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Kipchoge ‘fulfills legacy’ winning second consecutive Olympic marathon

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World record-holder Eliud Kipchoge became the third man in history to successfully defend the Olympic marathon title as he delivered a masterclass in running to win the men’s marathon at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Sunday.

The Kenyan runner, competing in his fourth Olympics, crossed the finish line in Sapporo Odori Park in a time of two hours eight minutes and 38 seconds. His winning margin of 1:20 was the widest in an Olympic marathon since Frank Shorter’s win in 1972.

“In Rio, he waited until the 36th kilometre to break away. Yesterday, his decisive move came in the 31st. By the 38th, the Kenyan more closely resembled a solitary figure out on a morning training run than a man leading the Olympic marathon,” the World Athletics described the Kenyan’s feat in its new report. He’d built a lead of more than one minute by that point, with no other runner within view.

“I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation,” said Kipchoge, who joined 1960 and 1964 champion Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia and East German Waldemar Cierpinski, the winner in Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980, as a back-to-back winner.

“It means a lot for me, especially at this time. It was really hard last year, with the Olympic Games postponed. I am happy for the local organising committee who made this race happen. It is a sign that shows the world we are heading in the right direction – we are on the right transition to a normal life.”

Kipchoge, won bronze in Athens in 2004 and silver in Beijing 2008 in the 5000m before his marathon gold in Rio in 2016.

But this addition to his collection is Kenya’s fifth medal in the men’s Olympic marathon since the Games in Beijing in 2008.

Like Saturday’s women’s race, the pace was conservative and cautious throughout, with a large group of nearly 50 runners going through the opening five kilometres in 15:17 and ten in 30:53, on pace for a modest 2:10:19 finish. Kipchoge was at or near the front throughout, taking turns in the lead with Colombian Jeison Alexander Suarez and Daniel do Nascimento of Brazil who seemed to enjoy the opportunity of leading a pack that included the greatest marathoner of all-time.

Little changed at 15 kilometres (46:03) where 2016 bronze medallist Galen Rupp of the US and Kipchoge’s teammate Lawrence Cherono were also chipping in with the pacing duties.

The field was beginning to spread out by the time Stephen Mokoka of South Africa reached the halfway point in 1:05:13, with 23 runners still within three seconds of the lead. At the head of the pack, Kipchoge was the picture of calm and cool, and was playful too, as he exchanged a fist bump with Brazil’s Daniel do Nascimento as they continued to take turns at the front.

The first big break came in the 27th kilometre when the lead pack was reduced to 12, but with Kipchoge still firmly dictating the proceedings. Rupp was still there, along with Belgian Bashir Abdi and Dutchman Abdi Nageeye, Kipchoge’s teammates Cherono and Kipruto, and Alphonce Felix Simbu of Tanzania.

By 30km (1:32:31) the pack further dwindled to eight, but that apparently wasn’t to Kipchoge’s liking. Less than a kilometre later, he injected a surge that quickly created considerable daylight between him and the remaining chase pack. He then began to pour it on, building a 27-second lead through 35 kilometres (1:46:59). He extended it to more than a minute five kilometres later. The only company he had in the waning moments were the substantial crowds that turned out to watch the race.

Behind him, Cherono, Ayad Lamdassem of Spain, and training partners Abdi and Nageeye battled it out for the remaining two podium spots. Nageeye won that battle, crossing the line in 2:09:58, two seconds clear of Abdi.

“I said so many times I wanted a top three, but I never made it. So today I was just focusing. Focus, focus, focus,” said Nageeye, who finished 11th in Rio. “When I reached 39km I just knew (I would win a medal). I was feeling really easy with three kilometres to go. I knew I had just nine minutes to run. It is unbelievable.”

“I always believed in myself,” he continued. “I was a nomad, I packed my bags and trained in France, America, Ethiopia, Kenya. To stand on the podium with Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest of all time – It is amazing.”

Abdi too was a believer. Without Nageeye, he said, it would be unlikely that he’d finish on the podium.

Of the 106 runners who started, 76 finished.



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SLC keen to help Pakistan and looking for a window

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by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka Cricket is keen to help Pakistan once again after cricket in the country came to a standstill with New Zealand and England pulling out from their bilateral tours. Pakistan cricket chief former Test captain Ramiz Raja had reached out to his counterparts at SLC requesting the possibilities of a short tour. However, SLC is cramped for room for an immediate tour but will consider travelling to the country for a white ball series, possibly this year, SLC sources told The Island.

