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Story behind Shanika’s record breaking feat  

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The team trained by Madura Perera. Back row from left: Piyumika Weerathisun, Ayan Thushara, Lahiru Sampath, Madura Perera (Coach), Chandima Sadaruwan, Himantha Kavidu, Sadun Krishantha. Front row from left: Charuni Pramudika, Samanthika Liyanage, Shanika Lakshani, Sureka Sewwandhi, Nawodhaya Madushani, Shiwanthi Jayathilaka And Saumaya Dilrukshi.

by Reemus Fernando

Hailing from a not so well to do family from Gampaha, Shanika Lakshani had many an obstacle to overcome before she shattered the 35 year old Junior National record held by Dammika Menike at the last month’s National Athletics Championships. Probably the most challenging one was the Covid 19 forced lockdown strictly enforced in the Gampaha District following the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic. According to her coach Madura Perera who has been training a team of nearly 30 athletes, months of hard work behind preparing athletes for the National Championship, would have gone wasted if not for the extra effort taken to continue training amidst the pandemic.

“Unavailability of training facilities was the biggest obstacle during the pandemic. With grounds and training facilities shutdown it was difficult to continue training. I and Chandana Amarasinghe requested support to conduct residential training at the Subodhi Ground, Gampaha so that training could continue without interruption. Our request was given special attention to by the Additional District Secretary Sugath Kithsiri, who got the approval from health authorities to conduct training,” said Perera who considers it as one of the cornerstones of the success of his team.

Shanika Lakshani who broke the 35 year old Junior National record of Dammika Menike poses with her coach Madura Perera. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

At a time when sport is not high in the agenda of many government officials, the support given by the Additional District Secretary of Gampaha is highly commendable.

“He not only gave us permission but also found couple of sponsors to look after the extra nutritional needs of athletes. It was athletes who bore the costs of food but Mr. Sugath Kithsiri went out of his way to help us reduce costs,” said Perera.

Perera said that the residential camp has also helped him address nutritional issues of some athletes. He said it wouldn’t have been possible had they been taken care of by their parents.

Many athletes give up sports due to the negligence of authorities. Support does not only mean big time sponsorships as it is proven in the case of Perera’s team. The support given by the government official was crucial in Shanika reaching the standard to break the more than three decades old junior national record. She not only broke the record but also came almost close to achieving entry standards for the World Under-20 Championships in two disciplines. It was a huge confidence boost for junior athletes who not only missed competitions but also training opportunities during the pandemic.

When Shanika broke Dammika Menike’s record she was just five seconds behind the entry standard for 1500 metres. In the 800 metres she missed the entry standard by just milliseconds.

Madura Perera is confident that Shanika Lakshani would reach entry standards for the World Junior Championships during the next few months.

Perera is confident that his charge would achieve the entry standard during the next National Championships in April or the Junior National Championships both of which are scheduled within the qualifying period.

While Shanika Lakshani hogged limelight breaking a junior record, there were few other athletes trained by Perera who had their own success.

Though a number of them missed medals they had been able to finish among the top athletes. A fresher Gayan Thushara who was placed fifth in the 400 metres hurdles and Shivanthi Jayathilaka who was placed fifth in the women’s 200 metres have shown lot of promise.

Triple jumper Sandun Krishantha, steeplechase athlete M.S. Sewwandi, long distance runner Dilhani Liyanage and hurdler Lahiru Sampath are among the other athletes who have impressed in their pet events at other national level competitions.

At a time when the contribution of sports officers for the development of sports is questioned, the way this team has overcome barriers is exemplary.

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Eight Sri Lanka cricketers fail fitness tests

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Avishka Fernando has failed a second fitness test inside ten days.

By Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka Cricket has issued an ultimatum to its contracted players after eight of them failed a fitness test in Colombo. A pool of 20 shortlisted players for the upcoming tour of West Indies underwent fitness tests in Colombo and eight of them did poorly failing the tests. The list includes several permanent members in the side and some senior players.

The players have now been given an ultimatum to get their act together before another fitness test on February 3rd. If they failed the second fitness test, they will be ineligible for selection for the tour of West Indies. Sri Lanka will play two Tests, three ODIs and three T-20s in the Caribbean.  

