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Ushan skips competition in US, shifts focus to meet in Kazakhstan to strive for Olympic qualifying standards

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by Reemus Fernando

High jumper Ushan Thivanka will skip the weekend’s competition in US due to health concerns but will continue his fight to earn qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympics. He was ready to take a long costly trip to Washington to obtain visas for the crucial championship in Kazakhstan where he will get a final opportunity to strive for the Olympic berth.

The US based high jumper told The Island that he would skip the weekend’s competition in the US after his doctor advised against competing. He said instead he will now focus on competing in the championship in Kazakhstan.

Sri Lanka Athletics decided to send country’s top notch athletes who are closer to qualifying standards to the competition in Kazakhstan with the hope of giving them a final opportunity to impress.

Thivanka who has improved by leaps and bounds after earning a scholarship to the Texas A&M University–Commerce is currently placed 49th in the Road to Olympics rankings. He needs to be within the first 32 in that rankings or achieve a height of 2.33 metres to obtain a direct qualification to the Tokyo event.

Ushan cleared 2.30 metres to improve his national record last month but could not produce his best at last weekend’s Division II Athletics Championship in the US as the championship was held in unfavorable cold weather conditions in Michigan.

“The service of a doctor has been made available to me by the University after I cleared 2.28 metres. The doctor’s advice is to skip the weekend’s competition. That leaves me with just one option that is to compete in Kazakhstan (to reach Olympic qualifying standards). Sri Lanka Athletics has done the documentation work for me to obtain visas but I have to make a long trip to Washington if I am to obtain visas for Kazakhstan. I will have to do that since that is the last opportunity I have,” said Ushan.

Country’s track and field athletes will have three weeks (until June 29) to reach qualifying standards but lack of quality competitions to produce their best has diminished their chances.

While steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake has almost secured her ticket (35th in the Road to Olympics rankings) to Olympics, thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe (43rd) is the closest to entry standards in the men’s category. Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon, who is likely to compete in a few meets in Europe before the qualifying deadline closes, is ranked 60th in the Road To Olympics rankings.



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Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place

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The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.

 

Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.

This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.

Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)

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Yupun within required world ranking to earn Olympic ticket

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Local athletes suffer due to absence of top competitions

by Reemus Fernando

Italy based athlete Yupun Abeykoon could become the first Sri Lankan sprinter since 1996 to compete in the men’s 100 metres at an Olympics after improving his world ranking to be among the top 50 athletes in the world.

According to the World Athletics’ world rankings updated on Wednesday Yupun has climbed 34 places up to be ranked 48th in the world. The fourth place performance produced at the last week’s Diamond League meet in Rome has stood in good stead for him to secure the top position. He was ranked 82nd in the world prior to last week’s meet.

Competing against a solid field Yupun clocked 10.16 seconds to finish ahead of American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’ he was in the 65th position but after the Diamond League feat he has climbed 15 positions to be in the 50th position.

World Athletics set tough qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympic qualification. For a direct qualification Yupun needs to clock 10.05 seconds and athletics officials said that the national record holder has often expressed confidence in achieving the mark.

While 39 athletes will be selected through qualifying standards, the rest of the athletes will be selected according to their placing in the world rankings. The Tokyo Olympic men’s 100 metres will feature 56 athletes.

No Sri Lankan male athlete has featured in an Olympics 100 metres sprint since Chinthaka de Zoysa competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Since Yupun has reached the top 50 now, it will be a matter of maintaining that position for him to realize the Olympic dream. According to Sri Lanka Athletics, Yupun is set to compete in another meet over the weekend.

In contrast the absence of quality competitions has hampered the progress of local track and field athletes. Steeplechase runner Nilani Ratnayake, who is the only female athlete within the required world rankings to book an Olympic berth, has slipped five places to be ranked 41st now. She had a better world rank (35th in the world) couple of months back. Her participation in Olympics will be in jeopardy if she drops below the 45th position as only the 45 top ranked athletes are chosen for Tokyo Olympics for this discipline.

Some of the top ranked athletes who were looking forward to compete in Kazakhstan with the hope of improving their world rankings over the weekend had to abandon their plans yesterday after authorities’ last ditch attempt to secure visas for them found futile.

Middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi (Road to Olympic Rank– 55), 400 metres sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake (56), javelin thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe (46) and high jumper Ushan Thivanka (52) are the other athletes closer to earning Olympic berths. But unavailability of competitions has hindered their chances.

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Arthur encourages Sri Lankans to take up County Cricket

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by Rex Clementine

England’s County Cricket is not the most attractive form of domestic cricket any longer as the IPL has taken over. What you end up earning after six months of County Cricket, the IPL pays five times of that for six weeks of work. But County Cricket remains the ultimate test of players’ skill. So many Sri Lankans reinvented themselves after a season of County Cricket be it Aravinda de Silva in 1995 with Kent, Kumar Sangakkara in 2007 with Warwickshire, Muttiah Muralitharan in 1999 with Lancashire or Chaminda Vaas in 2004 with Worcestershire.

Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur agreed on the values of County Cricket and urged his players to take up stints in England if possible. “I would love our players to get involved in County Cricket. It’s a great breeding ground and you find out about your technique there when you play cricket day in and day out. If there’s room in our calendar, it would be superb for our players to be involved.”

The national cricket team is in Manchester at the moment and having finished their quarantine the team has started training at Old Trafford. The venue has a superb facility with rooms inside the ground. According to Arthur, one set of balconies of the hotel room are facing the Old Trafford cricket ground while the other set are facing the Old Trafford football ground, home for the famous Manchester United. Arthur said that his players have got ‘the best of both worlds.’

Sri Lanka were initially supposed to play warm-up games in Canterbury and Hove against Kent and Sussex but those were scrapped with the players supposed to remain in a bio-secure bubble. Arthur wasn’t overly bothered that the warm-up games had been called off and was happy with the training the team was getting in ahead of the series.

One of the areas that Arthur wanted his batsmen to improve on from the Bangladesh series is the middle overs batting. “There was lot of learning from Bangladesh series. We changed our brand a little bit. We got caught in the middle overs a bit. We worked on it during our training and we want to have intensity in the middle overs. We were getting only 130 to 135 runs in that period. That is an area we need to improve on.”

With the return of Avishka Fernando to the side, the Sri Lankans have so many batting options when it comes to the opening combination with Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka all able to partner him. Arthur was keen on having a settled batting line-up.

“We have got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We cannot be having so many players batting in different positions. It creates confusion. What we have tried to do is to nail down guys’ roles during our training,” Arthur explained.

 The first T-20 International takes place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff next Wednesday (June 23).

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