by Reemus Fernando
Sixteen-year-old Nethmika Madushani Herath who won the long jump event at last week’s Junior Selection Trial was just an average performer four years ago. The youngster first attended Yakunnawa Kanishta Vidyalaya, a school in remote Medagama in Bibile before her notable feats at local Zonal competitions influenced her parents to admit her to Nannapurawa MV where she came under the supervision of Krishantha Kumara.
“She was doing high jump first and we got her to train long jump. Now she is doing long jump, triple jump and the hurdles,” Kumara told The Island after Nethmika produced an impressive 5.73 metres to turn tables on Dananjana Sithmini of Lyceum International, Wattala on her final jump.
Both Kumara and his wife Inoka Sanjeewani, a former Uva Province Champion, are Physical Training Instructors at Nannapurawa MV. They were among a handful of PTIs to have continued training school athletes during the pandemic. The results of their perseverance during these trouble times started to produce rich dividend when she was placed third at the Selection Trial for Under-20 World Championships held earlier this year.
“Due transportation difficulties we came in a hired vehicle for that meet. She did not have enough rest before she started competing and could not display her true potential at that meet. It was the first time in two years that she was competing on a synthetic track,” said Kumara.
Competing in the Under-20 age category in that event, she cleared 5.56 metres to be placed third. The winner Ishara Samanmalee cleared 5.62 metres.
What does her feat of 5.73 metres indicate?
Nethmika is among hundreds of young athletes to have dearly missed competition opportunities during the last two years due to the Covid 19 pandemic. When she last competed at the All Island Schools Games Athletics Championships in 2019 she was placed second in the Under-16 long jump with a leap of 5.51 metres. She was expecting to make amends and win that age category event at the 2020 edition. But with both the 2020 and 2021 seasons lost due to the pandemic, the athletes in the caliber of Nethmika have found the Trial meets organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to be the only opportunities to test their skills.
Nethmika’s winning feat of 5.73 metres on Saturday is one of the best performances in her age category in Sri Lanka. At the last All Island Schools Games Competition (2019) the girls Under-18 long jump gold was won with a feat of 5.62 metres (Sadeepa Handerson). At the last Asian Youth Championships in 2019, the girls’ long jump bronze medal went to a performance of 5.73 metres, the exact performance Nethmika produced.
What was impressive about Nethmika’s performance was the way she consistently cleared the 5.50 metres mark. Her six jumps were measured at 5.58m, 5.55m, 5.48m, 5.38m, 5.58m and 5.73m. In the triple jump she cleared 11.77 metres, the best performance by a female athlete in the Under-18 age category during the last three years.
She is not the first and only athlete to have produced such feats. In fact in the same competition Lyceum athlete Dananjana Sithmini cleared 5.60 metres. There had been numerous athletes who had excelled like Nethmika but many such female athletes had given up ahead of O/L examination.
Nethmika, who is the third in a family of four girls, is a keen student and would want to continue higher education like her two older sisters who are university students. So far her farmer parents have given the necessary support for her to prosper in both studies and sports. But not all scholar athletes of Nannapurawa MV had been lucky. According to Kumara a number of scholar students of Nannapurawa MV who had excelled in other sports had given up at Nethmika’s age to concentrate on studies.
Nethmika is likely to be selected in the team for 2022 Asian Youth Championships. Hopefully that will be an impetus for Nethmika to persevere in both sports and studies.
Name: H.M. Nethmika Madushani Herath
Date of Birth:
4th March 2005
M.G. Krishantha Kumara and Inoka Sanjeewani
Long Jump, Triple Jump, Hurdles
Nissanka targets improved rankings in 2022
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC) has many good things and rarely do you find players leaving the less popular Maitland Place club once they get themselves established. One of the club’s biggest strengths is Mr. Ranjit Fernando, the former Sri Lanka wicket-keeper batsman. ‘Uncle Ranjit’ as players call him, is not the President or Secretary of the Club but he’s a live wire and he’s been that for the last 40 years mentoring dozens of Test cricketers and half a dozen Sri Lanka captains from Ranjan Madugalle to Upul Tharanga. The latest prodigy he’s groomed is Pathum Nissanka.
