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Sajith: Small steps can help win big

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by Reemus Fernando

Respected track and field coach Sajith Jayalal, the guru behind the success of highest ranked Sri Lankan athlete, believes that achieving tough Olympic qualifying standards is a matter of proper management of athletes and coordination of a diverse range of professionals from psychologists, nutritionists to doctors to get the best out of top athletes. “You don’t need big investments on infrastructure to achieve top performances. You can leap-frog to top international standards without being stagnated at Asian level if you can make available the services of professionals who can address nutritional, health, psychological and other issues of athletes,” said Jayalal in an interview with The Island.

Jayalal who is also the Director of the National Institute of Sports Sciences has trained numerous athletes to excel at international level and is the coach of steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake who has come closer to achieving Olympic qualifying standards in track and field sports. In the absence of her pet event Ratnayake clinched two golds in her supporting events (1,500m, 5,000m) at the last South Asian Games.

“Look at the number of professionals working around athletes winning at Asian level. There is the coach, the officials from the federation, physio, psychologist, nutritionist and many others. These professionals work together to improve standards. I urge authorities to get involved to make this happen here. The coach is isolated here. You don’t need to spend big to achieve this,” Jayalal opined.

“At junior level, a coach can play several roles but at elite level it is different. You need only to have a system in place. I have under me several athletes who win at Asian level. There are others who train such athletes. If they can obtain the support of these professionals I have mentioned, Sri Lanka can win big,” said Jayalal.

“Coach should do the technical part. The training part. There are people who are willing to support without monetary gain. I am speaking as a coach not as the Director of an institution attached to the ministry of Sports. I am coaching because I have a burning desire to do that. I am not paid for coaching. There are people like that. Doctors, nutritionists and others who are willing to help. What we need is that help. Not money. What we need is the mechanism to bring these resource persons together to support elite athletes.

Jayalal also stressed the importance of managing athletes and their affairs. “I have had enough talented athletes but there was no one to manage them apart from me. There should be someone from the Association to manage the athletes in the elite pool. There should be a qualified individual to do that. For example I am not willing to send my athletes to Colombo from Boralanda even for a meeting conducted by Sri Lanka Athletics if that meeting falls during a peak training week. By sending my athletes I will be ruining the whole build up to that week. Since my athlete is not coming to the meeting, some other athlete in Colombo also takes that as an excuse to skip the meeting. I have to negotiate with the head of Sri Lanka Athletics to resolve matters. These matters should be taken care of by a manager. Managing these is a different area when it comes to elite level.”

Absence of quality and safe supplements for recovery has been the bone of contention. The veteran coach stressed the importance of regulating supplements. “We are afraid of taking protein supplements because there are no safe places to purchase them. If we do not provide athletes with correct nutrients and legal means of obtaining them then they will opt to take what ever available. There should be some responsible institution or company who could be trusted to provide pure protein supplements not contaminated with banned substances.”

Sajith Jayalal has dozens of his elite athletes engaged in high altitude training at Boralanda where the climatic conditions remain dry making it possible to maintain an uninterrupted training programme compared to Nuwara Eliya. While Ratnayake is based in Diyatalawa with Sri Lanka Army looking after the well-being of the athlete, some of his other elite athletes are housed at a rented place in Boralanda.

Speaking on Sri Lanka’s prospects of qualifying for Olympics Jayalal had this to say.

“Olympic qualifying standard have become tough. But if we prepare strategically we can qualify in several events. We can have hopes on the mix relay. Qualifying in the 100 metres relays will be really tough. According to what we observed before the lock down we had a chance in 400 metres relays. If we manage the athletes properly we can have hopes of qualifying. Hiruni Wijeratne (marathoner) is already doing well in the US. Then we have Sumeda Ranasinghe (javelin thrower), Nilani Ratnayake, even the two women’s 800 metres runners (Gayanthika Abeyratne and Nimali Liyanarachchi). Though the qualifying standards is high if they can break the national record they might come closer achieving entry standards. Then we have the men’s long jumpers. If five of our athletes could qualify for Olympics then we can build on that to succeed at regional international events. Coaches should work hard to achieve that.”

Lack of quality competitions had hampered the preparation of many a top level athlete in the past. The prevailing health issues around the world emanating from the Covid 19 pandemic has worsened the situation preventing the possibilities of taking part in competitions overseas in the immediate future. Jayalal said that tough competitions were necessary to improve standards. “We do not have proper competitions. We get Singapore Open or Thailand Open. We don’t get challenged at those races. We win by big leads there. For the elite athletes we need tough competitions. Where we get beaten. We must compete in competitions in Kazakhstan, Bahrain and India and if possible events in the European circuit where we can strive to be among the first five.”



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Mihiranga, Charuka shine as Richmond secure quarter-final place 

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Under 17 Division I Cricket  

by Reemus Fernando   

Spinner Pubudu Mihiranga produced a five wicket haul to lead Richmond to 60 runs victory over Sri Devananda in the Under 17 Division I cricket pre-quarter-final played at Ambalangaoda on Sunday. Richmond were in danger of missing the quarter-final berth after Ravindu de Silva triggered a middle order collapse to restrict them to 166 runs. But Mihiranga’s counter attack helped them earn the crucial victory as they restricted the home team to 106 runs.

