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Ruiter speaks of Cheptegei’s chances of breaking world records again

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The man who beat the light:

by Reemus Fernando

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei completed a remarkable double this month as he broke Kenenisa Bekele’s long-held track world record in the 10,000 metres to follow up his 5,000 metres record established in August. When he set records in the two longest track events Cheptegei also beat a series of flashing lights which raced behind him from start to finish along the edge of the inner track. Wavelight technology, a system of flashing lights that helps runners keep pace with record times, was used this year in track events. However, Addy Ruiter, whose coaching brains supported Cheptegei’s record breaking efforts believes that new technology is especially helpful for the spectators and the viewers at home than runners. He said this in an interview with The Island a few days after Cheptegei returned from the World Half Marathon in Poland.

“In Monaco (where he broke the 5000 metres world record) Joshua never saw the light. After 3200 metres the light was behind him. In Valencia he was using the light in the second part of the race, but I don’t believe that the lights are helping a lot. We saw this season already enough races where athletes couldn’t follow the lights. The lights are helpful to the spectators and the (TV) viewers at home,” said the Dutchman, whose charge has now established himself as the dominant distance runner of his generation.

In August Cheptegei slashed nearly two seconds off the 2004 world record of Bekele in creating the new 5,000 metres mark (12:35.36 secs) and on October 7 clocked 26:11.00 seconds to take 6.53 seconds off the Ethiopian’s 10,000 metres world record established in 2005.

“I started coaching Joshua five years ago. Joshua and Global Sports Communication gave me the opportunity to build up his career step by step according to my vision. It is great to see as a coach when he achieves this kind of performances.”

With back-to-back world records against his name, Cheptegei was expected to carry his success on the track to road events by winning the World Half Marathon, which was held in Poland last week. He was placed fourth.

Ruiter said: “In March, he was perfectly prepared for the World Half Marathon but they postponed it. This time around, he was only prepared for the 5,000 and 10,000 metres World Records attempts. During the last period, we didn’t do long runs. By the race day in Poland he had also not totally recovered from the effort put in to Valencia (10,000metres record) and his endurance part was not good enough for such an effort. But it was important for Joshua to represent his country,”

Cheptegei first won at international level when he clinched the World U20 Championships 10,000 metres title in 2014 as a 17-year-old. A double gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, Olympic titles are the only laurels not in the 24-year-old’s possession. Ruiter said that periodization of Cheptegei’s preparation was different than what athletes normally did but they would not be revealed until at least 2024.

With the Olympics postponed to 2021 will he be attempting another record performance in Tokyo?

“In Tokyo, you are only running for the medals and the time is totally not important. When there is a possibility in 2021, then Joshua will try to break his own World Records.”

Covid 19 pandemic has impacted many athletes adversely. Asked for comment on how the pandemic had affected him and your trainee he had this to say:

“It was and is of course a difficult time for everyone. For most athletes there were no possibilities to run races. For the training it was very helpful. The athlete was still motivated because it gave us the possibility to train without interruptions of races.”

Ruiter has some 20 Uganda athletes, 15 in Kapchorwa and five in Kampala training under his guidance. Halimah Nakaayi, who won the 800 metres title at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, is also trained by him.

Ruiter has visited many countries and it was his love for traveling that has helped him take an easy decision to be in Uganda to coach their athletes.

“I did a lot of traveling in my life and have visited 98 countries. So I’m used to it and not to being in the Netherlands and to be in other cultures. So, when they did ask me for this job, I did not have to think about it twice.”

With the World Records now under Cheptegei’s belt what would be the plan Ruiter has now for his champion athlete?

“With the pandemic, that is a difficult question to answer. We hope that Joshua is having the opportunity to break his own World Records in the 5,000 and 10.000 metres but most important thing is trying to win the double at the Olympic Games.”

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Exodus of white South African cricket talent  

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by Rex Clementine

Every time Sri Lankan teams go to South Africa, they ask the locals one question. ‘What happened to Marchant de Langa?’ The six foot seven inch tall quick, made his Test debut against the Sri Lankans in Durban in 2011. He took seven wickets in the first innings and his victims included Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, and Tilan Samaraweera et al. Yet, after that, he was hardly heard of. So what actually happened to de Langa? Well, he turned ‘Kolpak’ preferring County Cricket in England instead of Test cricket for his country.

Isn’t that absurd? One may wonder. The ultimate joy for any player is to represent your country. That too, after you had proven yourself in Test cricket, why do you want to return to First Class cricket? Well, the reason being, white South African cricketers get a raw deal in their country and they are seeking greener pastures in Europe or in places like Australia and New Zealand. Not just cricketers, this includes farmers, businessmen and other professionals. Australia in particular welcomes South African farmers with open arms.

For decades, the black South Africans suffered at the hands of white rulers and those terrible apartheid laws not only segregated them but deprived them of equal opportunities. The world took notice and imposed trade embargos on South Africa. Sports associations followed banning bilateral sporting ties with South Africa and in the end; they were left with Hobson’s choice but to give in for fair play.

Sadly, now white South Africans are at the receiving end due to the ‘quota system’ that is prevalent across all walks of life. When seeking employment, black South Africans get the preference, followed by coloured and those of Indian origin and the whites come last. So opportunities for them are few and rare. In sports too talent alone won’t get you there. The quota system encourages more black South African representation and as a result the whites are moving out.

