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Revisiting National Athletics Championships of 1945

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by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics is set to conduct its 98th National Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium from Saturday, as it looks forward to provide the competition-starved national athletes an opportunity to weigh in their strengths after being in the sideline for more than a year due to Covid 19 pandemic. In two years Sri Lanka Athletics will celebrate the centenary year. Today we review a National Championship which was held 75 years ago.

Sri Lanka Athletics which was then called the Amateur Athletics Association conducted the National Championships of 1945 over two days on October 14 and 15 at the Police Ground, Bambalapitiya.

According to Sri Lanka Athletics records, men competed in 15 events while the women’s competition had only four disciplines. Apart from the senior events there had been an invitational school boy event of 440 yards won by G.A. Van Twest of St. Sylvester’s College (56.3secs.)

At a time when distances of track events were measured in yards and miles and performances of field events in feet and inches, a feat of 10.1 seconds in the 100 yards had been adjudged the Best Performance of the meet. Sri Lanka Athletics statistics record 2/Lt. B.C. Henricus of Navy as the winner of the 100 yards.

The event witnessed G.D. Peiris, who would later become a member of the country’s first ever team to an Olympics in 1948, winning both the long jump and the triple jump. The athlete represented Y.M.C.A. and cleared 22 feet for his long jump victory. His performance for the triple jump title is registered as 45 feet and 9 ¾ inches. Peiris who competed unsuccessfully at the 1948 London Olympics long jump improved the National triple jump record thrice (1940, 1942, 1948).

A.C. Dep who later became a vice president of the athletics governing body was the winner of both the 120 yards hurdles (16.8 secs) and the pole vault. It was a time when jumpers would land on sawdust or coir dust pits after clearing. Dep who cleared 11 feet 2 ½ inches to win the pole vault at the 1945 edition held the national record for 26 years from 1936 to 1962. His national record was 12 feet and 7.5 inches.

He was not the only athlete from this competition to have become an athletics official. Upali S Gooneratne who also later became a vice president was placed second in the 100 yards. Gooneratne was a national record holder in the 100 yards. He established the record (10.1 secs) in 1938.

Another athlete of note was Chandra Senanayake who won the Discus throw for Police Sports Club with a feat of 112 feet and three inches. He was placed second in the shot put. Senanayake held the national discus throw record for 28 years, improving it ten times from 100 feet to 130 feet.

H.M.P. Perera who later became a medical doctor was probably the most prominent athlete of all. Perera representing Nemeans Sports Club won both the 220 yards (23.6 secs) and the 440 yards (51.4 secs). Perera held the national record of the 440 yards for 23 years from 1939 and produced Asia’s fastest time of the distance 49.5 seconds at an Indo-Lanka dual in 1946. At the same meet which was held in Bangalore, Duncan White ran an Asian record time of 54.9 seconds to win the hurdles.

The quarter mile specialist Perera was unbeaten at National Championships. His name appears as the winner of nationals in 1938, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45 and 50.

The event was also notable for G.D.H. Karunaratne as he clinched his third consecutive 880 yards title.

The women’s competition was dominated by Shirly Thomas and Olga Walker who won two events each. Shirly Thomas, a national record holder in both the 100 yards and the 200 yards won the sprints, while Walker won the two field events. Thomas’ records in the two sprint events were 12.2 seconds and 28.4 seconds. (Statistics for this story were provided by Sri Lanka Athletics statistician Saman Kumara Gunawardena)

Results of the 1945 National Athletics Championship

MEN

100 yards: 1. B.C. Henricus (Navy) 10.1secs., 2. Upali S Gooneratne (Prisons Sports Club), 3. W.T. Saunders (Jaffna College)

220 yards:

1. H.M.P. Perera (Nemeans Sports Club) 23.6secs., 2. W.T. Saunders (Jaffna College), 3. F.H. Brohier (Ace Athletic Club)

440 yards:

1. H.M.P. Perera (Nemeans Sports Club) 51.4secs., 2. J. Xavier (Navy), 3. P. Raymond (Army)

880 yards:

