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Nilani resolute despite heartbreak

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Nilani Ratnayake would have been the only homegrown talent to have reached qualifying standards for Olympics had she received the necessary backing at the right time. Here she is seen stumbling at the final barrier at the 2019 Asian Championship in Doha. Despite stumbling, she could finish fourth.

 

Missing an Olympic berth: Does anyone care?

 

by Reemus Fernando

Steeplechase is not for the faint-hearted. The unique track event combines endurance, speed, and agility into a terrific athletic competition. When veteran coach Sajith Jayalal first saw Nilani Ratnayake, he found that she possessed those qualities and the strength, courage and determination that are required to be a champion steeplechaser. They worked hard for years and it paid dividends. She became the country’s highest ranked athlete (35th in world rankings) in any track and field event with just six months before the Tokyo Olympics. Athletics enthusiasts were almost certain that she would become the first steeplechaser competing for Sri Lanka at an Olympics this year. But lack of quality competitions and a technical faux pass at one of the local competitions meant that she would be ranked 46th in the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings,” when the deadline closed for qualification. Sri Lanka Athletics were hoping that a top ranked athlete would pull out and the World Athletics would grant her a place. But that was not to be as the world governing body offered a wildcard to 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi ending Ratnayake’s hopes.

Despite the huge upset Nilani has been resolute and has shown what she is made of. As soon as she came to know that she had not qualified for the quadrennial event she took to social media and congratulated the athletes who have qualified for Olympics and apologised to her supporters for failing to qualify.

However we reckon that it should be the other way around as the Sports Ministry, National Olympic Committee and the Sri Lanka Athletics have all failed to support her cause. The country’s Olympic team of nine sportsmen and women have only two who have reached qualifying standards. They are the Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon and German based Swedish equestrian athlete Mathilda Karlsson. Ratnayake would have been the only homegrown talent to have qualified if she made the cut. All three above said institutions have done things to help Ratnayake in one way or the other but have they done what is required to maintain her ranking is a question that they should give serious thought to.

Hungarian steeplechaser Lili Anna Toth who is ranked 45th in ‘Road to Olympics Rankings and qualified and 46th ranked Nilani Ratnayake both have equal ranking points (1190).

Country’s sports authorities are taking things for granted. There was hardly anything done when Ratnayake complained that the barriers during the Selection Trial in April were higher than the usual height. She cleared (35) barriers which were higher than the usual height for the women’s discipline. Due to the technical faux pas she got injured (trying to clear higher barriers) and had to take two weeks off to recover.

When the track and field athletes were struggling to improve world rankings and when Sri Lanka Athletics were desperately looking for help to get international competitions for local athletes during the pandemic did National Olympic Committee and the Sports Ministry come to their rescue? Did sports authorities who see millions of rupees being spent to keep cricket aloft during the pandemic take even the least interest to help track and field athletes continue their training in a bio secure bubble?

Neither Nilani nor the fellow track and field athletes would complain. Despite the setback Nilani’s coach Jayalal believes that the South Asian Games double gold medallist would come stronger to compete for Sri Lanka at future events.

There had been other heart breaks for Nilani during the last couple of years. She was about to clinch a medal at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships in Doha when she unfortunately stumbled at the last barrier and conceded the fourth place. But within months she overcame the disappointments and won gold medals at the South Asian Games. This time too, she would be determined to come back stronger ahead of a year full of international competitions. Her fighting spirits have inspired many who would have otherwise given up athletics.



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Payment of Rs 750,000 to  chairman of football election committee probed by COPE

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The COPE Committee held yesterday (03) directed their special attention towards the payment of Rs. 750,000 to the Chairman of the Elections Committee for the conduct of football elections and the grant of approval for the payment of Rs. 60,000 to its other members.

Given that no official stated that this was paid at the COPE Committee meeting held on the 22nd of April 2021, the COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath stated that it is suspicious to now state that it was paid on the 20th of April.

The Chair recalled that the COPE Committee had also issued a recommendation to investigate on the mater and take steps to formalize the methodology.

The Committee directed Anuradha Wijekoon, Secretary to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to conduct an internal investigation and submit a report to the Committee within two weeks.

The Committee also paid special attention to the misappropriation of finances by the former President of the Football Federation Mr. Manilal Fernando of 40,400 (Rs.6,287,670) euros donated by the Italian Football Association for the construction of the Kalutara Football Stadium, $ 60,000 (Rs.6,415,290) granted to hold matches by the Asian Football Confederation, A sum of Rs. 10 million provided by a private company for the construction of 20 houses for the tsunami victims and $ 200,000 donated by the Asian Football Confederation.

