Tales of two future prospects
Uditha Chandrasena had the ability to clear hurdles with both legs, an advantage in 400 metres hurdles. Here he takes part in an athletics event at Diyagama. (Pic RF)
Waiting for the next Olympic hurdler – Part VI
by Reemus Fernando
When one young kid called Ushan Thivanka from a little known school made the winning jump in the Under-11 long jump at a local meet, the talent scouts of Maris Stella College, Negombo made a beeline to the budding talent. No sooner he was recruited by the then athletics stronghold, Maris Stella, he came under the supervision of veteran jumping coach Philip Ranjith. There was no such attention paid to Uditha Chandrasena from Sri Gnanawasa MMV, Divulapitiya, who was placed second in the same event. He went home like all others, not knowing what the future holds for him. Neither Thivanka nor Chandrasena knew that they would soon cross paths again. Today, Chandrasena, who went on to record many outstanding 400 metres hurdles performances at national school level, is an officer in the Sri Lanka Air Force, while Thivanka, the Sri Lankan national record holder in the men’s high jump is perusing his Olympic dream in the US. According to World Athletics statistics, Thivanka’s 2.30 metres performance recorded in May is the 15th best feat in the world this year.
Maris Stella College, Negombo has been in the possession of nearly 100 hurdles since 2010 after the school administration took a bold decision to invest in track and field sports. The three sports schools in the Western Province, namely Henegama Central, Rajasinghe Central and Taxila Central, combined have less than half that number. However, the presence of hurdles does not produce hurdlers. It was by chance that the best hurdler the school has produced to date came under the supervision of the likes of Susan Thamel, Lalith Silva and Tony Silva at Maris Stella around that time.
Studious youngster, Chandrasena passed the grade-five scholarship exam and his mother who had seen the ‘majesty of the College situated adjacent to the Negombo hospital’ during one of her visits, wanted to admit her child there. But her efforts were to no avail as the school was allocating only ten spots for the grade five scholarship students.
But a rare opportunity came his way when Maris Stella conducted a workshop for young athletes. Chandrasena’s father heard the news that reputed sprint coach and Olympian Sunil Gunawardena, his wife Badra and their famous charge Shehan Ambepitiya were coming to conduct the workshop. After his father obtained permission, Chandrasena could attend it and would not miss the coaching eye of Gunawardena who later inquired from the school authorities about the child. “It was the wise words of Gunawardena that made the school recruit me,” says Chandrasena, who later commenced training under Philip Ranjith and surpassed Thivanka to win medals at Junior National level in the long jump.
A couple of years later Ushan Thivanka set his eyes on the high jump as he came under the guidance of Suranji Fernando. Winning the long jump at the national level was not enough for Uditha he wanted to try his luck at a new event, the hurdles.
Maris Stella was famous for allowing young athletes to take up more than one discipline as the points earned by them would come in handy when the national schools championship titles were decided. However, there was no overloading as training was done only three days per week. Uditha however had to take an extra effort to convince ‘Silva Sir’ (Lalith Silva) to take up hurdling. He trained alone before performing a hurdle clearance to convince Silva. It did not take long for him to produce results. In his first year as a Senior John Tarbet Under-16 hurdler, he was only second to Youth Asian Games medallist Anuruddha Vidusanka.
Then on one fine Saturday, he saw pole vaulters undergoing training. Uditha was taken up by the event and immediately wanted to try it. The first thing he did after returning home was to prepare a makeshift pole vault area. After he got substantial training by himself he went to the pole vault coach and exhibited what he could do. In his first year as an Under-17 athlete, Uditha won podium places in all three events, the long jump, hurdles and pole vault at the junior national level.
Uditha Chandrasena making one of his last appearances for Maris Stella. (Pic Nishan S. Priyantha)
Uditha was just over five feet tall when he entered the Under-18 age category but compensated for the height disadvantage with his ability to clear hurdles with both legs. His outstanding performances found him a place in the team for the first-ever Asian Youth Athletics Championships in Doha where he almost won a medal. St. Sylvester’s hurdler Dharshana Rajapaksa compensated by winning the silver. Sri Lanka had two hurdlers featuring in that final.
Both Ushan and Uditha were fighters and had the natural ability to overcome barriers. Thivanka tall and lanky and Uditha short in stature but stoutly built were the shining stars of Maris Stella when they reached their final years. But now only Ushan is pursuing a career in athletics.
“By the time I entered the final year at school I started to realise that if I failed in studies I would be left with nothing. I had missed studies. The good performances at the junior national level were not going to help me. With just six months ahead of A/L, I decided to put all my efforts just to pass the exam. I passed the exam in the maths stream. I could have achieved better grades if I tried again but with my father having to take care of my mother who was ill with cancer I decided to apply to Air Force,” says Chandrasena.
Chandrasena was good in his studies. He had obtained seven ‘A’s and two ‘B’s for the GCE O/L. By the time he left school, he had many junior hurdles records against his name. Certainly, he had displayed the qualities of a future Olympian and could have reached the top at international level like his friend Thivanka, had he received support at the crucial juncture. The search for next Olympic hurdler continues.
Rajapaksa, Arshdeep deliver winning start for PBKS
A power-packed, collective performance with the bat set the platform for Punjab Kings’ winning start as they downed Kolkata Knight Riders by seven runs (DLS method) at the PCA stadium in Mohali on Saturday (April 1). Bhanuka Rajapaksa (50 off 32) registered his maiden IPL fifty while Shikhar Dhawan struck a 29-ball 40, and along with useful contributions from the rest of the batters, PBKS posted a formidable 191/5. Andre Russell top-scored for KKR but they lost wickets at regular intervals and eventually fell short of the DLS par score as they finished with 146/7 in 16 overs when rain forced the players off the field.