In the Lanka Premier League, two South Africans share the new ball for Jaffna Stallions – Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier. Both were successful international cricketers before they turned Kolpak settling in England to play County Cricket.

Abbott was playing the New Year Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town in 2017. That he had signed a Kolpak deal was a poorly kept secret and the news was out during the Test match. Cricket South Africa reacted angrily and wanted to separate.  The fast bowler announced his retirement at the conclusion of the Test match. This was the second Test.  So for the third game in Johannesburg, the Proteas were short of a fast bowler. They drafted in Duanne Olivier.

Olivier on debut was on the money and his pace was too much to handle for the Sri Lankans. The game was lost inside three days. Two years later when Sri Lanka returned to South Africa, Olivier along with Kagiso Rabada was South Africa’s premier bowlers. Yet, after the second Test, Olivier too turned Kolpak and South Africa lost yet another fine talent in his prime.

All South Africans who have turned Kolpak are doing a terrific job for their respective counties. Their country meanwhile is struggling to make an impact in the sport. South Africa are ranked sixth in Tests and fifth in ODIs and T-20s. Not the true reflection of their sporting greatness.

What the Kolpak ruling means is that citizens of the country who have trade agreements with the European Union countries are eligible to work as locals. Now South Africa is not part of the EU, but they have a trade agreement with EU and that qualifies their citizens. So when English counties hire South Africans, it’s not considered an overseas signing.

In the last few years with Britain exiting from the European union more South Africans turned Kolpak in order to qualify. Cricket authorities in South Africa must be hoping that now their problems will end as Kolpak deal is no longer valid once Britain exits EU. However, unless they deal with serious issues like equal opportunities to all, they are going to face more problems.

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Colombo win Super Over thriller in LPL opener

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Colombo Kings came from behind to tie the curtain-raiser of the Lanka Premier League against Kandy Tuskers and then held onto a tensed win in the Super Over at Hambantota yesterday.

There was lot of exciting cricket and Kandy Tuskers looked to be having the game in the bag but Colombo Kings snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to some brilliant all-round performance from Isuru Udana, the only Sri Lankan to get an IPL contract this year.

 Set a stiff target of 220, Colombo were well on course as Dinesh Chandimal produced a fine effort posting 80 off 46 balls. The T-20 format often requires improvisation but Chandimal’s were pure cricketing shots as he showcased that he can still excel in the shortest format of the game without slogging.

Chandimal was guilty of throwing it away though as he sliced a Naveen-ul-Haq delivery to third man where Nuwan Pradeep completed the catch.

Colombo lost Thikshila de Silva and skipper Angelo Mathews in quick succession but the presence of big hitting Andre Russell kept them in the hunt.

But Nuwan Pradeep returned for a second spell to claim two wickets including that of Russell and soon Kandy were in the driver’s seat again.

But Isuru Udana threw caution to the wind smashing 34 off 12 balls including four sixes to tie the game.

Colombo needed three to win in the last ball but Udana could only manage two sending the game to a Super Over.

Colombo managed 16 runs in the Super Over and then Udana was entrusted to defend it and he did a terrific job as Kandy could only get 11 runs.

Kandy owed it to their skipper Kusal Janith Perera, whose splendid effort gave them a competitive total of 219. KJP top scored with 87 runs off 52 balls with nine fours and four sixes.

Together with Rahmanullah Gurbaz (53), KJP gave his side a good start. Kandy’s 100 runs came in the eighth over and from thereon, they only had to bat sensibly to set a daunting target.

In the end, it all proved to be insufficient.

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Successful staging of LPL would pave the way for other sports to resume – Dr. Lal Ekanayake

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by Reemus Fernando

Dr. Lal Ekanayake, the Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine expressed hope that Lanka Premier League (LPL) cricket tourney which was scheduled to start in the evening yesterday would be the first step towards resumption of sports in the country despite a rise in the number of Covid 19 positive cases.

“Successful staging of the LPL tournament will pave the way for other sports to resume under new normal conditions. The sports minister too is looking at the possibilities of starting other sports events after the successful conclusion of the LPL,” said Ekanayake in an interview with The Island.

“The Covid 19 is unlikely to leave us soon. Experts say that this will stay for a couple of years. In such a scenario responsibility is on us to prepare ways to resume sports,” said Ekanayake.

“Even some countries which are worst affected by the pandemic have resumed sports under new normal. Sometimes there is confusion regarding health guidelines. But if we plan properly sports can resume,” opined Ekanayake.

“Many international sports events scheduled for next year will happen as scheduled. We cannot hold back. We are going to take part in these championships. The postponed Olympics is happening later next year. So are other international events,” said Ekanayake.

Ekanayake said that his institution was looking forward to support sports associations conduct their competitions. Sri Lanka Athletics is one of the hardest hit sports and the track and field governing body has scheduled the National Championship to December after the cancellations of many top level competitions throughout the year.

Ekanayake has expressed his views on resuming track and field sports on previous occasions as well. He has cited track and field sports as a low risk sports and has the ability to resume despite the pandemic.

Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women are scheduled to take part in a number of international events in 2021 and 2022. Resumption of local competitions including national championships is going to benefit them.

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