The Chairman of the Committee, Prof. Charitha Herath, also directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to conduct an internal investigation into the incident and submit a report to the COPE Committee as soon as possible.

The COPE Committee expressed their displeasure for not recovering Rs. 46,860,672 obtained by the former finance manager of the Football Federation entering fake names as match referees which was revealed in August 2020. The Chairman of the Committee further recommended that the Secretary to the Ministry of Youth and Sports look into this matter and inform the Committee immediately.

It was revealed at the COPE Committee meeting that the total amount of advances given by the Federation to the tournament organizers for sports competitions and sports conferences but not settled was Rs. 2,252,067 in 2018 and Rs. 1,465,997 in 2019.

Also, the COPE Committee informed the Football Federation of Sri Lanka to amend the constitution of the Football Federation as soon as possible.

The Chairman of the Committee Prof. Charitha Herath further stated that the term of office of the office bearers of the Federation should be increased from 01 year to 04 years through these amendments.

The committee pointed out that although 10 members were elected to the executive council of the Football Federation, the chairman appoints 18 other members which is problematic.

The Committee further recommended that the 18 vacancies at present be left vacant until the Constitution of the Football Federation is amended.

The Committee also questioned the Football Federation on their failure to submit an action plan from 2017 to 2020 for approval of the Executive Committee.

Hon. Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Hon. State Minister Indika Anuruddha and Hon. Members of Parliament Rauf Hakeem, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Jagath Pushpakumara, Eran Wickramaratne, Premnath C. Dolawatte, B.Y.G Ratnasekera, S.M. Rasamanickam, Mr. Amal Edirisooriya, Director General of the Department of Sports Development, Mr. Jaswar Umar President of the Sri Lanka Football Federation along with other officials of the Football Federation were present at the meeting.

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No Mathews and Karunaratne for domestic T-20 League

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Sri Lanka’s selectors have recalled a whole lot of former internationals in their last legs for the domestic T-20 League that will get underway later this month at Pallekele but there was no room for former captains Angelo Mathews or Dimuth Karunaratne.

SLC has divided all top domestic players into four teams and over two weeks the teams will be based in Kandy and will engage in what is expected to be a highly competitive T-20 series. The event that gets underway on the 12th of August will end on the 24th of August. Selections for the six match white ball series against South Africa is expected to be done basing on performance in this competition.

Former captain Dinesh Chandimal and Suranga Lakmal, who were overlooked for the recent white ball games return for the competition with Chandimal leading one of the sides. The other captains are Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva and Ashen Priyanjan.

Mahela Udawatte, Asela Gunaratne, Seekkuge Prasanna and Milinda Siriwardene, all over the age of 35, get a look in for the competition but there is no place for some of the deserving players like Roshen Silva and Lahiru Madushanka. Gunaratne of course deserves a second chance having won

Sri Lanka a few matches and so does Seekkuge as he is part of global T-20 competitions. But there are question marks in cricket circles as to how the likes of Udawatte and Siriwardene can get a look in.

There are few talented young players named in the squad and one name that will draw a lot of attention is former Under-19 player Krishan Sanjula

Squads for SLC Invitation T-20 League

SLC Blues:

Nishan Madushka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Hashan Randika, Dhananjaya de Silva (Captain), Himasha Liyanage, Pawan Ratnayake, Ashen Bandara, Angelo Perera, Sahan Arachchige, Lahiru Samarakoon, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Suranga Lakmal, Kalana Perera, Dilshan Madushanka, Shiran Fernando, Praveen Jayawickrama, Mahesh Theekshana and Sachindu Colombage.

SLC Greens:

Lahiru Udara, Mahela Udawatte, Krishan Sanjula, Kamil Mishara, Pathum Nissanka, Saminda Fernando, Ashen Priyanjan (Captain), Kamindu Mendis, Sammu Ashan, Ramesh Mendis, Suminda Lakshan, Ishan Jayaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Nuwan Tushara and Lahiru Gamage.

SLC Reds:

Avishka Fernando, Nipun Dananjaya, Sandun Weerakkody, Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Oshada Fernando, Muditha Lakshan, Asela Gunaratne, Lasith Abeyratne, Seekkuge Prasanna, Chamika Karunaratne, Jehan Daniel, Santhush Gunathilaka, Binura Fernando, Mohamed Shiraz, Asitha Fernando, Himesh Ramanayake, Nimesh Vimukthi and Akila Dananjaya.