Sri Lanka are set to leave for Oman on the 3rd of October and that ruled out a series in Pakistan before the ICC T-20 World Cup. Soon after the World Cup, Sri Lanka will host West Indies for two Tests and the board will look at the possibility of touring Pakistan after that series.

Cricket in Pakistan stopped after the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. Pakistan were forced to play their home games in UAE, an exercise that cost the PCB an arm and a leg.

In 2017, Pakistan made a huge step forward when the last game of a bilateral series against Sri Lanka was played in Lahore. In that series, two Tests, five ODIs and two T-20s had been played in UAE and the final T-20 in Lahore.

Since, then Pakistan has hosted Bangladesh, West Indies and Zimbabwe in limited overs cricket while South Africa had played Test match cricket. Sri Lanka had toured Pakistan for both white ball and red ball games.

PCB was looking to bring all international teams back to the country but the pulling out of New Zealand in the 11th hour followed by England’s no show have been massive blows. Pakistan officials have been bitter about the cancellations and have promised to take up the matter with the ICC.

SLC was highly impressed by the security arrangements that were in place for the team and officials during all their visits and had sent senior Air Force officer Roshan Biyanwala to assess the situation before the team travelled to Pakistan. Biyanwala had given a clean slate and the tours completed successfully.

Pakistan has been one of Sri Lanka’s strongest allies in cricket. Several Pakistan players including former great Wasim Akram played a hastily arranged exhibition match in Colombo along with leading Indian stars before the 1996 World Cup when Australia and West Indies pulled out due to security reasons.

Much before that, Pakistan was a pillar of strength when Sri Lanka applied for full member status with the ICC in 1970s. Abdul Hafeez Kardar in his capacity as Chairman of the Pakistan board aggressively pushed Sri Lanka’s case. He was responsible in training Sri Lankan coaches and curators in Pakistan to uplift the standard of the game in the island.

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Sakuna deserves a second chance  

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by Reemus Fernando  

Many are the school cricketers whose hopes of excelling in their beloved sport were dashed due to the Covid 19 pandemic during the last one and half years. Junior cricketers aspiring to play their schools’ Big Matches and do well during the cricket season had to abandon their hopes after the pandemic prevented all school sports. The Under-19 schools cricket season is the steppingstone to the junior national team. Every season new talent is identified by Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association and Sri Lanka Cricket officials and once in two years some of country’s future prospects get the opportunity to compete at the ICC Youth Cricket World Cup. When Sakuna Liyanage was picked in the 75 member Under-19 cricket pool many were optimistic that the left-hander would go on to secure a place in the final team though he was yet to play a major role for his new school Lumbini College. However, the cricketer from Moneragala was not lucky to get a place in the final squad.

Generally, Sri Lanka Cricket nurtures a pool of junior cricketers for more than two years. Some are selected from the Under-17 level. While those who are not committed get dropped, players who excel during the school seasons are selected to maintain a continuous pool until the Youth World Cup. Such a pool was not maintained during the last two years due to the Covid 19 pandemic. There had been times when cricketers who were not even in the pool have been selected for Sri Lanka Under-19 teams on merit of their performances during the schools season.

At a time (due to Covid 19) when junior cricketers hardly get a second chance to prove their potentials in a tournament, it is doubtful whether the cricketers in the caliber of Liyanage had enough opportunity to display talents. The selectors may have assessed their talents during practice matches but Liyanage has credentials from a Sri Lanka Cricket conducted tournament that deserves selection. He was one of the top performers with the bat during Sri Lanka Cricket conducted Under-23 Premier Cricket tournament 2020.

Liyanage took to cricket at Royal College, Moneragala before he was introduced to cricket on a turf wicket in Colombo. Lumbini College coach Dinesh Weerasinghe invited him to join his school and soon got him a place in the Nugegoda SC Under-23 team as well, as Weerasinghe was the coach there. Liyanage paid back with impressive performances and was among the top scorers. He had an aggregate of 243 runs at an average of 60.75 in six matches and was the fifth-highest scorer behind Kamindu Mendis (249). No Under-19 cricketer had scored that many runs in that tournament.

Hailing from a not so well to do family from Moneragala, Liyanage would not have certainly come this far hadn’t he been introduced to cricket on turf wicket. Unfortunately, there is no other tournament in the immediate future for him to prove his worth and even if schools cricket restarts this year it would be too late as the team for the Youth World Cup is selected before the year ends. If selectors stick to their original squad it will be a huge opportunity lost and his exploits would be missed at the Youth World Cup.

