Hiruni Wijeratne broke the women’s 5,000 metres national record at a meet sanctioned by the USA Track and Field authority in USA on Saturday. (File Pic)
by Reemus FeRnando
US based Sri Lankan runner Hiruni Wjeratne broke Sri Lanka women’s 5.000 metres National record at a meet sanctioned by the USA Track and Field authority in USA on Saturday. Sri Lanka’s World Athletics Championship participant whose pet event is marathon has clocked 16 minutes and 17.51 seconds to slash one second from the National record established by Nilani Ratnayake last year.
Though she has not secured a top position at the meet running against her US counterparts, the athletics enthusiast consider her feat as a welcome omen in her quest to earn qualifying standards for the postponed Tokyo Olympics. The Athletics Association of Sri Lanka is placing her among the top Sri Lankan contenders to earn Olympic qualifying standards. Wijeratne is also the national record holder of the women’s marathon and is aspiring to earn qualifying standards for the next year’s Olympics. “She has run in 16 minutes and 17 seconds (the 5,000 metres). That is a sign that she is capable of running a faster marathon than her current national record,” General (rtd) Palitha Fernando, the president of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka told The Island.
Sri Lanka’s women’s 5,000 metres record held by Sujeewa Nilmini remained unshaken for 16 years before Nilani Ratnayake shattered that at the Sri
Lanka Army Athletics Championship in August last year. Ratnayake slashed four seconds from Nilmini’s record (16:21.18 secs) forcing athletics officials to pick her for the South Asian Games. Ratnayake is the current Sri Lanka National record holder in the steeplechase and is the highest
ranked Sri Lankan closest to Olympic qualifying standards. Both Nilani and Wjeratne were gold medal winners at the last year’s South Asian Games.
Winners from different regiments but from the same camp
Where were they at school level?
by Reemus Fernando
When the Sri Lanka Army’s 55th Road Race concluded at Panagoda on Saturday, distance runners from three different regiments crossed the finish line to clinch the first three medals. Although they were from different units and regiments, they represented one particular ‘camp’. Quite conspicuously the joy of winning was something these champions had not enjoyed at national school level.
The South Asian Games medallist and the men’s category champion Shanmugeshwaran Kumara is from the Artillery Regiment. The second placed veteran Kelum Sampath Gunasekara is from the Sinha Regiment. Sagara Wijewickrama who was placed third is from Gemunu Watch. But what was common was that all three had trained under respected middle and long distance coach Sajith Jayalal.
Not only the first three, but also the fourth and sixth placed athletes were also trained by Jayalal.
Shanmugeshwaran clocked one hour ten minutes and 16 seconds to win. Gunasekara finished nearly 30 seconds after him while Wijewickrama returned a time of one hour eleven minutes and 16 seconds. The fourth placed S.D. Gunasekara was just six seconds behind him.
“Some of them had been directed to me by the Army while I had directed some to the Army so that they could persevere in athletics,” said Sajith Jayalal in an interview with The Island.
Incidentally, Shanmugeshwaran’s potential was identified by Jayalal when he came for training in 2013. Shanmu, as he is lovingly called, left Hatton to find employment in Colombo in 2011 and worked for two years at a car wash at Wellawatta before Jayalal helped him find employment in the Army. What he won on Saturday was the title hat trick following wins at the last two consecutive Road Races of the Army. Under Jayalal’s guidance Shanmugeshwaran graduated to win the silver medal of the 10,000 metres behind India’s Suresh Kumar at the last South Asian Games.
According to Shanmugeshwaran he had not won at school level.
As Jayalal puts it none of the winners on Saturday had won at national level when they were schooling. It is true of many long distance runners who are currently winning at national level. Even last Saturday’s women’s category winner Wathsala Herath (1:25.15 sec) trained by Susantha Fernando had taken up distance running only after leaving school.
“The third placed winner in the men’s category, Sagara Wijewickrama won gold at national level in track and events last year while he had not won at school level either. He had identified his potential in long distance running only after joining the Army.”
While Jayalal should be applauded for guiding the athletes to reach national level, authorities should have a serious look why the country’s schools structure fail in producing distance runners to national level.
There is hardly any encouragement for middle and long distance running at school level. Ministry of Education is careful to limit its engagement with long distance running to the annual race they hold with the support of Nestle Lanka.
Proposals given to encourage distance running at school level are hardly given consideration. In fact the Ministry of Education scrapped the distance relay from its annual Relay Carnival couple of years ago. There was a proposal to conduct a schools cross country championship but the Ministry of Education is still silent on the idea.
The time consuming process of obtaining medical certificates for schools athletes to engage in track events longer than that 1,500 metres has also discouraged principals and masters in charge at schools from fielding athletes for those events.
Arjuna Ranatunga on Dean Jones
I don’t think I have got too many friends in Australia but last week I lost a dear one – Dean Jones. Don’t get me wrong, he was one of fiercest competitors that I have come across playing two decades of Test cricket but off the field he was very friendly, unassuming and good natured guy.
We were contemporaries. He was two years older than me and made his Test debut two years after me.
People tend to measure the greatness of a player by judging whether he had done well in places like Australia or England. Well, that is up for debate. In that case, I reckon, we have to also see how players from England and Australia fared in places like India. That is why Dean Jones is such a special player. I am never one to read too much into numbers but I am told that Deano averaged something like 92 in India and that is a stat that any player, especially those from England and Australia can be proud of.
He was also a thorn in our flesh always making runs against us. Deano’s Test average of 60 and ODI average of 109 against us would tell you the story.
Deano was a very good analyst of the game. He understood complex situations and how to counter them. He was certainly a trend setter and there was much that we could learn from his game. His running between the wickets stood out and you had to be on your toes when he was out in the middle. His fielding was exciting as well and he brought in so much energy to the side. I am sure someone like Allan Border who had the task of rebuilding the Australian side following some high profile retirements valued the presence of Deano in the side.
Deano was very fond of Asian cricket. He spent lot of time in Sri Lanka doing commentaries and that gave us an opportunity to catch up. He spent quite a bit of time in other Asian countries as well.
I have lost a dear friend. Deano has left us too soon. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
(World Cup winning Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga was talking to The Island’s Rex Clementine)
President’s Gold Cup Volleyball 2019
A superb third set rally by Ranthuru Sports SC just fell short to beat Siyane Tharu Sports Club of Gampaha in the finals of the President’s Gold Cup Volleyball powered by Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider.
The final which was played-off at the National Youth Services Centre, Maharagama, the eventual winners, Siyane Tharu Sports Club, Gampaha beat Rantharu Sports SC, Debagama 03 sets to 02.
Siyatha Tharu won the, first set, 25-23, the second set by 25-16 and the decisive fifth and final set by 15-12, while losing the third set 21-25 and the fourth set 19-25.
While in the keenly contested women’s final, Golden Bird SC of Radawana beat Rathnapala SC of Mahausweva 03 sets to 01.
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