SLC Greys:

Minod Bhanuka, Lasith Croospulle, Sangeeth Cooray, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Nuwanindu Fernando, Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Chathuranga de Silva, Lahiru Madushanka, Milinda Siriwardene, Koshan Jayawickrama, Udith Madushan, Nuwan Pradeep, Chamika Gunasekara and Matheesha Pathirana.

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De Grasse wins men’s 200m crown

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Canada’s Andre de Grasse became the new 200 metres king, blazing to Olympic glory leading a new generation of speedsters across the line at the Tokyo National Stadium on Wednesday.

De Grasse held a slender lead coming out of the bend but had Bednarek and Lyles for company with the Canadian holding on to cross the line in a time of 19.62 seconds. Bednarek followed in second with a personal best of 19.68, with Lyles bagging bronze in 19.74.

Three nights earlier, Italy’s Marcell Jacobs became the surprise heir to Usain Bolt’s vacant 100m crown, with De Grasse now laying claim to the iconic Jamaican’s title in the 200m.

The Canadian has demonstrated his propensity to perform on the big stage, stepping onto the podium at every major championship he has competed in since 2015.

Five years ago, he locked horns with Bolt in the 200m final in Rio 2016 but like so many before, he bowed the knee to the Jamaican to claim a creditable second place.

The 26-year-old often operates under the radar between major competitions but produces the goods when it matters most.

While De Grasse has three individual medals at the world championships – including the 200m silver medal from Doha in 2019 – the top step has evaded him over the past six years.

Highlighting his temperament for the big moment, De Grasse improved on his previous personal best he set at Rio 2016 again in the semi-final at the Olympic Games. He qualified for the final as the fastest man with a national record of 19.73, chopping 0.07 off the mark from five years ago.

Emmanuel Korir leads Kenyan 1-2 in 800 metres

Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir won the men’s 800m final, leading home a Kenyan 1-2 in 1:45.06 seconds. The 26-year-old athlete, who is the sixth-fastest 800m runner of all time, stormed to the front to take an impressive gold ahead of teammate Ferguson Rotich (1:45.23).

The bronze medal went to Poland’s Patryk Dobek who finished the race in 1:45.39. However, there was disappointment for Botswana’s Nijel Amos – the fastest man in the world this year over 800m – who finished eighth in 1:46.41.

There was always going to be a new gold medallist in the 800m, after double Olympic champion (London 2012 and Rio 2016) and world record holder David Rudisha withdrew from contention due to injury in May. And with the legend missing it left the door open for others to write their names in the history books.

Korir has taken that mantle in Tokyo, winning gold and the title of Olympic champion.

Botswana’s Amos was the presumptive favourite prior to the race, having posted a personal best of 1:41.73 and a season’s best of 1:42.91 – faster than anyone in the field.

His preparations for the final were far from ideal after a fall in his heat saw him jog to the finish line along with fellow stumbler Isaiah Jewett. However, the 27-year-old Amos was reinstated and given a place in the final, with the gold medal event taking place with nine competitors instead of eight.

The second-fastest this year was Korir, with fellow Kenyan Ferguson (named after Manchester United legend Sir Alex) Rotich third after a COVID-disrupted athletics season.

But it was Korir who stormed to victory, driving for the finish line to secure a memorable win and with it the top spot on the Olympic podium.

“It’s amazing I mean I’m so happy and grateful, this is a big achievement,” he said. “I’ve been praying and hoping to maybe one day have a medal and today I have it and I’m so thankful,” said Korir.

“I will still continue running the 400 and 800m. I want to achieve the 43 seconds in the 400m and maybe to do my best and maybe one day 1:40 in the 800m and maybe a world record.

“It’s going to be my happiness if I make it.”

While Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai won the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase, Wojciech Nowicki of Poland bagged the gold in the men’s hammer throw.

Chemutai won gold with a time on 9:01.45 as she edged out USA’s Courtney Frerichs, who won silver and Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng, who clinched bronze.

Wojciech Nowicki of Poland threw farthest to claim gold with a distance of 82.52 metres.

It was a personal best for Nowicki, who completed a Tokyo 2020 hammer throw double for Poland as his win came just a day after Anita W?odarczyk won the gold medal in the women’s event. The Pole was followed to the podium by Norway’s Eivind Henriksen who threw a national-record distance of 81.58. The bronze medal was scooped by Pawel Fajdek of Poland after a throw of 81.53.

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