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Former national discus champion and top sports administrator Weerasena passes away

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Weerasena headed NOC and AAA in his 30s

by Reemus Fernando

Former national discus throw champion and top sports administrator Ranjit Weerasena (79) passed away after a long illness on Tuesday. Weerasena reigned the throwing arena for more than a decade from late 60s after emerging as a formidable Public Schools athlete from St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya. He was the Public Schools Champion in 1959.

He took under his belt the national discus throw record (39.94 metres) in 1963 and it remained unbroken until H.G. Gunadasa improved on it in 1973.

Weerasena excelled during an era when Sri Lanka was starting to make a mark in the Asian region in athletics. At international level he had Indo-Ceylon and Singapore Open victories as his highest achievements.

After retiring from sports he took to sports administration. A former Ace Athletics Club stalwart, Weerasena became the president of Sri Lanka Athletics, formerly the Amateur Athletics Association of Sri Lanka in 1978. He is the youngest person ever to hold the President post of both Sri Lanka Athletics and the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka.

He was 37 when he was first elected as the president of Sri Lanka Athletics. He also served in the Council of the Asian Athletics Association. According to Olympian Sunil Gunawardena Weerasena was one of the few administrators to have spent from their own pockets for athletics.

He had to step down from the post of president when Sri Lanka failed to win medals at the Asian Games and in 1996 was selected to the same post uncontested.

Weerasena also held the president post of the Sri Lanka Veterans Athletics Association and was one time head of the National Selection Committee.

Weerasena strongly believed that Sri Lankan athletes needed foreign competition exposure to improve standards.

His contribution for sports was recognized at the Presidential Sports Awards three years ago when he was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award of Excellence.

He leaves behind his wife Asoka who was a national level netball player.



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‘I have accomplished my job’ – Yupun on his sub 10 seconds  

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by Reemus Fernando   

Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who became the latest member of the exclusive sub 10 seconds club in the men’s 100 metres said that he has accomplished the target he had set himself and all achievements from here on would be bonuses.

Speaking to his fans on a social media platform, the first South Asian athlete to run the men’s 100 metres under 10 seconds said that running sub 10 seconds in the athletics’ glamour event was what he was working hard on and he felt a sense of accomplishment after stopping the clock at 9.96 seconds in Switzerland on Sunday. His first sub ten seconds feat and the 10.16 seconds performance he achieved in 2020 to get the Sri Lanka record under his belt will always remain special to him.

Abeykoon smashed his own national record and became the first man from South Asia to run the men’s 100 metres under ten seconds when he clocked 9.96 seconds to win the men’s 100 metres at the Resisprint International.

It is also the fastest performance by an Asian this year overtaking the two Japanese sprinters Ryuichiro Sakai and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown who are yet to clock sub 10 seconds this year.

“I am really happy to have accomplished the target. I knew that I could do it this year. It was not a coincidence. It was a result of a three year plan with my coaches. No one can perform magic in this sport. By last year we knew that we could reach the target this year,” said Abeykoon beaming from ear to ear when he came on live on Tuesday.

“I tried to reach the target from the start of this season. I missed the opportunity on a number of occasions. I was waiting for the ideal condition.

“I do not know how you will take this. I have finished my job. From now on what I achieve, my victories will all be bonuses,” the 27-year-old said.

He said that the 10.16 seconds and 9.96 seconds will remain special to him.

He said the plan for this year was to win an Asian Games medal, reach the Commonwealth Games final and to feature in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Oregon.

The 9.96 seconds result proves that the training schedules had gone according to plan as he tops the Asian 100 metres sprinters list and is placed among the top 15 athletes in the world in his pet event.

Commenting on the photo he published recently with Yohan Blake on facebook he said that he was shocked to hear that Blake had watched and followed his races.

The Jamaican who had run 9.69 secs (-0.1 in 2012) is considered the second fastest man ever to have competed in the men’s 100 metres behind compatriot Usain Bolt.

