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Historic 100 metres feat and country’s relay chances

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by Reemus Fernando

With Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon claiming the national record in the 100 metres on Tuesday, Sri Lanka now has three current athletes who have run the glamour event of the track and field sport under 10.30 seconds, a strong position not many countries of this region can boast of. The recent performances of these three sprinters and the other emerging athletes are indicate a bright prospect in the 4×100 metres relay. Leading athletic analyst and Sri Lanka Athletics statistician Saman Kumara says that a strong team inclusive of these sprinters can strive for sub 39 seconds in the 4×100 metres relay. Sub 39 seconds will help the country strive for Olympic qualifying rankings for the postponed Tokyo event.

Incidentally, the former national record holders of the 100 metres Himasha Eshan and Vinoj Suranjaya were part of the team that established the current National men’s 4×100 metres record in 2018. Shehan Ambepitiya who was part of that team has retired. You need only simple mathematics to understand what four inform sprinters, inclusive of the incumbent record holder of the 100 metres and two former record holders, could do to the 39.08 seconds 4×100 metres national record established during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Sri Lanka won the 4×100 metres relay at the regional South Asian Games ousting India in December. But that doesn’t get Sri Lanka anywhere closer to an Olympics spot in the 4×100 metres. You need to be ranked within the first two dozen teams in the World Athletics rankings to be eligible for an Olympic spot in the 4×100 metres relay.

It will be too early to predict the country’s prospects, with the locally trained athletes still waiting to flex their muscles in the aftermath of the covid 19 pandemic but authorities can be optimistic about chances at Asian events. It is incumbent upon authorities to look after these promising athletes as the country’s current pool of men’s 100 metres sprinters are in a historic position.

The country’s 100 metres had experienced somewhat similar position in the early 50’s when the likes of Sumanthiran Nawaratnam (Summa Nawaratnam), Oscar Wijesinghe and B.C. Henricus, all who had held the record, used to form formidable relay teams in the illustrious company of Duncan White.

The men’s 100 metres record had remained stranded for more than one and half decades when Himasha Eshan broke it in Guwahati in 2016. After the exploits of Sriyantha Dissanayake, country’s only 100 metres medalist at an Asian Games (1990 Beijing) and Chinthaka Soyza in the 90s, no Sri Lankan had run an Olympics 100 metres. But since Himasha’s feat the record has changed hands three times a promising sign for better days ahead.

After the world moved to 100 metres from the 100 yards Sri Lanka had only 11 record holders from 1949 to 2020. The record had improved 17 times within that period.

The coveted record had been under the belt of some outstanding individuals who were household names. Osmand de Silva (10.2 secs, hand timing) who held the record for three years from 1931 later became country’s Inspector General of Police. Double international Summa Nawaratnam who improved the record more than once was once called the fastest in Asia. Olympian Sunil Gunawardena who held the record for two decades since 1970 later became national coach and was an influential head of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka. K.L.F. Wijedasa who took the record in 1955 was the national coach in 70s and 80s. Upali S. Gunaratne who held the record when the event was conducted as 100 yards in 1938 later became a Vice President of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka.



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Ahinsa becomes youngest medallist at Commonwealth Games  

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Eighteen-year-old Nethmi Ahinsa from little known Indiminna, Pannala became Sri Lanka’s youngest medallist at the Commonwealth Games as she beat Australia’s Irene Symeonidis in the 57kg weight class to win a bronze medal in wrestling in Birmingham on Friday.  She also became the country’s first medallist in the not so popular sport as she beat her Australian counterpart 10-0 in the freestyle event in the bronze medal fight.

She had to settle for the bronze medal after being eliminated by Indian Anshu Malik in the semi-final bought.   The wrestler from Welpalla Maha Vidyalaya advanced to the semi-final with a 10-0 victory over 34 year-old Cameroon athlete Joseph Emilienne Essombe Tiako. She hails from a family of four children.

