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Kalinga wins gold with personal best

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Sprinter Kalinga Kumarage produced his personal best in winning the men’s 400 metres gold medal on day four of the 60th Interstate Athletics Championship in Patiala, India on Monday.

Competing in lane three, Kumarage led from the start and returned a time of 45.73 seconds to win the first gold medal for Sri Lanka at this championship. Country won a silver medal when Amasha de Silva was placed second in the women’s 100 metres on Sunday. Lakshika Sugandi won bronze in the women’s 100 metres hurdles.

Sri Lanka Athletics confirmed Kumarage as the fourth fastest 400 metres sprinter in history following his stunning feat yesterday and it was also the fastest time by a Sri Lankan since 2018.

Only the national record holder Sugath Thilakaratne and former champions Prasanna Amarasekara and Rohan Pradeep Kumara have been faster than Kumarage.

Kumarage, served a temporary suspension after testing positive for a banned substance in 2018 but was cleared by disciplinary panel later in 2019. By August 2018, Kumarage had clocked 45.99 seconds in Jakartha and was beginning a healthy rivalry with newly crowned Asian Junior Champion Aruna Dharshana, who was the fourth fastest Sri Lankan over the distance following the latter’s remarkable rise that year.

However, the suspension dealt a severe blow to Kumarage’s Olympic aspirations as he missed number of local and international competitions including the Asian Championship that year. With the World Athletics’ ranking system taking effect it needed athletes to be ranked among the best in the world to earn Tokyo Olympic entry. But lack of competitions meant that he was still the second ranked athlete in Sri Lanka behind Dharshana.

Kumarage’s performance yesterday was a relief for athletics authorities who backed him ahead of Dharshana for the Indian event. Some of India’s best sprinters were not competing yesterday as they were preparing for today’s 4×400 metres.

Kumarage is set to compete in the men’s 200 metres final today after emerging as the fastest from the heats.

Meanwhile, in the women’s 400 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake returned a time of 54.37 seconds to finish fifth.

Today is the final day of the Interstate Championship and it will be crucial for Nilani Ratnayake who is fighting to retain her world rankings to qualify for Olympics. The steeplechase runner had slipped to the 42nd position in the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings and she will compete to produce a time that will secure a position among the first 45 athletes to secure her ticket to Tokyo.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe too is set to compete today. It will be a tough ask for him to climb six places up from 45th position to be ranked among the top 32 athletes in the world to secure a place.

Young Medhani Jayamanne is set to compete in the women’s 200 metres with an eye on the World Junior Championship qualifying mark.

The women’s 4×100 metres team too will compete in the final.

Sri Lanka Athletics sent a ten member team to Patiala on their Indian counterparts’ invitation to provide an eleventh hour opportunity for the competition starved athletes to strive for Olympic qualification. Today is the final day of the Olympic qualifying period.



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So near yet so far for several junior athletes

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Medhani Jayamanne (centre) wins the girls’ 100 metres. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

by Reemus Fernando

While sprinters Isuru Kaushalya and Medhani Jayamanne further cemented their places in the team for the World Junior Championships it was a case of so near yet so far for a number of athletes who missed qualifying standards by narrow margins at the Junior Trial held at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday.

After going through many a hardships to continue training amidst the Covid 19 pandemic junior athletes produced some outstanding performances during the one-day competition yesterday.

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres was measured with a wind reading of +3.7. The qualifying standards (QS) achieved with a tail wind of +2 are not considered eligible. He had two outstanding jumps measured at 15.76 metres (+3.7) and 15.47 metres. The qualifying standard is 15.60 metres.

Hurdlers Amesha Hettiarachchi from Kandy, M.D. Dharshana of Ambagamuwa Central and Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo narrowly missed the qualifying mark. Amesh, despite failing to maintain the rhythm from the penultimate hurdle, returned a time of 62.66 seconds (QS: 60.75secs)

Dharshana hardly had any competition in the boys’ 400 metres hurdles and returned a time of 53.22 seconds which was a fraction of a second behind the qualifying standards (QS: 53.10). Royal hurdler Bandara was unlucky as he battled wind to return a time of 14.34 seconds in the 110 metres hurdles (QS: 14.15).

St. Peter’s College javelin thrower Ramesh Tharanga who is one of the promising throwers to have emerged from the junior circuit hurled the javelin to 68.33 metres (QS: 69.5m) which was just short of the target.

