by Reemus Fernando
The impressive national records established at the 99th National Athletics Championships were a welcome sign for track and field sport as it looks forward to overcoming the Covid 19 related setbacks ahead of a crucial and historical year. However, of the remarkable achievements recorded at the second and final leg of the championships, only two performances stand tall enough to match top Asian standards.
Sri Lanka’s athletics fraternity had to wait for 24 long years to see someone breaking the 14 seconds barrier in the men’s 110 metres hurdles untill Roshan Dhammika Ranatunga smashed the national record on his way to winning the title. First, the Army athlete took three milliseconds off the record (14.00 seconds) held by Olympian Mahesh Perera in the heats before improving it to 13.89 seconds in the final. It was a huge performance by Sri Lankan standards but during the 24 years the previous record had stagnated at 14 seconds the discipline had improved steadily in Asia. While the event’s global powerhouse, the US had witnessed its athletes breaking the 13 seconds barrier in the early 1980s, Asia saw a stunning performer emerge early in the millennium in China’s Xiang Liu who’s 12.88 seconds feat in 2006 (current Asian record) is ranked fourth in the all-time best performance list in the world. Though Asia has not seen such a fast performance in nearly one and a half decade, some two dozen athletes in Asia clock sub 14 seconds in the 110 metres hurdles every year. Roshan Dhammika’s performance is the joint 43rd fastest time in Asia this year according to the latest stats published by World Athletics.
Mahesh Perera had a sub 14.00 seconds wind-assisted feat in 1997 but was yet to touch that speed when he found a place in the team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Though Roshan Dhammika has now smashed Perera’s national record and even bettered Chaminda Fonseka’s wind-assisted feat of 13.91 seconds, he would find his record-breaking performance agonizingly inadequate even to be selected for next year’s Asian Games. Sri Lanka Athletics has suggested 13.48 seconds as the qualifying standard for the 2022 Asian Games and Roshan Dhammika has a few more months to accomplish the target.
Gayanthika Abeyratne probably produced the most stunning performances of her career lowering two national records within two days. Both feats were remarkable as she slashed good chunks from the previous national records in 1,500 metres and the 5,000 metres. A veteran in the 800 metres with several regional medals to her credit in that discipline, Abeyratne clocked 4:09.12 seconds to take some six seconds off Nimali Liyanarachchi’s 2019 records (4:15.86 secs). That is the fourth-fastest time by an Asian this year behind Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka, India’s Harmilan Bains and Japan’s Ran Urabe. With that stunning feat, she has certainly proved that she would be a deserving candidate for an Asian Games slot. Her record-breaking feat of 4:09.12 seconds is equivalent to the silver medal-winning feat of Ethiopian born Bahraini athlete Tigist Gashaw at the last Asian Games.
Abeyratne’s 15:55.84 seconds performance in the 5,000 metres was also remarkable by Sri Lankan standards as no other female athlete had run the distance below 16 minutes. US-based Hiruni Wijeratne and the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase national record holder Nilani Ratnayake had clocked 16 minutes and 17 seconds in 5,000 metres in August 2019 but no one has come close to breaking that record since then. But in Asia, some 80 athletes have clocked faster performances this year. Abeyratne’s new record mark will place her 82nd in a list dominated by Japanese distance runners.
Sarangi Silva’s long jump feat of 6.48 metres has placed her joint sixth in the list of Asian long jumpers this year. She is in prime form after bagging the national record of NCD Priyadharshani in June this year. With the new national mark, the South Asian Games medallist has come closer to the standard required to be in the team for the next Asian Games. The notable record will further boost her appetite for success in the Asian region. But for an Asian Games medal, she has to improve her record further. This year’s top Asian performance is 6.85 metres by Uzbekistan’s Darya Reznichenko. Sarangi will also have India’s B. Aishwarya (who has a feat of 6.52 metres this year) and three others who have done better than her best feat this year to compete against.
The other national record to fall during the two-day event was the women’s pole vault mark. Sachini Perera improved on her previous national record with a feat of 3.57 metres. Pole vault is a discipline in which Sri Lanka is still struggling to make an impact in the Asian region. Perera’s national record mark cannot even occupy the 100th position in the Asian region’s best performances this year. Yet her feat will augur well for the struggling discipline and will give impetus for her few rivals.
Though there were only two performances from the second leg of the National Championship which could rank among the top ten feats in Asia this year the five national records were a huge accomplishment for the competition starved sport. It should also be noted that the events held at the second leg were not among Sri Lanka Athletics’ top priority events. The governing body conducted the first leg before the Olympic qualifying period expired to help athletes who were on the border of Olympic qualifying standards.
Sri Lanka Athletics will conduct the 100th National Athletics Championships in a few months (April 2022) and that event will be the final selection opportunity for a number of international events that take place during the centenary year. Some of the athletes who excelled at the concluded second leg of the 99th National Championship are destined for greater glory at next years event.
Dr. Cyril’s journey in Taekwondo has been fruitful
by A Special Sports Correspondent
Taekwondo in Sri Lanka has made a tough and challenging journey after it was introduced to the islanders by Deshamanya Master Dr. Cyril Antony to the island back on December 12th, 1976.
Those were the days when Bruce Lee’s films were sown in Asia and there was a great following for martial arts. The same environment prevailed here in Sri Lanka as well. After Dr. Antony picked up the rudiments of Taekwondo in Canada-where its founder General Choi Hong Hi was residing-he decided to make a quick return home and spread the sport island-wide.
However, Dr. Antony’s beginnings in martial arts had more to do with Kyokushin karate; a martial art where its players resorted to heavy blows and full contact fighting. According to Dr. Antony, Taekwondo is a much safer sport than karate due to its rhythmic and circular movements. “I respect karate because I cut my teeth in martial arts by learning it. But I realised that my future was with Taekwondo once I learned it in Canada,” said Antony in an interview with The Island.