Fitness has been a growing concern within the team and Head Coach Mickey Arthur has demanded excellence in this aspect. Opening batsman Avishka Fernando was sent home from Galle lead up to the Test series against England after he failed the fitness test. It is believed that Fernando had failed a second fitness test as well conducted yesterday.

It has been argued that players remaining at home during COVID times had resulted in poor fitness levels. But question marks about fitness standards had been there for a while now.

Meanwhile the bio-bubble in Galle has been pruned to 17 players after Sri Lanka Cricket informed team management to send home five players. The bubble will be reduced by a further two on the day of the match making the squad to 15 players, like during pre-Covid days.

The reserves engaging in card games when the batting was collapsing on day one of the Test match had angered fans and former players. It is believed that the drastic measure to send players home was taken as a reaction to it. The players were not in the dressing room when cameras caught them playing cards but in a floor above the dressing room.

Accordingly, Dimuth Karunarante, Kusal Mendis, Nuwana Pradeep, Minod Bhanuka and Lahiru Kumara have been sent home. Karunaratne and Mendis were not involved in card games. The former has been released as he is injured while the latter has been sent to the High Performance Center at RPS to work on technical aspects of the game. Mendis picked up four ducks in a row.

Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando, two players who engaged in card games, have recovered from their injuries and are expected to feature in the second Test match. While Lakmal is expected to share the new ball with Asitha Fernando, Oshada is expected to fill the vacant number three slot.

Niroshan Dickwella will continue to bat at number six but has been asked to provide more consistency.

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Yasitha, Anika looking to add doubles titles

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Tennis Nationals 2020

Men’s and women’s singles champions Yasitha de Silva and Anika Seneviratne will look to secure the doubles titles as well as they booked final spots in the respective doubles tournaments of the Tennis Nationals 2020 at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Monday.

Just a day after winning his first men’s singles national title de Silva paired Sankha Atukorale to beat Nishendiran Sivendran and Michael Siyaguna 9-1, 6-3 in the men’s doubles semi-final. Now they will meet giant killers 16-year old Chathurya Nilaweera and 17-year-old Thehan Wijemanne in today’s final.

Nilaweera and Wijemanne ousted defending champions Sharmal Dissanayake and Rukmal Cooray in the quarter-finals before edging out Dhilvan Herath and Archana Lokuge in a closely contested semi-final. They bounced back from a 5-7 defeat in the first set to secure their final place they scored 6-2, 11-9.

Meanwhile Anika Seneviratne, who won her second women’s singles national title on Sunday, advanced to the women’s doubles final with her sister Alalna as they secured a 6-1, 6-3 win over Oneli Perera and Sethmi Sumanaweera. Seneviratne sisters are the defending champions.

They will meet Janali Manamperi and Savini Jayasuriya in the final. Manamperi and Jayasuriya beat Neyara Weerawansa and Tuvini de Alwis 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 in the semis. (RF)

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Dimuth ruled out of second Test  

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Dimuth Karunaratne (R) has been ruled out of second Test against England.

Rex Clementine in Galle Fort

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne has been ruled out of second Test against England that will get underway later this week. The opening batsman missed the first Test as well.

Karunaratne was hit on the hand by Wiaan Mulder during the second Test match at Wanderers leaving him with a fractured left thumb. That didn’t deter him from going onto post a hundred.

However, the  recovery has been slow and Karunaratne who missed the opening Test match has been ruled out of the series as well. He’s expected to return to lead the side for the series against West Indies. Another player who was injured South Africa – Dhananjaya de Silva has  started  rehabilitation. De Silva who tore a thigh muscle is expected to return for West Indies series.

Meanwhile,  Sri Lanka Cricket has expressed dissatisfaction towards team management after several players were seen engaging in card games while wickets were falling in a hurry on the opening day of the Test match. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 135 after winning the toss. Although they bounced back and fought hard over the next three days, they were always catching up having conceded too much advantage to the opposition.

The four players involved in card games are Suranga Lakmal, fellow fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, top order batsman Oshada Fernando and left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan.

The extended Sri Lanka squad during COVID times contains 22 players and these four players were not in the dressing room when cameras captured them but on a floor above the dressing room.

Five players who are not going to be part of the second Test match will return home today.

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