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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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Australia’s system produces good captains, but you can’t say the same

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by Ian Chappell

The subject of captaincy has provoked some vociferous discussion lately, with the daring deeds of England captain Ben Stokes, and manoeuvring in Australia following the announcement that Aaron Finch had retired from ODIs.

Finch’s retirement was lamented in many circles. This is understandable because he is a good white-ball captain. However, his replacement ought also to be an experienced player with strong leadership qualities. The Australian system for producing leaders, while diluted, is still the best of an increasingly cluttered set.

Finch’s retirement needs careful handling, otherwise it could be construed that no other Australian captain would have performed as well. That is an incorrect assumption; there were a number of viable options.

Then there’s the much publicised episode of David Warner requesting the case for his leadership be reassessed by a different management group at Cricket Australia. That raises the obvious question: why, following the original ball-tampering incident at Newlands in 2018 did Warner receive a more stringent punishment in respect to captaincy than the captain at the time, Steve Smith?

They both committed a serious crime at Newlands, but Smith’s as a captain in saying “I don’t want to know” was a greater infraction than Warner’s. If Warner had been alone in hatching the plot – which is not proven – then it was Smith’s job as captain to know about it and put an end to it. Either way they should have received an identical suspension and the fact that they didn’t raises serious questions about whether there was prejudice towards Warner. And surely, no one believes that only three players – the banned trio of Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft – were the only ones involved in the plot?

While Warner has created an intriguing situation with his assertive request, he shouldn’t be appointed captain of an Australia side. The captaincy should always be awarded to a player who still has some prime years remaining. A captain must have in his armoury the ability to regularly lead by example on the field. Warner, with his aggressive approach, would have been a good on-field leader but sadly his best now only appears occasionally and it’s time to appoint a younger captain.

In the case of Stokes, the job was his if he desired a leadership role. While Joe Root is a top-class batter, he was no captain, and in hindsight, should not have been appointed. If Root was the best choice at the time of his elevation – there was a list of potential captains – then the English system is not producing enough true international leaders.

Now England have the right captain in place, it becomes a matter of choosing the best combination to win in the prevailing conditions. It’s not surprising that their results have greatly improved following their disastrous tour of Australia. Their recent games have been in the more comfortable environment of home, and they replaced Root’s dubious leadership with the enterprising captaincy of charismatic allrounder Stokes.

England were certainly unlucky in Australia because they were deprived of some first-choice fast bowlers through injury. However, it’s patently clear that selecting the ageing Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in the same team anywhere but in England is a mistake. It’s acceptable, but not ideal, to select a right-arm seam attack in England because it can suit the pitch and surrounding conditions. However, that doesn’t work on Australia’s bouncy pitches, where you need variety and the genuine pace of a Jofra Archer and a Mark Wood to have a chance of victory.

Spin bowling is another major headache for England. Jack Leach or Moeen Ali aren’t the right bowlers to succeed against teams like Australia. England tend to choose a holding spinner, whereas what they really need is a potential wicket-taking one. Ideally they need a spin bowler like Graeme Swann, who could handle either role because he was a top-class operator.Apart from Stokes, Test captaincy in England is currently a lottery because of the lack of candidates. However, the Australian system still generally produces acceptable leaders, with Pat Cummins being the prime exhibit in the case of outstanding captains.

(cricinfo)

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Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup for personal reasons

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Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup on Saturday for personal reasons, his press spokesperson confirmed to ESPN.Nadal partnered with Roger Federer in his last professional match at the team competition between Europe and the rest of the world in London on Friday, losing in a deciding match tiebreak to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.

Nadal, 36, has struggled with an abdominal injury for much of the summer. The pain caused him to pull out before his semifinal at Wimbledon and he then suffered more problems with it after losing in the fourth round of the US Open.In the early hours of Saturday morning, after a joint press conference with Federer, Nadal told reporters at London’s O2 Arena he needed to return home.

“I’m not good, I’m not good,” Nadal said. “The truth is these have been difficult weeks in that sense. Few, very few hours of sleep, a bit of stress in general, slightly more difficult situations than usual at home.

“As a result, well, I’ve had to deal with all that, which is a different pressure to the one you’re used to in your professional life. But, well, luckily everything is good and we are much more calm. And in that sense, I’ve been able to come here, which for me was the most important thing.”

Nadal won the Australian Open in January and then won the French Open for a 14th time to take his Grand Slam total to a record 22 titles. (ESPN)

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Messi on debut season at PSG: I had a ‘bad time,’ struggled to find myself

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Lionel Messi has said he endured a “bad time” during his debut season at Paris Saint-Germain but added he is enjoying his football again, with Argentina’s World Cup campaign two months away.The Argentina captain, after spending 21 years at Barcelona, moved to Paris last summer and only contributed 11 goals and 14 assists for the Ligue 1 champions in his first season.- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.) Messi has already netted six goals and assisted eight times in 11 appearances this term and said his revival is down to a different mentality.

“I feel good,” Messi said after Argentina’s 3-0 win over Honduras. “It’s different from last year and I knew it was going to be like that.

“Last year, as I already said, I had a bad time. I never finished finding myself and this time is different. I arrived with a different mindset, more adapted to the club, to the locker room, to the game, to my teammates. The truth is that I feel very good, and I’m enjoying myself again.”

He scored twice in Argentina’s victory over Honduras in Friday’s international friendly in Miami to extend their unbeaten run to 34 games.Messi, 35, will play in his fifth World Cup in Qatar and Argentina head into the tournament in high spirits after winning the 2021 Copa America, their first major title in 28 years following past disappointments.

“I’m very eager, excited and anxious for it to arrive,” he added. “But at the same time, I’m calm because we know there is still some time. We have to do well at our clubs to arrive at that point in good form. We have a great team, a great group, the World Cup is special, and we have to take it one step at a time.”

Argentina will be hopeful of Messi avoiding injury before they begin their World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22 but the forward said he will not alter his game.

“There are many games and little rest time, but you have to face it as always,” Messi said. “If you are going to play thinking about the World Cup, taking care of yourself or avoiding contact, in the end it could be worse.

“I am one of those who thinks that things happen because they happen and if things have to happen, they will happen. God willing, nothing happens to anyone, and we can all arrive as we are.”

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is also delighted that his star player has rediscovered his best form.

“I think that PSG have found a way to play that understands him and I think he has taken a step ahead in his team,” he said earlier this week. “We are very happy with how things are currently going.”

Following the win on Friday, Scaloni added: “The important thing is that he [Messi] is comfortable and that he is enjoying playing football. He is enjoying playing for his club and that is important. When he enjoys it, we all enjoy it. May it continue.”

(ESPN)

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