1. G.D.H. Karunaratne (Johnians Sports Club) 2:08.0secs., 2. J.S.L. White (Government Services SC), 3. K.W. Piyasiri (Vidyartha College)

1 Mile:

1. J.W.S.T. Gunasekara (Army) 4:50.4 secs., 2. L.A. De Soysa (Ace Athletic Club), 3. M.B. Rathnayake (Prisons Sports Club)

3 Miles:

1. L.A. De Soysa (Ace Athletic Club) 16:33.9secs., 2. M.B. Rathnayake (Prisons Sports Club), 3. R. Suithaly (Army)

120 yards Hurdles:

1. A.C. Dep (Police Sports Club) 16.8secs., 2. T.L. Blaze (Nemeans Sports Club), 3 T. Fillil (Police Sports Club)

440 yards Hurdles:

1. A.M. Xavier (Navy) 59.0secs. 2. R.R. Scott (Police Sports Club), 3. T.L. Blaze (Nemeans Sports Club)

High Jump:

1. R.R. Peiris (Ace Athletic Club) 5 ft 10 ¼ ins, 2. E.W. Labrooy (Excise Department), 3. D.J.C. Jayamaha (Excise Department)

Pole Vault:

1. A.C. Dep (Police SC) 11 ft 2 ½ ins, 2. K. Chelvadurai (Nemeans Sports Club), 3. T.M.T. Gunawardene (Nemeans Sports Club)

Long Jump:

1. G.D. Peiris (Y.M.C.A.) 22 ft 0 ins, 2. J.P.K. Fernando (Excise Department), 3. J.V. Wijeratne (Y.M.C.A.)

Triple Jump:

1. G.D. Peiris (Y.M.C.A.) 45 ft 9 ¾ ins, 2. C.S. Joseph (Old Josehepians SC), 3. J.P.K. Fernando (Excise Department)

Shot Put:

1. C.P.O. Atherton (Navy) 38 ft 10 ins, 2. Chandra Senanayake (Police Sports Club), 3. D.S. Thambiyah (Police Sports Club)

Discus Throw:

1. Chandra Senanayake (Police Sports Club) 112 ft3 ins, 2. L.C. Goonaratne (Ace Athletic Club), 3. C.P.O. Atherton (Navy)

Javelin Throw:

1. B.C. Da Silva (Nemeans Sports Club) 171 ft 1 ins, 2. L.C. Goonaratne (Ace Athletic Club), 3. V.R. Fernando (Silverline SC)

 

WOMEN

100 yards

: 1. Shirly Thomas (Unattached) 12.6 secs., 2. Y. Menzies (Navy), 3. Olga Walker (University)

220 yards:

1. Shirly Thomas 28.6secs. , 2. Y. Menzies, 3. Olga Walker

High Jump:

1. Olga Walker 4 ft 2 ins, 2. E.Garrett (W.R.N.S.), 3. Silvia Vanderziel (Unattached)

Long Jump:

1. Olga Walker 15 ft 3 ins, 2. Shirly Thomas, 3. M. Nathanielsz (Methodist College)

440 yards (Invitation School Boys):

1. G.A. Van Twest (St. Sylvester’s College) 56.3secs., 2. S. Suntharalingam (Hartley College), 3. Norton Perera (St. Joseph’s)



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Ahinsa becomes youngest medallist at Commonwealth Games  

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Eighteen-year-old Nethmi Ahinsa from little known Indiminna, Pannala became Sri Lanka’s youngest medallist at the Commonwealth Games as she beat Australia’s Irene Symeonidis in the 57kg weight class to win a bronze medal in wrestling in Birmingham on Friday.  She also became the country’s first medallist in the not so popular sport as she beat her Australian counterpart 10-0 in the freestyle event in the bronze medal fight.

She had to settle for the bronze medal after being eliminated by Indian Anshu Malik in the semi-final bought.   The wrestler from Welpalla Maha Vidyalaya advanced to the semi-final with a 10-0 victory over 34 year-old Cameroon athlete Joseph Emilienne Essombe Tiako. She hails from a family of four children.