“Generally competitors would not wish his opponents but Blake wished me for my race. He had watched some of my previous races.”

Yupun said that he would try his best to do well at future events to bring a smile to his followers.

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Spin legend Warne’s  legacy lingers long after Sri Lanka tsunami

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Shane Warne’s brother Jason greets locals at Seenigama during a visit early this week. Philanthropist Kushil Gunasekara, who runs the Foundation of Goodness is also in the picture

No foreign cricketer is likely to ever capture the hearts of Sri Lankans quite like Shane Warne did.

Yet, of all the heartfelt tributes paid to the spin great on the island he had helped to rebuild from its worst ever natural disaster, the late spin great might have been most touched by a quiet moment in the small village of Seenigama this week.

Back in early 2005 at the urging of Muttiah Muralitharan, Warne had visited the seaside community on Sri Lanka’s south coast, one of many that had been flattened by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Among the most memorable vision captured by a 60 Minutes film crew during his visit was four-year-old Dilini Wasana kissing Warne on the cheek as he handed out food and toys.

On Monday, four months after the sudden death of the Victorian, Dilini was in the same spot where she had met Warne seventeen years ago.

This time she greeted his brother Jason, who was visiting the Foundation of Goodness; the embodiment of Shane’s contribution to the country.

“It’s been pretty emotional,” said Jason Warne, standing on a small cricket ground the Foundation built in the aftermath of the tsunami.

“We’re here because of what Shane did in 2004. It’s been great to come over here and get a sense of why he wanted to do it.

“(From) the footage that came out of Shane’s visit, there was one little girl (Dilini) who gave him a kiss on the cheek, you could see she was so happy.

“She was saying she would love to be able to say thank you one more time. To go there today and see her, was pretty special.”

The spin legend’s visit back in 2005 to Sri Lanka shone a light on the destruction to lives, homes and the Galle cricket ground where Warne had taken his 500th Test wicket less than a year earlier.

It prompted a wave of donations from Australia and his continued efforts in the ensuing years have not been forgotten.

Kushil Gunasekera, the long-time manager of Murali who runs the Foundation of Goodness, has used the proceeds to build community facilities across ten sites in rural Sri Lanka.

One of the graduates of the Foundation’s educational programs was Ramesh Mendis, born in nearby Ambalangoda and whose off-spin saw him take four wickets against Australia in last week’s first Test.

“He was the first one to come,” Gunasekera said of Shane on Monday, as he gave Jason and his wife Shay a two-hour tour of school, health, dental and sporting facilities in Seenigama.

“What Shane did when he came with 60 minutes, and because of the way he presented the case, it went all around Australia.

“And as a result Master Builders came, the Victorian Government came, and we were able to get help from so many people.”

Since his brother’s passing, Jason Warne has heard countless stories, tributes and messages of gratitude from around the world about the leg-spinner’s impact on other’s lives.

For the first Test in Galle, the ground the late Warne had helped raise $1 million for, posters with his and Murali’s faces were stationed around the ground while seven members of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team were on hand for a commemorative plate presentation before play.

“It was hard not to notice the Warnie portraits up all around the ground,” said Mitchell Swepson, one of the few leg-spinners to play Test cricket for Australia since Warne.

“All the work he did for the Sri Lankan tsunami fund, he’s had a massive impact on this country with his cricket and off the field as well. It was great to see them pay tribute and see how much they respect the man

“I’m in no way shape or form trying to be Shane Warne, he is the best we’ve ever had … but when people ask me what I do, I tell them I bowl leg spin it’s ‘Oh, like Warnie”.

“That’s just the mark he left on the game, he’s a legend.”

Some tributes have even surprised Jason Warne, most notably the announcement from the United Nations at the MCG memorial service that a wildlife conservation grant would be named in the late cricketer’s honour.

“It’s sometimes hard to get your head around that my brother, who I used to just go up to the nets with and have a bit of fun, has left such a legacy,” said Warne.

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Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.

The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.

The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.

“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.

Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.

Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.

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