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Thivanka shatters Manjula Kumara’s national record

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Produces third best performance in the world this year

by Reemus Fernando

Former Maris Stella College, Negombo athlete Ushan Thivanka was awarded a car when he was adjudged the best athlete of the National Sports Festival in 2019. Months later he sold it and utilized that money to enter a university in the USA. But an athlete nursing an injury would not be granted a full scholarship. Odds were against him. Ushan, the only son of polio victim parents, had an injury to overcome, exams to pass while pursuing the lifetime ambition of achieving success in the high jump.

Yesterday, Thivanka shattered the 16-year old national high jump record held by Manjula Kumara at the Texas Relays Championship with a performance that would rank as the world’s third best outdoor performance of the year.

Thivanka cleared 2.28 metres to win the event as he bettered Manjula Kumara’s 2004 mark by one centimeter.

Thivanka, who, earlier this month shattered Olympian Kumara’s indoor national record, was competing in his first outdoor event of the year.

“I am happy to have achieved this feat. And also I am relieved as I have exams to concentrate seriously. Failing them would deny me the chance to compete. Now even if I clear 2.25 metres at the next meet that would be enough I suppose for me to win an Olympic spot through world rankings,” said Thivanka in an interview with The Island yesterday.

“I have a really tough schedule. I have to study, train and also to earn some money for both my studies and to see to my parents’ wellbeing. I collect plastic bottles (to be recycled) to earn some money after the universities cut on the scholarship due to Covid 19 pandemic,” said Thivanka.

Thivanka also recalled how he bargained for the scholarship in the US and how he had to spend his own funds to find treatments for his injury in China.

“I did not fully recover after the treatments in China. But I could do well at the National Sports Festival due to the treatments received in China. I decided to sell the car which I received as the gift for the best athlete at the 2019 National Sports Festival to pursue higher education and high jump. I had no hesitation at all as I knew that I could overcome my injury in the USA.”

Thivanka first went to the USA in 2018 and Olympian and Asia Games medallist Nagalingam Ethirweerasingham influenced him to take up higher education in that country where Manjula Kumara also graduated.

Ethirweerasingham, who has followed Thivanka’s progress in the USA closely was the first to predict that the champion athlete has the potential to break Manjula Kumara’s record before June this year and strive for an Olympic berth.

The World Athletics has set a very high qualifying standard of 2.33 metres for Tokyo Olympics. While 12 athletes will be selected from qualifying standards, 20 other athletes reaching top world rankings will be eligible for the postponed games.



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Himasha’s ban extended to six years

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Himasha’s doping violation

by Reemus Fernando

The Appeals Committee of the Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency that heard sprinter Himasha Eshan’s appeal against his suspension, has decided to extend the ban against the former national 100 metres champion to six years.

SLADA has informed the athlete that the Appeals Committee had decided to extend the ban to six years after the appeal hearing conducted on November 3.

According to the letter sent by SLADA, Himasha will now be banned till 25th October 2027 which effectively closes the former national 100 metres record holder’s chances of competing for Sri Lanka again.

The 28-year-old was tested positive for a banned substance during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Disciplinary Committee of SLADA first banned him for four years from October 26, 2021 to October 25, 2025. That ban has now been extended by two years.It was the second time that the South Asian Games medallist has been found positive for a banned substance and he is also the only Sri Lankan athlete to be tested positive twice.

He was first found positive for a banned substances when he was 17 years old. He was slapped with a two year ban which was reduced considering his young age. The World Anti-Doping Agency introduced four years bans for first time offences in 2013. According to Anti Doping authorities any reduced terms are added to the suspension when an athlete is found positive for the second time.

This time Himasha was tested positive during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Anti-Doping authorities collected Himasha’s urine samples at the Army quarters at Narahenpita. He was involved in several impressive performances including a wind assisted 10.29 seconds feat to win the men’s 100 metres during the Army Athletics Championships which was held around that time.

Once the fastest man in the South Asian region, Himasha was coached by Chaminda Perera. He won the gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games and set a South Asian regional record of 10.22 seconds in 2019. He was also part of Sri Lanka’s 4×100 metres team that established the current national record in the 4×100 metres relay.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Al Nassr knocked out of Saudi Super Cup

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr were knocked of the Saudi Super Cup on Thursday after a 3-1 semifinal loss to Al Ittihad in Riyadh.The 37-year-old Portugal international, five-times Ballon D’Or winner, had a couple of chances to score but was well shackled by the Al Ittihad defence for most of the match.

Anderson Talisca’s goal for Al Nassr in the 67th minute was not enough to turn around the deficit from two first-half goals for Al Ittihad from Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah.

Muhannad Al-Shanqeeti added the third three minutes into stoppage time.Al Nassr next travel to Al Fateh in the Saudi Pro League on Feb. 3.

(ESPN)

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Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Karen Khachanov to reach final of Australian Open 2023

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Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas has another chance to land his first Grand Slam title after reaching the Australian Open final by beating Russian Karen Khachanov in the Melbourne last four.Third seed Tsitsipas, 24, won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov, who was going for a maiden major final.Tsitsipas lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and might have the chance to avenge that loss.

Serbia’s Djokovic plays American Tommy Paul in Friday’s other semi-final.Tsitsipas, who will become the world number one if he wins the title, eventually booked his place after recovering from Khachanov saving two match points in the third-set tie-break.

Another tight forehand saw a third chance disappear in what proved to be the final game, before he regained his composure to convert his fourth when a first serve was batted long by the 18th seed. Asked what he was thinking when the match went into a fourth set, Tsitsipas said: “I thought about how hard I’ve worked to get to this position.

“But if you stick around, dedicate yourself even more, and concentrate even more in the important moments it pays off.”

Nine-time champion Djokovic is the favourite to face Tsitsipas and takes on the unseeded Paul, who is competing in his first major semi-final, at 08:30 GMT on Friday.

The 35-year-old former world number one has won in Melbourne every time he has reached the last four and is aiming for a record-extending 10th title which would equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 major men’s titles. At a tournament with a hard-court surface on which he thrives, and in a city where he is warmly backed by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long appeared destined for success at the Australian Open.

The towering youngster announced his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, only for a captivating run to be ended when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal in his first semi-final appearance.

Long-time rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams at the last-four stage in both 2021 and 2022, with another Russian – this time, the powerful Khachanov – standing in his way this time.

Backed by a vocal crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player who he had beaten in all of their five previous encounters.

Khachanov could not cope with Tsitsipas’ pounding ground-strokes and dynamic athleticism as the world number four moved two sets ahead.

When Tsitsipas broke early in the third set and moved into a 5-4 lead which left him serving for the match, few on Rod Laver Arena expected anything other than a straight-set win.However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked unsure with his ground-strokes, and Khachanov cut loose to extend the contest.

After a bathroom break before the fourth set, Tsitsipas returned free of the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov’s serve at the first opportunity.Dominant service games from that point ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his “home” Grand Slam event.

“I feel blessed for the fact I’m able to play tennis at this level and for many years I’ve wanted to put Greek tennis on the map – Maria [Sakkari] and I have done that, I think,” Tsitsipas said.

“Coming from a small country like Greece I feel so grateful I get support like this.

“I never thought I would be treated so well here so I’m extremely happy I’m in the final now – let’s see what happens.”

(BBC Sports)

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