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Feats of Sarangi and Gayanthika among top performances in Asia   

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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.



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Dimuth on the verge of several batting milestones

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Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will equal the World Record for most consecutive fifties in Test match cricket if he scores a half-century in the first innings of the second Test against West Indies in Galle starting Monday.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne has hit a purple patch this year and the 147 he scored against West Indies in the first Test in Galle this week was his fourth hundred in 2021. The 33-year-old came up with an equally solid 83 in the second essay as Sri Lanka won by 187 runs and a session to spare.

His exploits have seen him accumulating 854 runs this year in Test cricket at an average of 77. Only Joe Root and Rohit Sharma have scored more runs in 2021 although they have played more games with the England captain featuring in 12 Tests and the Indian star appearing in 11 games compared to Dimuth’s six Tests.

Dimuth has now scored six consecutive half-centuries and a 50 in the second Test starting on Monday will see him equaling a World Record shared by six other players. Everton Weeks, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Chris Rogers and K.L. Rahul have all scored seven consecutive fifties in Test cricket.

In the list of most runs in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Dimuth went past former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga this year and he is currently the ninth highest run scorer. He’s on 5406 runs and if he scores 96 more runs in the second Test, he will knock off three more Sri Lankan greats; Tilan Samaraweera (5462), T.M. Dilshan (5492) and Marvan Atapattu (5502). That will see him sitting at number six among the highest run scorers for the country.

Dimuth is hungry for runs and he wants to finish his career with 10,000 Test runs. Only two other Sri Lankan greats have achieved the milestone. Kumar Sangakkara with 12,400 runs and Mahela Jayawardene with 11,814 runs are the only members of the exclusive 10,000 club.

“Scoring 10,000 runs is my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve that, but that’s what I’ve got in my mind. If I can continue this form, I’ll be able to get close to 10,000 runs. I like to improve as much as I can, and whenever I finish a match, I’ll go and check where I am on the Sri Lanka run charts, to figure out how many I need to score to pass someone,” Karunaratne explained.

The Sri Lankan captain was Man of the Match as Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead to retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy. The win also enabled Sri Lanka to collect 12 points in the ICC Test Championship.

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Amasha smashes Susanthika’s Army record, Roshan dazzles with hurdles feat

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Amasha de Silva smashed Susanthika Jayasinghe’s meet record in the women’s 100 metres.(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

57th Army Athletics Championships  

by Reemus Fernando  

Sprinter Amasha de Silva smashed Olympian Susanthika Jayasinghe’s longstanding Army Athletics Championship 100 metres record and Roshan Dhammika Ranatunga came almost close to breaking his national record in the 110 metres hurdles as they blazed the track on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Amasha clocked 11.67 seconds to win the women’s 100 metres final ahead of Susanthika’s niece Medhani Jayamanne in the afternoon. She broke Susanthika’s 1994 hand-timed record of 11.6 seconds. With yesterday’s feat, Amasha has now taken both the 100 and 200 metres records of the Army Championships under her belt. The athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody has a personal best of 10.55 seconds from 2020 and is the fourth fastest athlete in history in the 100 metres behind Susanthika, Damayanthi Dharsha and Rumeshika Ratnayake.

In the morning, Roshan Dhammika produced the second-fastest legal time ever run by a Sri Lankan in the men’s 110 metres hurdles.

Dhammika, who broke Olympian Mahesh Perera’s 24-year-old 110 metres hurdles record at the National Championships four weeks ago, clocked 13.91 seconds to win the gold in the 110 metres hurdles final. The SLEME athlete’s effort had a minus 1.9 wind reading as he finished the event just two milliseconds slower than his national record.

His coach Thiron Gamage was confident that Dhammika would improve his national record once again and he almost achieved the target running against the wind. “He missed the record but with this feat, Dhammika has proved beyond doubt that his national record was not a fluke,” Gamage told The Island after the new meet record performance.

How much he has got to offer was evident from the time Dhammika ran a relaxed heat in the morning. Despite breaking the second hurdle he was still leading when he cleared the last hurdle but slowed down to finish third in the heat.  In the final his only blemish was breaking the last hurdle. Still, he was metres ahead of the rest. With his third sub 14 seconds run (13.97 secs and 13.89 secs at the Nationals) the former Kularatne Central, Godakawela athlete has become the only Sri Lankan to run the distance under that mark legally.

All three athletes who had previously run the distance under 14 seconds, namely Chaminda Fonseka, Supun Viraj Randeniya and Mahesh Perera had wind readings above the legal limit.

Those were not the only impressive track performances as Pabasara Niku produced his personal best with a 46.36 seconds to finish first in the men’s 400 metres final which was minus national champion Kalinga Kumarage and the other leading contender Aruna Dharshana. Dharshana pulled out from the competition due to injury in the semi-finals on Thursday. Harsha Karunaratne who won the 800 metres, finished second behind Niku in a time of 46.83 seconds. In the corresponding women’s event, Nadeesha Ramanayake bagged the gold medal. She clocked 54.54 seconds.

There were two other individual meet record performances from Sarangi Silva in the women’s long jump and Samith Fernando in the men’s shot put.

Sarangi cleared a distance of 6.14 metres to win the long jump. Fernando cleared 16.60 metres to create his record.

Nilani Ratnayake, whose steeplechase feat was adjudged the most outstanding performance in the female category won her third individual gold medal when she clocked 4:25.20 seconds to finish the 1,500 metres. While Samantha Pushpakumara (RMS) won the men’s 10,000 metres in a time of 31:12.28 seconds, H.A.M. Dilrukshi was the winner in the women’s discus throw. Men’s 100 metres winner Himasha Eshan (10.29 secs), who was involved in many victories for the Artillery regiment- the winners of the championship- won the award for the most outstanding performance in the men’s category.

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From the Army Athletics Championships

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The 57th Army Athletics Championships concluded at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday. The five-day event witnessed several record breaking performances by leading national athletes. Here are some action pictures from day five of the championships.

(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi) 

 

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