The 23-year-old Nissanka has been a revelation since he made his Test debut last season. A historic one at that as he became the first Sri Lankan to score a Test hundred on debut overseas.
West Indies is not the type of opponents that give you a true picture of a caliber of a player. But there was no denying of the fact of his temperament and holding the nerve on the biggest day of his life.
Nissanka has proven that he’s no basher of weak opponents or a flack track bully like he did during his stunning 74 against a South African attack that had Rabada, Nortje and world’s number one ranked bowler Tabraiz Shamsi.
The year 2021 ended with Nissanka smashing three half-centuries in four innings against West Indies. That’s consistency for you which most young players lack. There is new hope as well that a dawn of a new era for Sri Lankan cricket is near. Nissanka was impressive in Sri Lanka’s first game in 2022 with the team chasing down the highest target at Pallekele and he was the key setting the tone for the run chase.
At the post match media briefing, Nissanka told journalists that he’s going to make the new year a productive one wanting to improve his international rankings. According to official ICC Rankings for batsmen, Nissanka is ranked 63 in Test cricket, 66 in T20s while he does not feature in the top 100 ranked players in ODIs.
Nissanka wanting to make progress is a good sign. Currently, only Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne is ranked amongst the top ten players in Tests while Sri Lanka don’t have any players in the top ten in ODI or T20 cricket.
Nissanka’s start has been stunning with him turning everything that he touches into gold. But the bigger challenges are ahead. Not just necessarily on the field. There are more distractions off the field and we have seen many a young player going astray. Hopefully Nissanka will have the work ethic of a Virat Kohli and the smartness of a Kumar Sangakkara.
The second ODI will be played today at Pallekele.
Chamari’s team commence campaign for the Commonwealth Games slot today
The ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 commences at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday as Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, Scotland, and Sri Lanka vie for the lone remaining slot at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham.
The round-robin T20 tournament to decide who joins the seven teams already qualified for Birmingham – Australia, Barbados, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and South Africa – commences with a match between Bangladesh and Malaysia and will see Bangladesh and Sri Lanka face off on the last day.
Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu said that it was vital for their team to win the tournament after having missed qualifying for the 50-over World Cup. Her team will encounter Scotland today.
Chamari Athapaththu: “Apart from the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games (cricket competition) is the other major tournament to be held in 2022. Obviously, it won’t wipe out the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup but will give us some amount of solace.
“We have a very good chance of winning this tournament and qualifying for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. We have experienced players as well as talented youngsters in our side, with the likes of Harsitha Samarawickrama and Kavisha Dilhari the ones to look out for.”
England and six other highest-ranked ICC Members in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s T20I Team Rankings as of 1 April 2021 qualified directly for the Commonwealth Games, with the slot for the West Indies going to Barbados since athletes from the Caribbean will be representing their countries and not the West Indies (as they are affiliated with the ICC). Barbados were nominated by Cricket West Indies (CWI) on the basis of their win in the 2019 CWI T20 Blaze Tournament.
Women’s cricket will be part of the Commonwealth Games for the first time ever in what is seen as a huge opportunity to take the game to new fans. It will only be the second time that cricket will feature in it after a men’s competition was part of the Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Bangladesh captain Niger Sultana has the chance of leading her team into the Birmingham Games to cap a fine year that has already seen them qualify for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in March-April.
Nigar Sultana: “We are very confident. It was not easy for us to return to competitive cricket after the disruptions of training and matches because of Covid-19. However, we are well prepared now, having played in different conditions during the past few months.
“I think our middle-order batting has been excellent in recent times. As this is a T20 tournament, I am expecting the opening batters to get us off to quick starts. We have experienced campaigners to compliment the youthful exuberance in our team. It’s going to be a combined effort from all of us if we do well here.
Scotland captain Kathryn Bryce understands that it won’t be easy for her team but is still aiming to win the Qualifier.
Kathryn Bryce: “Every time we go into a tournament the main objective is to try and win. There’s only one qualification spot available, so we know it’s going to be a challenging task coming up against the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who’ve been near the top of the world stage for a long time now. They have a lot of experience but we’re looking forward to testing ourselves against them.
“It’s been a challenging build-up with COVID-19 still affecting things, but we’ve managed to get together as a squad to train together regularly. We’ve been indoors over the winter period, but I think there have been some good camps during the preparation and I’ve seen some good progression, so I believe we’ll be ready for the tournament.
