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Herculean task as athletes strive for Olympic qualifying standards against odds



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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Moose signs up as cricket’s clothing partner



Moose CEO Hasib Omar hands over the new Sri Lankan jersey to Dimuth Karunaratne, who will make a return to the ODI side in the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan. SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva and CEO Ashley de Silva are also in the picture

by Rex Clementine  

Singer had been a loyal sponsor of Sri Lankan cricket but a little heard company called Dilmah outbid Singer when the sponsorship was up for grabs in 2002. Singer boss Hemaka Amarasuriya wasn’t whinging and went on record saying that he welcomed local companies coming forward to back the sport.

Within a few years, Dilmah, an entity that was hardly known by most Sri Lankans became a global brand. That exactly is the strategy that Moose have adopted in their bid to become a global brand.

Moose a clothing company that is becoming quite popular among youth for their denims and t-shirts have been associated with cricket sponsorships in the last five years. On Thursday, they announced a four year deal with SLC to be clothing sponsor of the national cricket teams – both men and women.

Moose CEO Hasib Omar is a soft spoken young man who reminds you of the great Aravinda de Silva. But like in Ara’s case, beneath the soft exterior lies a sharp brain.

MAS had been the clothing sponsor of SLC for the last 16 years and Moose has outbid them signing a four year deal that will take them through all bilateral series, ICC events and Asian Cricket Council tournaments.  The partnership brings together two of the nation’s main strengths – cricket and apparel industry.

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Dimuth’s return to ODIs, a welcome move



by Rex Clementine  

After more than two years of stubborn resistance, the selectors have been forced to bite the bullet and admit that their strategies have been faulty and the top order of the ODI outfit needs stability. Hence the return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne for white ball cricket for the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan and he should retain his place for the World Cup qualifiers later next month in Zimbabwe too.

One of the troubles with the 50 over side is that the batting department has been found wanting not able to bat out the 50 overs. Dimuth provides the stability opening the innings with his ability to bat through the 50 overs. Other stroke makers can bat around him.

In 2021 April, Dimuth Karunaratne posted his career best Test score of 244 against Bangladesh. A month later, Sri Lanka’s white ball team was touring Bangladesh and Dimuth was sacked from the captaincy as the leadership of the white ball teams was handed to Kusal Perera. It was a left field choice. That was an experiment that didn’t last long.

Not only was Dimuth removed from the captaincy he lost his place in the side as well. It didn’t dawn to the selectors that the batters will be encountering the same bowlers and in Karunaratne they had a man who was in good touch, having smashed a double hundred against the Bangladeshis. The result was catastrophic. Sri Lanka lost the series and in both games they lost, the batting had collapsed.

It is these senseless moves that has resulted in Sri Lanka being forced to play the qualifying round of the World Cup.  By the time the selectors wisened up, the horse had bolted. The recalling of Dimuth is an admission by the selectors that they had got their act wrong in axing him.

It will be early winter in Zimbabwe in June and with day games teams will encounter some dew in the morning and need to adjust accordingly.  On paper, Sri Lanka should go through, but they are a team that has got everything to lose having won the World Cup once and featured in two other finals. For smaller nations, this is a massive opportunity and if they win, there’s nothing like that but if they lose, they can always try next time. Not for Sri Lanka though, who have featured in every World Cup since the tournament was launched in 1975.

Complacency is the only thing that Sri Lanka need to guard themselves against. A mindset that this is not a tough challenge could see them losing the plot as we have seen it happening to many teams time and again.

In Chris Silverwood the team has someone who knows what to expect in Zimbabwe as he started his coaching stint there having overseen Mashonaland (Harare).  The Head Coach will be tapping into the brains of his contacts in Zimbabwe as to what his team can expect when they travel for the qualifiers.

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Russian doubles player cleared of match-fixing two years after Roland Garros arrest



Yana Sizikova has a career-high ranking of 44 in women’s doubles

Russian doubles player Yana Sizikova has been cleared of match-fixing two years after her arrest at the French Open, according to her lawyer.The 28-year-old was arrested at Roland Garros in 2021 as part of an investigation into match-fixing allegations dating back to the 2020 edition of the Grand Slam.

Sizikova, ranked 50th in doubles, has continued to play on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour since her arrest and will compete at this year’s French Open, which starts today.

“After two and a half years of investigation, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office definitively closed the case on 11 April 2023, considering that criminal proceedings could not be initiated, as the facts of which Sizikova was accused could not be established,” her lawyer Frederic Belot told Reuters.

Officials began investigating in October 2020 after suspicions of “organised fraud” and “corruption in sports”.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC at the time the inquiry focused on a first-round match in which Sizikova and American partner Madison Brengle lost 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.

Suspicions were reportedly raised after betting companies noticed hundreds of thousands of euros had been wagered on a break of serve in the second set.Sizikova was released a day after her arrest in 2021.In July 2022 she and fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova won the Prague Open, while Sizikova reached two other finals last year.

(BBC Sports)

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