There was a large following for the sport when he introduced it. But the numbers wanting to try it shot up largely because he had a successful stint as a referee at the World Championships in 1978. He was just 30 years old then when he achieved this feat.
At the inception, he started classes in Colombo, Kandy, Badulla, Wattala, Ratnapura, and Kuliyapitiya. “I used my personal contacts to promote the sport. There was much help for me because there was no politics involved with the sport back then,” he recalled. All these activities were made possible through his ‘club’-the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association (SLTA).
As the sport gathered momentum here in Sri Lanka he registered the SLTA as the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation with the Ministry of Sports in 1984. Before that, exactly two years earlier, he registered Taekwondo as a national sport with the Ministry of Sports. All this was done with the good intention of promoting the sport and not with the aim of basking in personal glory.
However, things fell out of place when, in the year 1996, the then Minister of Sports took steps to suspend the registration of the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation. No reasons were given for this harsh action. The Sports Minister appointed an interim committee to oversee the administration of the federation and included his name among the list of administrators. But Dr. Antony soon fell out with the rest of the interim committee, so decided to go on his own.
Dr. Cyril Antony’s students perform during a Taekwondo demonstration
Reflecting on the suspension Dr. Antony said, “I think they wanted to benefit from the aid sent to us from South Korea for the purpose of promoting the sport here. I don’t think the Ministry of Sports had any legitimate right to suspend our registration because we didn’t receive any government funding or support.”
So between the years 1976 and 2021 the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association, functioning in the capacity of a club promoted the sport in the island and served this nation in silence. To date there are as many as 200 committed students and eight qualified instructors there to promote the sport.
On December 12 last year the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association held a ceremony to mark the occasion of the sport being present in Sri Lanka for a period of 45 years. It was held at the residence of Dr. Antony; the event was well attended by his students, teachers, his close associates, and the few representatives of the media.
Looking back at the hard journey made thus far Dr. Antony said, “I think we did better as an association that functioned without ties with the Ministry”. For the record his son Uditha and daughter Nayanajeevi are also full-time students training under him.
He added that Taekwondo being an Olympic sport was an added advantage to those practising it. “Our suspension took away the glory from the sport practised here,” he said.
Speaking further on the matter he said when he visited the archives of the Sports Ministry he had been told that there were no documents there to show that the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation was suspended. However, the federation is at present functioning under an elected body; in which Dr. Antony plays no role.
As things are Dr. Antony will continue to function through his Association which is serving the sport well. He has a great following in the sport and the name Dr. Cyril Antony is interwoven with Taekwondo in Sri Lanka. The sport owes a great deal to him because according to Dr. Antony he has spent the best years of his life promoting Taekwondo. He has grown old in the sport and he cannot even dream of divorcing himself from the sport he loves so much.
Pesandu wins Sri Lanka Chess Grand Prix 2022
Pesandu Rashmitha Liyanage of D.S. Senanayake College, Colombo won the Championship of the Sri Lanka Chess Grand Prix 2022 when he beat S. Sivathanujan of Kokavil Hindu College 1 ½ – ½ in the finals. In the double round finals, Pesandu won his first game with white pieces and forced a draw in the second game.
Liyanage earned Rs. 60,000.00, the Gold Medal and the Championship Trophy. Earlier in the semi-finals, he beat Osheen de Silva.
Sivathanujan settled for the silver medal and a cash award of Rs. 40,000.00.
In the consolation final, Osheen de Silva of Sri Lanka Navy beat Vinuda Shenal Gunatilake of Royal College 1 ½ – ½ . He beat Vinuda in the first round and drew the second round encounter to finish with 1 ½ . He received Rs. 25,000.00 and the bronze medal.
Vinuda had to satisfy with the fourth place and a cash award of Rs. 15,000.00. Buddhika Amarasinghe beat Kosala Sandeepa Amarasinghe and was placed fifth place and became eligible to receive a cash award of Rs. 10,000.00.
The 9th Sri Lanka Chess Grand Prix 2022, conducted by the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka had two stages. In the first stage, two round Robin events were played with nine rounds. Nine players competed. Unfortunately, Surath Wijeratne withdrew from the event after the first round and a point was given to all opponents in each round.
During the second stage, a knock-out events of semi-finals and finals were played among the top two teams of Group A and B. The two third-placed players competed for the fifth place.
Dulanjana hammers 344 runs as St. Joseph Vaz’s win by 665 runs
St. Joseph Vaz’s College number three batsman Inesh Dulanjana scored a triple century for his school to amass 708 runs for five wickets before cruising to 665 runs victory over Basilica College, Ragama in an Under 15 Division I cricket encounter at Ragama on Tuesday.
Dulanjana scored 344 runs in just 130 balls, according to official scorers the St. Joseph Vaz’s captain has scored 44 fours and 19 sixes in his swashbuckling innings. Nevin Senkith (111 in 83 balls, 19x4s, 1x6s) and Vimukthi Isara (109 not out in 39 balls, 13x4s, 7x6s) also scored centuries.
In reply, Basilica, fielding only ten batsmen were dismissed for 43 runs. Deneth Nimsara produced figures 8-4-7-6 for his six wickets.
St. Joseph Vaz’s 708 for 5 in 50 overs (Hansa Mihiranga 39, Inesh Dulanjana 344, Nevin Senkith 111, Vimukthi Isara 109n.o., Domonik Fernando 57)
Basilica 43 for 9 in 17 overs (Deneth Nimsara 6/07) (RF)
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