Tough selection standards announced for Asian Games
Sri Lanka Athletics sets plans to end medal drought
by Reemus Fernando
Sri Lanka Athletics announced tough qualifying standards for next year’s Asian Games yesterday as the track and field governing body intends to form a formidable team to end more than a decade old medal drought at the quadrennial event in Hangzhou, China.
The selection criteria compiled by the coaching committee require athletes to be in the bronze medal winning standards of the past Asian Games to be eligible for selections. The tough standards explained in a comprehensive 18-page document make it compulsory for national record performances to warrant selections in a number of disciplines.
To make it simple, Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon, who is one of country’s top athletes has to slash five milliseconds from his national record to earn a slot to represent the country in the men’s 100 metres individual event as the qualifying standard is set at 10.10 seconds.
Despite being ranked third in Asia currently in the women’s 800 metrers, Dilshi Kumarasinghe has to break her national record with a performance of 2:01.40 seconds or faster if she is to qualify in her pet event. Nilani Ratnayake who almost qualified for Tokyo Olympics too has to produce a record-breaking feat to qualify for the 3,000 metres steeplechase.
The leading men’s 400 metres sprinter Kalinga Kumarage who reached his personal best of 45.73 seconds in Patiala in June has to further slash some 0.03 seconds from his best if he is to qualify.
Looks easy for Ushan
Based on this year’s performances an athlete who is almost certain to secure a place in the team is the US based high jumper Ushan Thivanka whose national record performance of 2.30 metres in May is above the qualifying standard (2.25m).
The performances achieved at competitions conducted by the Sri Lanka Athletics and at events recognized by the World Athletics between February 2022 and April 2022 will be considered as the deadline for entries closes on April 30, 2022.
Sri Lanka Athletics will conduct Trial meets in February and March before going for the centenary National Championships (April) which will be considered as the final selection trial.
The track and field governing body has also announced a standard to qualify for the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games pools. Athletes qualifying for both the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games will also have to face compulsory trials and fitness tests where set standards have to be achieved. In the event athletes fail to reach qualifying standards the selectors will fill the given quota with the top performers closest to standards.
Sri Lanka Athletics has set a bold target of five medals to end the medal drought at the Asian Games.
While Sri Lanka failed to win medals in any sport at the last Asian Games in 2018 the country’s last medals in athletics were won at the 2006 Doha Games. While Rohan Pradeep Kumara, Rohitha Pushpakumara, Prasanna Amarasekara and Ashoka Jayasundara combined to win men’s 4×400 metres bronze, the last individual medals in athletics, women’s 100 metres silver and 200 metres bronze were won by Susanthika Jayasinghe in Doha.
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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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