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The Legend of Lucky Rogers

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by Rex Clementine

Quietly, sit next to a coach giving a pep talk to Under-13 cricketers before a game and you will be left with anger and bewilderment as you eavesdrop.  Coaches teach young kids some new tricks in the trade. ‘Appeal three times vociferously and there’s a good chance that you will get a decision in your favour that would have been otherwise given not out.’ That’s the current status of our school cricket. But then, there are also the rare coaches, the Lucky Rogers type. Here’s the Lucky Rogers story.

Ananda College had had a terrific season in 2009 having won 12 games. They were skippered by Dinesh Chandimal. The title was going to be decided in the crunch game between Ananda and Royal at Ananda Mawatha. Royal had KJP. Ananda were set to secure the title after being set a paltry target of 80. But cricket is a funny game. Ananda were shot out for 78. Ruchira Palliyaguru, currently an international umpire had given five leg before wicket decisions!

Well, the obvious choice is to nail the umpire. The term ‘umpire hora’ is common in our backyard. Five leg before wicket decisions in a crunch game! But Ananda boys played like gentlemen. Their coach Lucky Rogers had instilled in them that discipline and set the standards.

“To be honest, I expected a bit of bad blood. But to my surprise, every Ananda player walked up to me, shook hands and said ‘good game sir.’ Palliyaguru told The Island.  ‘Then followed Ananda coach Mr. Lucky Rogers. He shook my hands and said thank you. That’s all. What a gentlemen.’

You don’t get many gents like Lucky Rogers. Ajantha Mendis played little cricket at school and his talent was spotted by Lucky Rogers at an academy.  The rest they say is history as Mendis gave us some memorable moments running through India’s famed batting line up comprising Sehwag-Dravid-Sachin-Ganguly-Laxman.

The legend of Lucky Rogers is not associated with just coaching. He was a legend as a player too.

“I won the outstanding schoolboy cricketer of the year award (outstations) in the year 1988 and Lucky Rogers won  it after me in 1989,” said Sanath Jayasuriya speaking to The Island. Well, that sums up the story.

Here’s bit of stats to drill Lucky Rogers greatness. He hails from Moratuwa. The famed cricket pillars of Moratuwa are St. Sebastian’s’ and Prince of Wales. But there’s a third force. Quite formidable one too; Moratu Vidyalaya. Lucky Rogers captained them at under-13, 15,17 and 19 levels. In his last year, he finished off with 1493 runs, in just ten games with an highest score of 264 not out. If you know bit of school cricket, those are stunning numbers. Not even matched by The Greatest; P.A. de Silva. Nobody else reached 1000 runs that season. Lucky did it in seven games. Mind blowing stuff.

Lucky Rogers was not just a stylish top order batsman. He  was also a superb wicketkeeper. Highly rated by his contemporaries, hardly committing a blunder behind the stumps. When he opened batting, he  was a class act, with an array of attractive strokes.

“I captained Sri Lanka Under-19 team to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup. We lost the finals to India captained by Sourav Ganguly. Lucky Rogers was a key figure in that side as we performed consistently well.  When in the mood, Lucky could put best of bowling attacks to the sword,” recalled another Sri Lanka captain; Marvan Atapattu.

When Lucky Rogers got out of school, he was quite popular in the domestic circuit piling up runs for Moratuwa Sports Club. He made quite an impact as captain too as Moratuwa were promoted to Premier League from Sara Trophy. Lucky was  jack of all trade; team’s  leading batsman, wicketkeeper and skipper, who had the knack to make things happen, despite having limited bowling resources.

In 1990s, the wicket keeping gloves of the national cricket team exchanged hands between a few players; Gamini Wickramasinghe, Chamara Dunushinghe, Pubudu Dassanayake, Rumesh Kaluwitharana and Lanka de Silva. But Lucky Rogers never got a look in.

“Well, there were financial constraints facing my family and I decided to play league cricket in Australia so that I could earn a living by playing the sport and look after my family. I guess I missed out because of that,” Lucky Rogers told The Island.

Lucky represented North Cofield for seven seasons and won the Victorian Championships twice. He is hailed down under in cricket circles as much as here. Lucky credits the values he brought to the game thanks to the coaches he had; Mr. Bernard Perera, Mr. Chandana Mahesh and Mr. Manjula Peiris. It reiterates a very pertinent point, the need to have quality coaches at school level.

Lucky Rogers is an example that you don’t have to play for Sri Lanka to leave an indelible mark in the game. He championed the cause of not so fancy teams as a schoolboy and in domestic cricket and later on when he took to coaching he taught the players finer points of the game, but more importantly to play the game in the right spirit. Men like him are rare and need to be celebrated.

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