So near and yet so far for Olympian Sumedha
by Reemus Fernando
Sumedha Ranasinghe became country’s first male javelin thrower at Olympics when he took part in the Rio Games in 2016. A massive 83.04 metres throw at Diyagama in 2015 was the breakthrough moment of his career. Since then the undergraduate has been carrying lot of expectations on his shoulders. Expectations were also high when the qualification period for the Tokyo Olympics opened with him ranked 30th in the Road to Olympics Rankings by virtue of his performances in 2019. But lack of competitions there after resulted in him losing his place and was ranked 45th when he was ready to throw at the 60th Interstate Athletics Championship in Patiala, India on Tuesday, the last day of the qualifying period for the Tokyo Olympics.
Ranasinghe hurled the javelin to a distance of 77.28 metres in his very first attempt and that turned out to be his best throw of the evening. He won the bronze medal behind Uttar Pradesh athletes Rohit Yadav and Shivpal Singh. Singh who had already qualified for Olympics was just three centimeters ahead of Ranasinghe. The winner Yadav was ranked 75th in the world prior to Tuesday’s meet.
Just the analysis of the results of the 60th Interstate Athletics Championship is enough to understand how the qualifying system and the world ranking system work. Consistent performances have to be maintained if you are to retain your rankings. The athletes also need quality competitions where they can gain high ranking points. It would have been a totally different scenario was Ranasinghe able to hurl the javelin to a distance of 85 metres, the direct qualifying standard. That was lot to ask from an athlete who was taking part in his first competition outside Sri Lanka since 2019.
Sri Lankan athletes were hampered by lack of quality competitions. The likes of Ranasinghe, fellow thrower Waruna Lakshan and sprinters Kalinga Kumarage, Aruna Dharshana and Nadeesha Ramanayake were at the receiving end. Steeplechase athlete Nilani Ratnayake who was ranked in 30s fell below the 46th ranking position due to non participation in quality competitions.
Quality training has to be compensated with quality competitions and Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon seemed to have found the right combination. He was able to progress smoothly thanks to the quality competitions. Abeykoon was nowhere near the top rankings when the season began. It was just one good competition, a World Athletics Diamond League championship which was needed for him to break in to the top echelon of world’s highest ranked athletes. World Athletics was yet to publish the updated world rankings by the time this article was ready for print. Based on the rankings of the last week, Yupun was ranked 46th which was good enough to secure a world ranking quota place for Olympics.
Sri Lanka is blessed to have three good throwers who have thrown over the 80 metres mark at least once during their careers. That was thought impossible for Sri Lankans nearly a decade ago. The country may not have earned a place for throwers this time around for Olympics but it certainly has the potential to produce one for the next Olympics. But that will largely depend on how these athletes are nurtured and looked after.
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Chameera returns after surgery but no place for KJP
Fast bowler Dushmanta Chameera returns to the side after a seven month layoff having undergone ankle surgery as the selectors picked a balanced squad for the three-match series against Afghanistan starting later this week at Suriyawewa.
Although Chameera has been named in the squad, there was no place for top order batsman Kusal Janith Perera, who had returned to 20 side in New Zealand two months ago. KJP on that occasion had only been picked for T-20s and there are question marks about his fitness for the 50 over format.
Fans will be hoping that by the time the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe begin next month, KJP will be cleared to feature in the 50 over format as well. One of the most destructive batters in the side, KJP has been in and out of the team due to injuries.
Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne also makes a comeback to the ODI outfit having been axed from the 50 over format two years ago. Sri Lanka’s problems of not being able to bat out 50 overs in recent times is seen as the reason for Dimuth’s return to the side.
Uncapped leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha has also been named in the squad but now that Wanindu Hasaranga has recovered from an injury, he’s expected to play ahead of the 29-year-old.
There’s no place for left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka either although there was lot of excitement when he first made an impact during last year’s Asia Cup. Young all-rounder Dunith Wellalage has also been overlooked for the three-match series.
The selectors are not expected to do too many changes from the 16-member squad chosen for the Afghanistan series for the World Cup qualifiers.
The first ODI gets underway Friday (2nd June) followed by games on June 4th and 7th. The series was drafted in to give the Sri Lankan team some competitive games ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.
Sri Lanka Squad:
Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha
Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah (Vice-Captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhail (wk), Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujib ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Abdul Rahman, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Farid Ahmad Malik.
Yupun out of competitions for few weeks due to injury
by Reemus Fernando
Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who suffered an injury during last week’s 100 metres final of the Savona International Meet will ‘stay away from competitions for few weeks.’
“After the MRI test which I took after my race in Savona, it is unfortunate that I have to inform you all that due to a minor hamstring injury I have to stay away from competitions for a few weeks due to medical advice given by experts,” said the Italy based sprinter in a statement yesterday.
Abeykoon was placed second behind Reece Prescod of Britain in the final of the Savona International Meet last week. The national record holder returned a wind-assisted 10.01 seconds (+2.7) performance to open his season in the 100metres. However, despite placing second in the final, he was seen struggling during the last few metres of the race. The injury means he must skip one of the major 100 metres events this week.
The first South Asian Sprinter to break the ten seconds barrier in the men’s 100 metres, Abeykoon was expected to compete against a star-studded lineup at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Florence later this week.
The world-class lineup includes world champion Fred Kerley and Kenyan world leader in the 100 metres this season, Ferdinand Omanyala.
“I have already started my rehab process with my physio, doctors and the rest of the staff and I am looking forward to coming back stronger than I was in the upcoming competitions,” he further stated.
The highest-ranked Sri Lankan male athlete, Abeykoon is the prime medal hopeful at this year’s Asian Games. Sri Lanka Athletics is relying heavily on Abeykoon to end the country’s medal drought in track and field at the quadrennial event.
He is also the only male athlete to be in the required range in the world rankings to be eligible for selection for this year’s World Championships.
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