Following her victory, she thanked her parents for allowing her to engage in the sport and expressed her gratitude to T.S. Suranga Kumara who not only trained her but also looked after her providing nutrition and other needs.

She said that there had been so many stories and even films on how coaches go out of their way to help their athletes achieve success but her coach was a living example of such a story.

She took to wrestling after her friend Chamodya Keshani invited her to join training in 2018. Incidentally, Keshani too competed at the Commonwealth Games in the 53kgs weight class.

She said that she did not have a wrestling mattress when she first began training but later received the support of the national federation to obtain one. After doing well at recent junior events she had also received the support of Crysbro for nutrition and also trained abroad after National Olympic Committee identified her talent.

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Georgia Baker lands third gold of Games in road race

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Australia’s Georgia Baker claimed her third gold medal of the Commonwealth Games with victory in the road race in Warwick.The Australian team were well placed in the run in for a bunch sprint and gave Baker, who won gold on the track in the points race and team pursuit, the perfect lead out for her to come out on top in a time of two hours 44 minutes and 46 seconds.

Scotland’s Neah Evans finished strongly but the line came too soon and she had to settle for silver with Baker’s compatriot Sarah Roy taking bronze, with the leading 24 riders all finishing on the same time.Baker was quick to pay tribute to her team-mates after the Australian train helped set up the victory.

Baker said: “This one is extra special. It was a real team effort.

“I wish I could split this medal into six, it was real credit to the team and I’m glad I could pull it off for them.

“There was a little bit of pressure coming in but we also knew we had one of the strongest teams here. The girls did an amazing job covering all the moves.

“For them to nail the final lead out made my ride so easy. I finished with fresh legs and that was the goal. I did the sprint and got my hands across the line.

“From the start of the race it was, if the race went the way we wanted. If it was going to be a bunch sprint I would be sprinting, if it was going to be an aggressive and hard race where the other nations were going to make it super hard, then potentially Alex [Manly] would be sprinting.

“We made the call out there with about 20km to go and I was feeling good so we stuck to the plan and the girls [the Australia cyclists] led me out beautifully.”

Scotland went into the race with just two riders instead of the maximum allowed six riders per team and Evans set the tactic was to keep the workload low and cover any moves from the favourites.

She said: “We knew there were a few big, strong teams here, so the plan was to just try and follow any moves and don’t actually do any work.

“Then, if it came to a bunch sprint, we would do what we could (and) wing it. It worked pretty well.”

Evans has won two silvers and a bronze, but added: “I will have to come back in four years as there is one missing that I really want to try and get. But it has been a brilliant Games for me.” (www.birmingham2022.com)

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Isipatana hang on to down Joes 16-13

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

Isipatana College did well to overcome stiff resistance from St. Joseph’s College and record an exciting 16-13 win in the second match of the ‘Super Round’ Inter-school under 19 league rugby tournament match worked off at Havelock Park yesterday.Isipatana taking a comfortable 7-0 lead at the ‘breather’ suddenly found the going tough when the Josephians came back strongly with an improved performance in the second half.

It was all happening for both teams in the second half. Isipatana were made to sweat in the second half because of two yellow cards to their players and Joes earning a try, a conversion and two penalties to boost their score. The Josephians too had a yellow card shown to one of its players in the first half.But if there was one player who stood strong like a wall for Isipatana it was winger Rinesh Silva who handled kicking duties with the accuracy of a professional. He slotted in three well-taken penalties in the second half and kept the score board ticking for Ispatana.

Joes produced the scares for Isipatana seven minutes from the end when number eight Naveen Marasinghe crashed in for a try. Ruchira Rodrigo slotted in the conversion, but the Joes were foiled there onwards by a determined Isipatana defence.The game was forced to a ten minute stoppage in the first half due to the absence of an ambulance on the field. At the time of the interruption to the game both ambulances hired for the game were busy taking two injured Josephians to hospital. Referee Yatawara came in for much praise for looking into player safety and being adamant that an ambulance must be present at the match venue for the game to continue.

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