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Herculean task as athletes strive for Olympic qualifying standards against odds

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by Reemus Fernando

With Sri Lanka Athletics advancing all Olympic targeted events by a day to conclude the first stage of the 99th National Athletics Championship before travel restrictions come to effect today we are taking a look at some of country’s top ranked athletes’ current positions in the ‘Road to Olympics Rankings’ and the monumental task they have at hand if they are to meet qualifying standards for the Tokyo event.

To earn direct qualification for the quadrennial event almost all local aspirants have to do better than the standard of the current national record of their respective disciplines at today’s meet as they are not likely to get another opportunity before the deadline closes.

To make it simple take the case of Sumeda Ranasinghe. The Rio Olympic participant is currently ranked 41st in the ‘Road to Olympics Rankings’ maintained by World Athletics. Only 32 athletes will be selected for the Tokyo event, 21 from direct qualifying standards and 11 from world ranking positions. From German champion Johannes Vetter’s massive 94.2 metres throw to Belarus thrower Aliaksei Katkavets’ 85.10 metres, 21 athletes have produced throws that earn them direct qualification, making it a battle among the rest for the remaining 11 positions according to world rankings. At the end of 2020(December) Ranasinghe was ranked 30th in the world but unfortunately his ranking dropped as he could not compete at the First Selection Trial due to an injury. He did not get any international competitions either. In the positive side he has recovered from the injury and will be eager to produce his best. To be in the safe side and earn a direct qualification Sumeda needs to better his national record by nearly two metres. Sumeda’s Sri Lanka record which he established to qualify for the Rio Olympics has remained unshaken since 2015. He has his training partner Sampath Ranasinghe and former national record holder Waruna Lakshan joining him in the fray.

 

Nilani Ratnayake

The Army athlete is probably the closest to an Olympic berth as she is ranked 34th in the ‘Road to Olympics Rankings’. With 45 athletes selected for women’s 3,000 metre steeplechase she is still within the required ranking position. But her rivals are likely to get more opportunities to better their rankings. To be in the safe side she has to produce a timing better than that of her Sri Lanka record. While her record is nine minutes and 46.76 seconds, the direct entry standard is nearly 17 seconds faster. Some 19 athletes have already reached qualifying standards around the world and she will be wondering as to how she could maintain the current ranking by only competing at today’s meet. A technical mistake from the part of the organizers made her clear higher barriers at the last meet held at the Sugathadasa Stadium. She could still clock 9:57.81 seconds. Don’t be surprised if she measures the height of barriers before her discipline starts today.

 

Awesome contest in the women’s 800 metres

Dilshi Kumarasinghe’s rise has made the women’s 800 metres one of the most look forward to events in the athletics arena. Kumarasinghe won the national title at the last National Championship before also taking under her name the national record when she clocked 2:02.52 seconds at the Selection Trial held recently. Despite making vast strides turning tables on Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne Kumarasinghe is still trailing behind the former champions in the world rankings due to lack of competitions. Though she has produced the second fastest time in Asia this year she is ranked fifth in the region behind Bahrain’s Nelly Jepkosgei, China’s Chunyu Wang and her two Sri Lankan counterparts. 48 athletes- 24 by entry standards and 24 according to world rankings – will be selected for the women’s 800 metres. Kumarasinghe needs to clock faster than 1:59.50 seconds if she is to obtain a direct qualification as 24 athletes have already clocked the qualifying standard.

Women’s javelin throw has a direct qualifying standard of 64 metres which is three metres further than the current Sri Lanka record held by Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali. Lakmali is currently ranked 53rd in the ‘Road to Olympics Ranks of World Athletics. It will be a herculean task for both Lakmali and Dilhani Lekamge as they compete to improve their rankings.

Long jumpers too have a huge ask. After Amila Jayasiri cleared 8.15 metres in 2016 no other has challenged the national record. The direct Olympic qualifying standard is 8.22 metres which 21 athletes around the globe have already accomplished. Jumpers have to improve these standards or their world rankings drastically at this meet if they are to realize their dream of qualifying for the Games.

High jumper Ushan Thivanka who is based in USA and 100 metres sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who is based in Italy are also striving for qualifying standards and have improved their own national records in a bid to improve their world rankings. They will be competing in meets in USA and Europe with the hope of achieving qualifying standards.



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Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka

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by Rex Clementine

India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.

India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.

India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.

Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.

In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.

India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.

 

1st ODI

– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

2nd ODI

– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

3rd ODI

– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

1st T20I

– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm 

2nd T20I

– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm 

3rd T20I

– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm

 

India’s squad:

 Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya 

Net Bowlers:

 Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh. 

 

 

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Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place

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Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.

Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.

Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.

Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.

FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.

The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.

The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.

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Yupun set to climb up Road to Olympic rankings

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Yupun Abeykoon would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

 

by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka’s top ranked sprinter Yupun Abeykoon did well to finish fourth at the Rome Diamond League meeting on Thursday. Brushing shoulders against some of the world’s fastest sprinters, the national record holder clocked 10.16 seconds.

The fourth place finish will augur well for the sprinter as he aspires to earn a Tokyo Olympic berth. The 26-year-old is currently placed 65th in the Road to Olympics rankings and needs to secure a spot within the first 56 positions as only 56 athletes are selected for Tokyo Olympic 100 metres. To earn a direct qualification Abeykoon has to clock 10.05 seconds.

With Diamond League competitions guarantying more points, analysts believe that Abeykoon would secure a better position in the Road to Olympic rankings when the World Athletics update the rankings.

To secure the fourth place Abeykoon edged out some leading athletes who are placed higher in the Road to Olympic rankings.

He would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

US World Relay champion Michael Rodgers who is ranked 15th in the Road to Olympic rankings was placed fifth in a time of 10.25 seconds.

South African Akani Simbine clocked 10.08 seconds to win while Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah finished second in a time of 10.10 seconds. Emmanuel Matadi was placed third in 10.16 seconds.

None of Sri Lanka’s male athletes have reached qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics so far while Nilani Ratnayake is the only Sri Lankan athlete who is within the required ranking positions to book a berth. The steeplechase athlete is currently ranked 37th in the Road to Olympics rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is also closer to an Olympic berth in the men’s category. The javelin thrower is currently ranked 43rd in the list. High jumper Ushan Thivanka who has produced a superb 2.30 metres is ranked 51st in the list.

At the Rome Diamond League on Thursday one of the highlights of the night was Dutch long-distance star Sifan Hassan’s performance in the women’s 1 500m. The 10,000 metres specialist showed her prowess in the 1,500 metres, beating Olympic 1 500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya in a new meeting record of 3:53.63. It was also a world lead. Kipyegon was placed second in a personal best of 3:53.91.

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