Following her victory, she thanked her parents for allowing her to engage in the sport and expressed her gratitude to T.S. Suranga Kumara who not only trained her but also looked after her providing nutrition and other needs.

She said that there had been so many stories and even films on how coaches go out of their way to help their athletes achieve success but her coach was a living example of such a story.

She took to wrestling after her friend Chamodya Keshani invited her to join training in 2018. Incidentally, Keshani too competed at the Commonwealth Games in the 53kgs weight class.

She said that she did not have a wrestling mattress when she first began training but later received the support of the national federation to obtain one. After doing well at recent junior events she had also received the support of Crysbro for nutrition and also trained abroad after National Olympic Committee identified her talent.

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Georgia Baker lands third gold of Games in road race

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Australia’s Georgia Baker claimed her third gold medal of the Commonwealth Games with victory in the road race in Warwick.The Australian team were well placed in the run in for a bunch sprint and gave Baker, who won gold on the track in the points race and team pursuit, the perfect lead out for her to come out on top in a time of two hours 44 minutes and 46 seconds.

Scotland’s Neah Evans finished strongly but the line came too soon and she had to settle for silver with Baker’s compatriot Sarah Roy taking bronze, with the leading 24 riders all finishing on the same time.Baker was quick to pay tribute to her team-mates after the Australian train helped set up the victory.

Baker said: “This one is extra special. It was a real team effort.

“I wish I could split this medal into six, it was real credit to the team and I’m glad I could pull it off for them.

“There was a little bit of pressure coming in but we also knew we had one of the strongest teams here. The girls did an amazing job covering all the moves.

“For them to nail the final lead out made my ride so easy. I finished with fresh legs and that was the goal. I did the sprint and got my hands across the line.

“From the start of the race it was, if the race went the way we wanted. If it was going to be a bunch sprint I would be sprinting, if it was going to be an aggressive and hard race where the other nations were going to make it super hard, then potentially Alex [Manly] would be sprinting.

“We made the call out there with about 20km to go and I was feeling good so we stuck to the plan and the girls [the Australia cyclists] led me out beautifully.”

Scotland went into the race with just two riders instead of the maximum allowed six riders per team and Evans set the tactic was to keep the workload low and cover any moves from the favourites.

She said: “We knew there were a few big, strong teams here, so the plan was to just try and follow any moves and don’t actually do any work.

“Then, if it came to a bunch sprint, we would do what we could (and) wing it. It worked pretty well.”

Evans has won two silvers and a bronze, but added: “I will have to come back in four years as there is one missing that I really want to try and get. But it has been a brilliant Games for me.” (www.birmingham2022.com)

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Isipatana hang on to down Joes 16-13

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

Isipatana College did well to overcome stiff resistance from St. Joseph’s College and record an exciting 16-13 win in the second match of the ‘Super Round’ Inter-school under 19 league rugby tournament match worked off at Havelock Park yesterday.Isipatana taking a comfortable 7-0 lead at the ‘breather’ suddenly found the going tough when the Josephians came back strongly with an improved performance in the second half.

It was all happening for both teams in the second half. Isipatana were made to sweat in the second half because of two yellow cards to their players and Joes earning a try, a conversion and two penalties to boost their score. The Josephians too had a yellow card shown to one of its players in the first half.But if there was one player who stood strong like a wall for Isipatana it was winger Rinesh Silva who handled kicking duties with the accuracy of a professional. He slotted in three well-taken penalties in the second half and kept the score board ticking for Ispatana.

Joes produced the scares for Isipatana seven minutes from the end when number eight Naveen Marasinghe crashed in for a try. Ruchira Rodrigo slotted in the conversion, but the Joes were foiled there onwards by a determined Isipatana defence.The game was forced to a ten minute stoppage in the first half due to the absence of an ambulance on the field. At the time of the interruption to the game both ambulances hired for the game were busy taking two injured Josephians to hospital. Referee Yatawara came in for much praise for looking into player safety and being adamant that an ambulance must be present at the match venue for the game to continue.

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