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Dilshi, Amasha, Kalinga among half a dozen to reach tough elite standard



98th National Athletics Championship – Review

by Reemus Fernando

With Sri Lanka Athletics announcing qualifying standards in advance to select several pools targeting international events, the 98th National Athletics Championship, which concluded on Tuesday, witnessed a number of athletes pushing their limits to produce outstanding performances. Despite being hampered by the absence of preparation meets including the trial meets which were abandoned in the eleventh hour due to the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, several athletes inspired the rest to be resolute even in adversity.

Sprinter Amasha de Silva and middle distance runner Dilshi Kumarasinghe who announced their arrival at the Asian Junior Championships in 2018 as future prospects, not only cemented their positions as formidable senior contenders at this meet but also provided hope of earning top Asian rankings.

Both turned tables on senior campaigners. Amasha the athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody clocked an outstanding 11.55 seconds to win the 100 metres dash. It was hailed as one of the top 100 metres performances in history by a female athlete. The outstanding feat secured the former Swarnamali Balika sprinter a place in the Sri Lanka Athletics elite pool as she overpowered former champion Rumeshika Ratnayake.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe surprised the veterans Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne during the last 200 metres of the 800 metres final. With her outstanding feat she not only secured her a place in the elite pool but also pushed the two veterans out of their comfort zones to achieve the qualifying marks to enter the elite pool. The 2:0280 seconds effort was outstanding in many ways. It improved her personal best and got her almost closer to the national record held by Liyanarachchi and powered her to the second position in the Asian Rankings. However, the former Ratnayake Central, Walala athlete did not do justice to her true potential in the 400 metres pushing hard a bit too late.

A feat of 53.47 seconds to win the women’s 400 metres was a welcome sign as Nadeesha Ramanayake, who was making a return after being sidelined at the South Asian Games due to dengue fever, retained her title. Kumarasinghe clocked 53.81 seconds to settle for silver. But had she given her best, it would have stood in good stead for Ramanayake too as a closer competition would have pushed them to the elite pool. The qualifying standard for the elite pool in the 400 metres was 53.20 seconds.

Sprinter Kalinga Kumarage who was returning to track after two years following a Disciplinary Committee clearing him of doping, clocked a wind-assisted 20.79 seconds to win the men’s 200 metres. His 400 metres performance of 46.25 seconds secured him the place in the elite pool.

While men’s long jumpers struggled competing against the wind, South Asian Games gold medalist Sarangi Silva touched the elite qualifying mark clearing a championship record distance of 6.33 metres in the women’s long jump.

Gayanthika Abeyratne was well within the range of the standard set for elite athletes when she clocked 4:17.58 seconds to win the women’s 1500 metres.

Triple jumpers Hashini Balasooriya (13.07 metres in the women’s event) and Sanjaya Jayasinghe (16.32 m) and Sreshan Dananjaya (16.12m in the men’s event) were outstanding but fell just short of securing a place in the elite pool. So was Olympian Sumeda Ranasinghe who had a notable 76.10 metres which was better than his South Asian Games bronze winning feat.

Ireshani Rajasinghe (13.85 secs) clinched the national title winning the 100 metres hurdles against defending champion Lakshika Sugandi (13.89 secs). Both were notable performances for athletes returning to action after one year.

A majority of athletes returning for their first meet in a year found it hard to match the elite standard. Even Nilani Ratnayake, who has a high world ranking, eligible to secure a place in the Olympics, could not reach the elite selection timing finishing her pet event the 3000 metres steeplechase (in 10:15.86 seconds) some 15 seconds slower.

One could feel sorry for Rusiru Chathuranga who was left at the threshold of the qualifying mark of the elite pool with his 1:49.82 seconds effort in the men’s 800 metres. With other leading runners including National record holder Indunil Herath failing to get even to the national pool mark (1:51.50 secs) the Asian Championship participant Chathuranga’s effort must be commended.

Sprinter Himasha Eshan’s 10.27 seconds in the 100 metres had assistance from wind.

It would augur well for athletes if the Athletics authorities could reconsider the standard for elite pool before finalizing it.

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Moose signs up as cricket’s clothing partner



Moose CEO Hasib Omar hands over the new Sri Lankan jersey to Dimuth Karunaratne, who will make a return to the ODI side in the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan. SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva and CEO Ashley de Silva are also in the picture

by Rex Clementine  

Singer had been a loyal sponsor of Sri Lankan cricket but a little heard company called Dilmah outbid Singer when the sponsorship was up for grabs in 2002. Singer boss Hemaka Amarasuriya wasn’t whinging and went on record saying that he welcomed local companies coming forward to back the sport.