Chasing a target of 167 runs to win, Mayura Malshan, Lahiru Kavinda and Sithum Vihanga were the only batsmen to reach double figures as Devananda were bowled out in the 25th over. After doing well in the field, their batsmen failed to back up, with five batsmen getting out without scoring.  For Richmond, Thamindu Pradeeptha and Yuri Koththigoda did early damage before Mihiranga came up with his impressive spell to complete a five wicket haul.  Mihiranga’s 8.5 overs included four maidnes and he gave away just 23 runs for his five wickets.

Deciding to bat, Charuka Gunasekara stood out with a valuable knock of 81 runs (94 balls, 14x4s). With Gunasekara going great guns Richmond were looking at posting a challenging total. But Ravindu de Silva had other ideas.

Introduced to the attack as the ninth bowler, de Silva rattled the Richmond batting line up with a five wicket haul. Richmond were 133 for two wickets at the end of the 30th over but their last eight wickets could add only 33 runs during the remainder of the innings as Ravindu De Silva joined Sithum de Silva to contained the formidable line up to 166 runs.

Sithum who completed his quota of ten overs gave away just 19 runs for his three wickets. Ravindu bowled seven overs taking five wickets for 19 runs, while Mayura Malshan and Sithum Vihanga too bowled economical spells. Malshan’s seven overs (7.2) cost him just 12 runs. In the other two pre-quarter-final matches played on Saturday, Revata College, Balapitiya pulled off an exciting three runs victory over St. Thomas’, Matara and Trinity scored two wickets victory over D.S. Senanayake.

Scores:  

Richmond 166 all out 43.2 overs (Helith Edirisinghe 19, Charuka Gunasekara 81, Extras 24; Sithum de Silva 3/19, Ravindu de Silva 5/19) 

Sri Devananda 106 all out in 24.5 overs (Mayura Malshan 28, Lahiru Kavinda 30; Pubudu Mihiranga 5/23, Yuri Koththigoda 2/11) 

Results of the Matches played on Saturday 

Revata beat St. Thomas’ Matara by three runs at Matara  

Scores: 

Revata 140 all out in 49.1 overs (Kaveesha Mendis 59, Malith Mihiranga 23; Loshitha Diksith 3/26, Manuga Yonal 2/22, Pesandu Sanjan 2/14) 

St. Thomas’ 137 all out in 37.5 overs (Abdul Majid 26, Manuga Yonal 23, Sanju Dilshan 21; Kaveesha Mendis 2/32, Malith Mihiranga 2/18, Shehan Madusanka 3/18, Purna Ranyuru 3/18) 

 Trinity beat DSS by one wicket at Mount Lavinia  

Scores: 

DSS 144 all out in 45.3 overs (Shanal Binuksha 23, Sohan Senarathyapa 39, Chanul de Alwis 20, Extras 24; Malith Rathnayake 2/25, Sweaph Anurajeewa 2/24)

Trinity 145 for 8 in 49.5 overs (Sweaph Anurajeewa 27, Jayavi Liyanagama 32; Akidha Weerasuriya 2/19, Randisha Bandaranayake 2/22) 

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Man United’s David de Gea after Brentford defeat: Last season’s horror show still in our minds

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David de Gea has said Manchester United are struggling to get over last season’s traumatic campaign and added the hangover is contributing to a nightmare start to life under Erik ten Hag.Ten Hag is the first United manager in more than 100 years to lose his first two games in charge after back-to-back defeats to Brighton and Brentford.

The 4-0 humiliation at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday left Ten Hag’s team bottom of the Premier League table and De Gea said the dismal end to last season, when United lost seven of their final 12 games, is playing a part.

“It was a difficult season and probably it’s still in our minds,” he said. “When something goes wrong people get panicky, it’s difficult. But we have to learn, we have a new manager, some new players, we need to be more positive, keep learning and improve.”

All four goals at Brentford were conceded in the opening 35 minutes, prompting Ten Hag to replace Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez and Fred at half-time. The Dutchman said afterwards he wanted to change his entire starting lineup following a disastrous first 45 minutes and De Gea said the United boss relayed his anger to the players at the break.David de Gea endured a miserable afternoon as Manchester United were thrashed at Brentford. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

“He said it was unacceptable, what we were doing on the pitch,” De Gea said. “Nothing else to be honest. It was horrible, then some tactical things. It was horrible from us.

“I must take responsibility, I think I cost two goals to the team today. That first goal cannot happen. As a team we should react much better than we did, but I think I cost the team two goals.”

It won’t get any easier for United with Liverpool their next opponents at Old Trafford on Aug. 22. United haven’t beaten Liverpool in a league game since 2018 and the last three fixtures against Jurgen Klopp’s side have ended in three defeats and a combined score of 13-2.

“It’s about winning games,” De Gea added. “As soon as we win one game, two games, we’re going to start feeling better and more positive.

“We’re training really well, people are training hard, everyone is giving everything, to be honest, but then in the games we are not performing. For sure we’re going to learn, we have to learn and we have to play much better.”

(ESPN)

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Godamanne retires as Sri Lanka secure Group III promotion

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Sri Lanka registered a 2-0 victory over Iraq to earn promotion to Group III as they won the vital encounter in the Asia Oceania Zone Group IV Event, which was also the final Davis Cup match for Harshana Godamanna at the SLTA clay courts in Colombo on Saturday.

In the singles Yasitha de Silva beat Abdullah Ali Hatem 6-4, 6-2 and Harshana Godamanna beat Adel Mustafa Al-Saedi 6-3, 6-2.

Godamanna who represented Sri Lanka for 20 years made his retirement from the game a memorable one. He was presented with a plaque with many pictures of him in action and his parents in appreciation. The presentation was made by Iqbal bin Issack president of SLTA.

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