres in 45 seconds. We had the best chance of winning the 4×400 metres gold in Busan but the Commonwealth Games had its toll on the runners when the time came for the Asian Games,” said Saman Kumara who has experience as both a selector and manager of teams for these games.

While the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham, the Chinese city of Hangzhou will host Asian Games from September 10 to 25.

“We are almost certain of fielding a men’s 4×100 metres relay team for the Commonwealth Games provided they meet selection criteria. The men’s 4×400 metres relay team will be reserved for the Asian Games.”

Though medal prospects are dim in track events at the Commonwealth Games, Sri Lanka’s men’s 4×100 metres relay team consisting of Himasha Eshan, Shehan Ambepitiya, Vinoj Suranjaya and Mohamed Ashrafu had a memorable outing at the last edition in Gold Coast where they established the current national record clocking 39.08 seconds.

That record will be in danger now with Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon improving the national record this year and showing the ability to further improve the record.

Sri Lanka Athletics will update the current elite and national pools after concluding the remaining events of the National Championship at the end of next month. That pool will be maintained till March 2022 when the teams for both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are selected. The centenary National Championships in 2022 April (8,9,10) will be the final selection trial for both the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.

Sri Lanka Athletics will also target forming a mixed relay team for the Asian Games as there are two strong contenders to fill the women’s spots in Nadeesha Ramanayake and Dilshi Kumarasainghe. While Kalinga Kumarage and Aruna Dharshana are the front runners for the men’s sports in the mixed relay, the next few months will be crucial for the rest of the sprinters aspiring to win a place in the team for the men’s 4×400 metres relay.

Given their current form, the 100 metres, 400 metres, 4x100metres, 4×400 metres, high jump, long jump, and javelin throw, in the men’s category, 800 metres, steeplechase, long jump, and marathon in the women’s category and the mixed relay are the disciplines in which athletes have shown potential in reaching qualifying standards.

Sri Lanka has won the majority of Asian Games medals in track and field events though the country has not witnessed medal success after the men’s 4×400 metres quartet of Rohan Pradeep Kumara, Rohitha Pushpakumara, Prasanna Amarasekara and  Ashoka Jayasundara won the bronze in 2006 in Doha. Since 2006 the country has won only two medals, both in cricket.

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