“There are lots of players in the team who are starting to stand up and as a team we’re not really relying on a small number of people anymore which is really exciting to see. Obviously, Abtaha Maqsood has a really big summer playing in The Hundred and I think her quality will hopefully come through and has the potential to win us some matches.”
Kenya captain Margaret Ngoche wants to make the most of the opportunity of playing against teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Margaret Ngoch: “We want to utilize and maximize all the opportunities that will come our way in terms of experience and talent showcasing. We want to interact with other teams with the aim of building a great cricketing network and learn more from them. We want to ensure that we are among the top teams, and we are coming with a winning mentality.”
“We know that this is a tournament like we have never experienced before. We will be playing with teams that have played in the World Cup. One of our major weapons is our mental capacity and experience that we have gathered through the years. The training and practice matches are just a way to polish the already effective tools that we possess. We have really invested in our mental capacity because our 100% is better than the rest.”
Malaysia captain Winifred Anne Duraisingam is hoping to gain the edge from familiar home conditions.
Winifred Anne Duraisingam: “It feels good to play hosts after not being able to play the last two years. Malaysia is blessed with good weather and of course, our hospitality and food will, I hope, be a great experience for the teams coming in.
“In terms of advantage, we are certainly comfortable as we know the ground conditions and we hope this will give us an edge as we do our best. Without a doubt, the strength of our team is in fielding and bowling. We are currently hard at work with our batting and we can see the improvements.
“Kinrara Oval has hosted many international tournaments including ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2008, the Women’s Asia Cup, and many other ICC and ACC (Asian Cricket Council) events. The pitch is very lively and is good for both batting and bowling.”
Match schedule (local time):
Malaysia vs Bangladesh (09h30); Sri Lanka vs Scotland (13h15)
Kenya vs Bangladesh (09h30); Scotland vs Malaysia (13h15)
Kenya vs Sri Lanka (09h30)
Scotland vs Kenya (09h30); Sri Lanka vs Malaysia (13h15)
Bangladesh vs Scotland (09h30); Malaysia vs Kenya (13h15)
Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka (09h30)
Let the ‘OLY’ recognize Olympians’- Kulawansa
Olympian Sriyani Kulawansa said that Sri Lanka Olympians would give emphasis to promoting the ‘OLY’ title, a post-nominal letters granted by the World Olympians Association (WOA) to athletes who have participated in Olympics. The World Olympians Association took the initiative in 2017.
Kulawansa speaking to The Island said that all sportsmen and women who represented the country have the ‘OLY’ title and her Association would like to promote the title as it would give due recognition to Olympians in a country dominated by a non Olympic sport.
“All Olympians have the OLY title. Representing the country at the Olympics is like obtaining a PHD. The OLY title is a complement for the efforts put in to be an Olympian,” Kulawansa said in an interview.
“We felicitated the athletes who became eligible for the title with their participation at the last Tokyo Olympics including Yupun Abeykoon and Nimali Liyanarachchi at the AGM. Some of the new Olympians who were not in the country will be awarded their pins at a future date,” said Kulawansa.
Former national track and field champions Kulawansa, Sugath Thilakaratne and Damayanthi Dharsha who still hold national records of their pet events more than two decades after retiring were elected to top positions of the Sri Lanka Olympians at its Annual General Meeting held at the NCC premises on Saturday.
Newly elected Committee members of the Sri Lanka Olympians (from left) Julian Bolling, Ruvini Abeymanna, Sugath Thilakarathna (Secretary) Sriyani Kulawansa (President), Damayanthi Dharsha (Vice President), Nimmi de Soyza (Treasurer), Anurudda Rathnayake and Mahesh Perera.
Kulawansa who represented Sri Lanka at three Olympics from 1992 was elected as the president for a term of four years. Asian Games medallist Thilakaratne who produced the current national record in the 400 metres in 1998 was elected as the secretary of the apex body.
Asian Games medallist Dharsha was elected vice president while Nimmi de Soyza was elected treasurer.
The other members who were elected to the committee are Julian Bolling, Mahesh Perera, Anurudha Ratnayake and Ruvini Abeynayake.
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