Punjab Kings 191/5 in 20 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 50, Shikhar Dhawan 40; Tim Southee 2-54) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146/7 in 16 overs (Andre Russell 35; Venkatesh Iyer 34; Arshdeep Singh 3-19) by 7 runs (DLS method).
Ruturaj 92 in vain as Titans win opening game
A brilliant 92 from Ruturaj Gaikwad went in vain as defending champions Gujarat Titans beat Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad on Friday (March 31) in the tournament opener. Gaikwad’s innings was nullified to an extent initially by Shubman Gill before a few vital blows towards the end of the game from the Titans middle order got the job done for them with four balls to spare.
Chennai Super Kings 178/7 in 20 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 92; Rashid Khan 2/26, Mohammed Shami 2/29) lost to Gujarat Titans182/5 in 19.2 overs (Shubman Gill 63; Rajvardhan Hangargekar 3/36) by 5 wickets
Bowlers, Stirling lead Ireland to their first win in Bangladesh in any format
Ireland finally notched a win on their tour of Bangladesh by scoring a seven-wicket win in the final T20I in Chattogram on Friday. Mark Adair led the bowling charge with three wickets as Bangladesh were bowled out for 124, and Paul Stirling, later named Player of the Match, was at his inventive best as he struck a 41-ball 77 to headline the chase. It was Ireland’s first T20I win over Bangladesh since 2009 and their first win in any format in the country.
Bangladesh had already taken the series after winning the first two games earlier in the week, and made two changes, perhaps to try out alternatives. Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mustafizur Rahman went out; Rishad Hossain was handed a debut and Shoriful Islam made a comeback. It was the batting that came unstuck, though.
After opting to bat, Bangladesh were 61 for 7 in nine-and-a-half overs. Shamim Hossain, however, scored his first international half-century, making 51 off 42 balls with five fours and two sixes to give them a competitive 124. One of those sixes was a particularly eye-catching shot, when he reverse-whipped Curtis Campher hit over backward point for six.
But with Stirling in blistering form, and playing a few inventive shots of his own, the chase was done and dusted in 14 overs.Bangladesh’s slide started in the second over. Litton Das’ slash towards deep point against a wide Adair delivery landed in George Dockrell’s lap. It was the first time Bangladesh had lost a wicket in the powerplay after three matches.
Najmul Hossain Shanto was next to go, hitting a slog-sweep off Harry Tector straight to deep midwicket. Campher juggled the catch but clung on. In the next over, Campher himself got a wicket, when Rony Talukdar holed out at deep midwicket.
Towhid Hridoy and Shakib Al Hasan, however, went for their shots in keeping with Bangladesh’s new approach, and hit a couple of big ones, but both were gone in the space of three balls. Shakib was caught at short midwicket mistiming a pull off Adair, while Hridoy holed out off Ben White in the seventh over
Matthew Humphreys had two wicketless ODIs in Sylhet, but the left-arm spinner had a better start to his T20I career. He took a wicket off his first ball when he yorked Rishad for 8.
That made him the first Ireland bowler to take a wicket with his first ball in T20Is. This was, however, not the first time a debutant had done this against Bangladesh. Previously, Rory Kleinveldt, Pragyan Ojha, Lockie Ferguson and Cole McConchie have all achieved the feat.
Humphreys added his second off his third ball, when Taskin Ahmed was caught at deep midwicket for a duck.Shamim and Nasum Ahmed added 33 runs for the eighth wicket before Nasum was caught in the covers off Gareth Delany’s legspin. Adair took his third when he removed Shoriful, before Fionn Hand took Shamim’s wicket in the final over.
Stirling didn’t get going at the start, as there were two early wickets, of Ross Adair and Lorcan Tucker, but once he was set, there was no stopping him. He cut and swept Shakib for fours to kickstart the chase, and then deposited Hasan Mahmud’s half-tracker for his first six next over. No bowler escaped his wrath, or his inventiveness, as he hit ten fours and four sixes in his 41-ball innings.
Many of those came in one Shoriful over, the 11th of the innings, when he pulled a six and hit three fours to take 20 runs. Rishad put an end to the mayhem when he had Stirling caught at long-on in the 13th over – it was Stirling’s 22nd half-century in T20Is and Rishad’s first international wicket – but Campher closed out the chase with a four and a six off Taskin.
Ireland 126 for 3 (Stirling 77, Campher 16*, Tector 14*, Rishad 1-19) beat Bangladesh 124 (Shamim 51, Adair 3-25, Humphreys 2-10) by seven wickets
Rajapaksa, Arshdeep deliver winning start for PBKS
I will not tolerate any breach of law and order in the country during my tenure – President
‘I’m still alive’ jokes Pope as he leaves hospital
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
Sunday Island 27 December – Headlines
U.S. Congress to probe assets fleecing by US citizens of Sri Lankan origin
Business5 days ago
Softlogic Finance appoints Ivon Brohier as new CEO
Features7 days ago
‘A Jaffna-man, an eminent surgeon with an European reputation’
Features7 days ago
Jaffna Revisited- Some Quick Impressions On Post-War Development
Features7 days ago
Marriage and some amazingly accurate astrological forecasts
Business5 days ago
‘Govt. lacks mechanism to recover USD 40 billion spirited out of SL from 2008 to 2018’
Features6 days ago
The Box of Delights – II
Business4 days ago
DFCC Bank establishes Indian Rupee Nostro Account with HDFC Bank India
Features7 days ago
LTTE writ on coral exploitation more effective than govt. orders