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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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Foreign News

Australia T20 captain retires from international cricket

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Aaron Finch hit 63 in his final international innings against Ireland at the 2022 Men's T20 World Cup (pic BBC)

BBC reported that former Australia white-ball captain Aaron Finch has announced his retirement from international cricket.

Opening batter Finch, 36, was Australia’s T20 captain, having retired from one-day internationals in September..

He represented Australia in five Tests, 146 one-day internationals and 103 T20s, leading them to their first T20 World Cup title in 2021.

Finch said it had been “incredible honour” to play for Australia.

He is set to continue playing in domestic T20 competitions, including in the Big Bash League (BBL) for Melbourne Renegades.

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Fun Run announcing Asian Games at Port City today

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The Fun Run announcing the Asian Games will be held at Port City today. The event was announced at a function held in Colombo on Monday.

The official Fun Run announcing the 19th Asian Games will be held under the patronage of the Olympic Council of Asia Director General -Dr. Husain Al-Musallam and a host of dignitaries at the Colombo International Financial City (Port City) today.

The quadrennial Asian Games which was originally scheduled for September 2022 was postponed in May due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in and around the host city of Hangzhou in China. The Game will now be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23 to October 8, 2023 under the motto of “Heart to Heart, @Future.”

The ‘Fun Run’ which acts like a baton relay of sorts was announced at a function held in Colombo yesterday.

The Fun Run will be held at the presence of Wu Jianzhong -Deputy Director of Games Services Department, Ge Jianyang -Staff of Press and Public Relations Department, Bao Hanyuan -Staff of Games Services Department and delegates from the Olympic Council of Asia. The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka will be represented by its President Suresh Subramaniam, Secretary General NOC Sri Lanka Maxwell de Silva along with the executive committee of the NOC Sri Lanka.

To liven up this colourful pageant there will be a surfeit of sports and cultural activities involving over 700 persons. The highlight of the day’s activity will be a Jet Ski show presented by Sri Lanka Navy and a traditional Martial Art -Angampora Demonstration recited by the Army sports division. The President of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka Suresh Subramaniam aired the importance of the Fun Run. He said “the presence of the Olympic Council of Asia Director General -Dr. Husain Al-Musallam who is the main cog behind Asian Games 2022, signifies how serious they are about the success of the event. Besides that, there is a host of other Games Officials who will await eagerly to see the successful completion of this event and report back as to what Sri Lanka is capable of delivering. For us this is a momentous opportunity and we are taking it with both hands”.

Commenting on the significance of the event, NOC Sri Lanka Secretary General Maxwell de Silva said “akin to the Olympic Day Run or the Commonwealth Games Baton relay or the Asian Games Fun Run is very significant. In reality the “Fun Run” is the flag-off of the event and the Lankan leg of the baton that will take place at the Port City, Colombo.” The Olympic Council of Asia is stepping up its “Asian Games for All” promotional campaign right now.

A major part of this campaign is the Asian Games Fun Run, which is held throughout the continent and brings together elite athletes, social runners, students/children and sports officials. The OCA is working closely with the National Olympic Committees in all five zones to create a Fun Run calendar in order to promote the upcoming Asian Games and involve all levels of the community in a family-oriented activity. To this end, the OCA has released a schedule for February and March taking in two of the five zones: South Asia and South East Asia. The programme is still being assembled for the three remaining zones -West Asia, Central Asia and East Asia -in conjunction with the NOCs and will be released shortly.

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Sports

Amameth century propels Mahanama

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Under 19 Cricket

by Reemus Fernando

A century by Kavindu Amameth was the highlight of the day as Mahanama posted 363 runs against De Mazenod on day one of the traditional cricket encounter at Kandana on Monday.

Amameth top scored with 126 runs (in 173 balls, 9x4s, 4x6s) and put on a third wicket stand of 206 runs with Inuka Karannagoda as Mahanama dominated proceedings on day one.

In the Under 19 Division I Tier ‘B’ match at Uyanwatta, St. Servatius’ cemented their top position in Group ‘Z’ by scoring a first innings points against Devapathiraja.

Results

St. Servatius’ earn first innings points against Devapathiraja at Uyanwatta

Scores:

Devapathiraja

113 all out in 35.3 overs (Gimhan Rasanjana 24, Pawan Sandesh 24, Tharush Damindu 3/18, Kushan Wijerama 4/25, Chathum Bimsara 2/32) and 151 for 8 decl. in 36.2 overs (Darshaka Sandeep 46, Jeewaka Shashin 31; Chathum Bimsara 2/21, Kushan Wijerama 3/34, Thisan Dewmith 2/40)

St. Servatius’

92 for 6 overnight 123 all out in 48.3 overs (Mithila Charles 39, Vishwa Supun 23, Diniru Abeywickramasinghe 25; Irushka Thimira 6/47, Puljith Wathsuka 2/34) and 110 for 4 in 26.2 overs (Mithila Charles 27, Diniru Abeywickramasinghe 36, Chiran Neththaru 23n.o.; Puljith Wathsuka 2/38)

Mahanama dominate day one proceedings at Kandana

Scores:

Mahanama

363 all out in 92.1 overs (Kavindu Amameth 126, Inuka Karannagoda 75, Rashmika Perera 52, Chamika Heenatigala 24, Eshan Withanage 24; Kavindu Kaushalya 4/97, Thushan Udayanga 3/64, Sithum Fernando 3/71)

De Mazenod

2 for 1 in 5 overs

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