Within a few years, Dilmah, an entity that was hardly known by most Sri Lankans became a global brand. That exactly is the strategy that Moose have adopted in their bid to become a global brand.

Moose a clothing company that is becoming quite popular among youth for their denims and t-shirts have been associated with cricket sponsorships in the last five years. On Thursday, they announced a four year deal with SLC to be clothing sponsor of the national cricket teams – both men and women.

Moose CEO Hasib Omar is a soft spoken young man who reminds you of the great Aravinda de Silva. But like in Ara’s case, beneath the soft exterior lies a sharp brain.

MAS had been the clothing sponsor of SLC for the last 16 years and Moose has outbid them signing a four year deal that will take them through all bilateral series, ICC events and Asian Cricket Council tournaments.  The partnership brings together two of the nation’s main strengths – cricket and apparel industry.

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Dimuth’s return to ODIs, a welcome move



by Rex Clementine  

After more than two years of stubborn resistance, the selectors have been forced to bite the bullet and admit that their strategies have been faulty and the top order of the ODI outfit needs stability. Hence the return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne for white ball cricket for the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan and he should retain his place for the World Cup qualifiers later next month in Zimbabwe too.

One of the troubles with the 50 over side is that the batting department has been found wanting not able to bat out the 50 overs. Dimuth provides the stability opening the innings with his ability to bat through the 50 overs. Other stroke makers can bat around him.

In 2021 April, Dimuth Karunaratne posted his career best Test score of 244 against Bangladesh. A month later, Sri Lanka’s white ball team was touring Bangladesh and Dimuth was sacked from the captaincy as the leadership of the white ball teams was handed to Kusal Perera. It was a left field choice. That was an experiment that didn’t last long.

Not only was Dimuth removed from the captaincy he lost his place in the side as well. It didn’t dawn to the selectors that the batters will be encountering the same bowlers and in Karunaratne they had a man who was in good touch, having smashed a double hundred against the Bangladeshis. The result was catastrophic. Sri Lanka lost the series and in both games they lost, the batting had collapsed.

It is these senseless moves that has resulted in Sri Lanka being forced to play the qualifying round of the World Cup.  By the time the selectors wisened up, the horse had bolted. The recalling of Dimuth is an admission by the selectors that they had got their act wrong in axing him.

It will be early winter in Zimbabwe in June and with day games teams will encounter some dew in the morning and need to adjust accordingly.  On paper, Sri Lanka should go through, but they are a team that has got everything to lose having won the World Cup once and featured in two other finals. For smaller nations, this is a massive opportunity and if they win, there’s nothing like that but if they lose, they can always try next time. Not for Sri Lanka though, who have featured in every World Cup since the tournament was launched in 1975.

Complacency is the only thing that Sri Lanka need to guard themselves against. A mindset that this is not a tough challenge could see them losing the plot as we have seen it happening to many teams time and again.

In Chris Silverwood the team has someone who knows what to expect in Zimbabwe as he started his coaching stint there having overseen Mashonaland (Harare).  The Head Coach will be tapping into the brains of his contacts in Zimbabwe as to what his team can expect when they travel for the qualifiers.

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Russian doubles player cleared of match-fixing two years after Roland Garros arrest



Yana Sizikova has a career-high ranking of 44 in women’s doubles

Russian doubles player Yana Sizikova has been cleared of match-fixing two years after her arrest at the French Open, according to her lawyer.The 28-year-old was arrested at Roland Garros in 2021 as part of an investigation into match-fixing allegations dating back to the 2020 edition of the Grand Slam.

Sizikova, ranked 50th in doubles, has continued to play on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour since her arrest and will compete at this year’s French Open, which starts today.

“After two and a half years of investigation, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office definitively closed the case on 11 April 2023, considering that criminal proceedings could not be initiated, as the facts of which Sizikova was accused could not be established,” her lawyer Frederic Belot told Reuters.

Officials began investigating in October 2020 after suspicions of “organised fraud” and “corruption in sports”.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC at the time the inquiry focused on a first-round match in which Sizikova and American partner Madison Brengle lost 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.

Suspicions were reportedly raised after betting companies noticed hundreds of thousands of euros had been wagered on a break of serve in the second set.Sizikova was released a day after her arrest in 2021.In July 2022 she and fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova won the Prague Open, while Sizikova reached two other finals last year.

(BBC Sports)

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