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National Athletics Championship disciplines prioritized for Olympic hopefuls

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by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics published on Wednesday the list of eligible athletes for the first stage of the 99th National Athletics Championship which will be held on May 22 and 23. The track and field governing body has prioritized nine disciplines for the first stage with the hope of giving Olympic hopefuls a final chance to achieve qualifying standards as the cutoff date for entries nears.

On Wednesday Sri Lanka Athletics picked five women’s events, namely the 3,000 metres steeplechase, 800 metres, 400 metres, 100 metres and javelin and four men’s disciplines, the 100 metres, 400 metres, long jump and javelin for the first leg. They are the disciplines where some of the country’s leading athletes have the chance to reach qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.

The time is running out for Sri Lanka Athletics to identify athletes who have reached qualifying standards for the quadrennial event.

On Sunday Sri Lanka Athletics Executive Committee decided to conduct the 99th National Championship during four weekends starting from May 22 and 23 to minimize the number of athletes per day per venue due to the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic. Sri Lanka Athletics announced only the eligible list of athletes for the first stage (May 22, 23) yesterday and did not comment on the fate of the other three stages.

Women’s steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake and men’s high jumper Ushan Thivanka are currently on the threshold of earning entry standards for the Olympics. The US based Thivanka cleared 2.30 metres to establish a new Sri Lanka record in the men’s high jump on Saturday in Texas. While he is fast improving his world ranking (48) a performance of 2.33 metres would make him eligible as a direct qualified athlete. He will be competing in meets in the USA.

Ratnayake has to clock 9:30.00 seconds if she is to earn direct qualification, though she is currently ranked within the required range to be eligible to earn a berth through world rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe and former national record holder Waruna Dayaratne are in the list to try their chances in the men’s javelin. Ranasinghe too has high hopes as he has remained among the top ranked athletes in the world.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe who created a new national record in the women’s 800 metres at the last Athletics trial will vie for honours against former champion Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne and schools athlete Shanika Lakshani. Only seven athletes are eligible to compete in this event.

Men’s and women’s 100 metres and men’s 400 are the only track events where semi finals and finals are likely to be held. Janaka Prasad Wimalasiri in the men’s long jump and Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali and Dilhani Lekamge in the women’s javelin are the top contenders in their respective events.



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Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place

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The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.

 

Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.

This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.

Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)

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Yupun within required world ranking to earn Olympic ticket

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Local athletes suffer due to absence of top competitions

by Reemus Fernando

Italy based athlete Yupun Abeykoon could become the first Sri Lankan sprinter since 1996 to compete in the men’s 100 metres at an Olympics after improving his world ranking to be among the top 50 athletes in the world.

According to the World Athletics’ world rankings updated on Wednesday Yupun has climbed 34 places up to be ranked 48th in the world. The fourth place performance produced at the last week’s Diamond League meet in Rome has stood in good stead for him to secure the top position. He was ranked 82nd in the world prior to last week’s meet.

Competing against a solid field Yupun clocked 10.16 seconds to finish ahead of American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’ he was in the 65th position but after the Diamond League feat he has climbed 15 positions to be in the 50th position.

World Athletics set tough qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympic qualification. For a direct qualification Yupun needs to clock 10.05 seconds and athletics officials said that the national record holder has often expressed confidence in achieving the mark.

While 39 athletes will be selected through qualifying standards, the rest of the athletes will be selected according to their placing in the world rankings. The Tokyo Olympic men’s 100 metres will feature 56 athletes.

No Sri Lankan male athlete has featured in an Olympics 100 metres sprint since Chinthaka de Zoysa competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Since Yupun has reached the top 50 now, it will be a matter of maintaining that position for him to realize the Olympic dream. According to Sri Lanka Athletics, Yupun is set to compete in another meet over the weekend.

In contrast the absence of quality competitions has hampered the progress of local track and field athletes. Steeplechase runner Nilani Ratnayake, who is the only female athlete within the required world rankings to book an Olympic berth, has slipped five places to be ranked 41st now. She had a better world rank (35th in the world) couple of months back. Her participation in Olympics will be in jeopardy if she drops below the 45th position as only the 45 top ranked athletes are chosen for Tokyo Olympics for this discipline.

Some of the top ranked athletes who were looking forward to compete in Kazakhstan with the hope of improving their world rankings over the weekend had to abandon their plans yesterday after authorities’ last ditch attempt to secure visas for them found futile.

Middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi (Road to Olympic Rank– 55), 400 metres sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake (56), javelin thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe (46) and high jumper Ushan Thivanka (52) are the other athletes closer to earning Olympic berths. But unavailability of competitions has hindered their chances.

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Arthur encourages Sri Lankans to take up County Cricket

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by Rex Clementine

England’s County Cricket is not the most attractive form of domestic cricket any longer as the IPL has taken over. What you end up earning after six months of County Cricket, the IPL pays five times of that for six weeks of work. But County Cricket remains the ultimate test of players’ skill. So many Sri Lankans reinvented themselves after a season of County Cricket be it Aravinda de Silva in 1995 with Kent, Kumar Sangakkara in 2007 with Warwickshire, Muttiah Muralitharan in 1999 with Lancashire or Chaminda Vaas in 2004 with Worcestershire.

Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur agreed on the values of County Cricket and urged his players to take up stints in England if possible. “I would love our players to get involved in County Cricket. It’s a great breeding ground and you find out about your technique there when you play cricket day in and day out. If there’s room in our calendar, it would be superb for our players to be involved.”

The national cricket team is in Manchester at the moment and having finished their quarantine the team has started training at Old Trafford. The venue has a superb facility with rooms inside the ground. According to Arthur, one set of balconies of the hotel room are facing the Old Trafford cricket ground while the other set are facing the Old Trafford football ground, home for the famous Manchester United. Arthur said that his players have got ‘the best of both worlds.’

Sri Lanka were initially supposed to play warm-up games in Canterbury and Hove against Kent and Sussex but those were scrapped with the players supposed to remain in a bio-secure bubble. Arthur wasn’t overly bothered that the warm-up games had been called off and was happy with the training the team was getting in ahead of the series.

One of the areas that Arthur wanted his batsmen to improve on from the Bangladesh series is the middle overs batting. “There was lot of learning from Bangladesh series. We changed our brand a little bit. We got caught in the middle overs a bit. We worked on it during our training and we want to have intensity in the middle overs. We were getting only 130 to 135 runs in that period. That is an area we need to improve on.”

With the return of Avishka Fernando to the side, the Sri Lankans have so many batting options when it comes to the opening combination with Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka all able to partner him. Arthur was keen on having a settled batting line-up.

“We have got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We cannot be having so many players batting in different positions. It creates confusion. What we have tried to do is to nail down guys’ roles during our training,” Arthur explained.

 The first T-20 International takes place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff next Wednesday (June 23).

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