Long jumper Hirusha Hashen too narrowly missed the target as he cleared 7.31 metres (QS: 7.58 m).

Lumbini College missed a rare opportunity to field two 100 metres sprinters for the World Junior Championships when Chalith Piyumal had to run against the wind (-2.1). When Medhani Jayamanne who is also from Lumbini achieved the qualifying standards in the girls’ 100 metres, Piyumal clocked 10.78 seconds running against the wind (QS: 10.58).

 

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Kaushalya, Medhani dazzle as chance looms for mixed relay team

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by Reemus Fernando

Ananda Sastralaya Matugama sprinter Isuru Kaushalya produced one of the best performances by a junior athlete in Asia in the 400 metres this year when be bettered the World Junior Championship qualifying mark for the second time this season at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducted a Junior Trial yesterday to provide competition-starved junior athletes a chance to reach qualifying standards for this year’s World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

Kaushalya and sprinter Medhani Jayamanne were probably the best performers on the day as several athletes met disappointment after having come almost close to achieving qualifying standards for the World Junior Championship which will be held in three weeks time in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kaushalya, who had already achieved qualifying standard when he entered the one-day meet, clocked 46.90 seconds in the 400 metres final. His outstanding feat is the seventh fastest time this year by a junior athlete in Asia. While only seven junior athletes had clocked sub 47 seconds in Asia, Kaushalya improved his personal best clocking sub 47 seconds and now is the seventh fastest Asian over the 400 metres in his age category.

Medhani Jayamanne, who qualified for the world event in the 200 metres at the Interstate Championship in India recently, did her best to qualify in the 100 metres as well. Her efforts aided by a tail wind (of +2) stopped the clock at 11.85 seconds, the exact qualifying standard required to enter the event.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha runner Shanika Lakshani and Ratnayake Central athlete Tharushi Karunaratne are the others who had already qualified for the World Junior Championships. Having already secured her place in the team in the 800 metres, Karunaratne tried to achieve 400 metres qualifying standards as well yesterday. She fell just short of the target as she returned a time of 55.19 seconds (qualifying standard: 54.85 secs).

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres had a wind reading of +3.7. There were a number of others who met similar disappointment.

Chance to field mix relay team

Sri Lanka is yet to field a mix relay team for any international event. However with strong performances in both the boys’ and girls’ 400 metres yesterday Sri Lanka Athletics has a golden opportunity to provide youngsters an opportunity to compete in the combined event in Kenya.

In the girls’ 400 metres, both Tharushi Karunaratne (55.19 secs), who has already qualified for the World Junior event in the 800 metres, and Holy Cross, Gampaha athlete Lakshima Mendis (55.29secs) both produced their personal best performances. In the corresponding boys’ event Wekada MV sprinter R.D. Bandara who finished second behind Kaushalya clocked 47.55 seconds.

With junior athletes lacking international exposure, exploring chances of fielding a mix relay team will augur well for their future.

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Second T-20 postponed after Pandya tests positive

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by Rex Clementine

Yesterday’s second T-20 International between Sri Lanka and India at RPS was postponed after Indian player Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID. The game is expected to be played today followed by the final T-20 International on Thursday depending on the PCR results of the remaining players.

During the Antigen test taken on all players yesterday afternoon, Pandya had tested positive. Accordingly, seven other players who are identified as his close contacts were isolated.

All players of the Indian team and support staff then did PCR tests and although the results were expected by 6 pm yesterday, there was no official announcement when this edition went to print. Sources said that Pandya had tested positive in his PCR test as well.

There were a few concerns as to how Pandya tested positive as all players and coaching staff are in bio-secure bubbles and outside interaction is little. Health authorities were conducting investigations.

It is not clear as to how many days Pandya’s close contacts have to remain in isolation. However, India are carrying an extended squad and fielding a decent team should not be a worry.

This is the second instance the series has been postponed due to the pandemic. Earlier, after Sri Lanka Batting Coach Grant Flower tested positive, all Sri Lankan players were isolated and the series was pushed back by several days.

The Sri Lankan team was informed about the series being pushed back when they gathered for the team meeting at the hotel at 3pm. The Sri Lankans are staying at Cinnamon Grand while the Indians are at Taj Samudra. Both teams were supposed to stay at Taj but the Sri Lankans were evacuated after Flower tested positive.

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