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Waiting for the next Olympic hurdler 



Tokyo Olympics – 7 days to go

By Reemus Fernando

Continued from yesterday

Hurdles as obstacles

A maximum of four athletes advance from each Zonal to the Provincial Competition where they experience their first proper 400 metres hurdles race. An athlete qualifying from the Provincial level will next compete in the All Island Schools Games Athletics Championship. The Sir John Tarbet Athletics Championship, the Sri Lanka Athletics’ Junior National Championship and District meets are the other meets where a schools hurdler could compete on proper hurdles.  However, a vast majority of schoolchildren do not witness hurdles races at school level due to the unavailability of hurdles.

What about sports schools? Sadly many Sports Schools which have 400 metres tracks do not have enough hurdles to conduct proper 400 metres hurdles races.  Ibbagamuwa Central, one of the Sports Schools from where the country’s most decorated female hurdler in the 100 metres hurdles hailed from, does not conduct 400 metres hurdles races. Even for 100 metres hurdles, they opt for just two lanes.

“Hurdles are a real headache for education officials who conduct athletics events at Divisional and Zonal level. If you are really interested in conducting a hurdles race you can certainly do that. It is not a big deal to collect 80 hurdles from where they are available. It is a matter of managing logistics. Maybe it is the lack of funds and manpower to complete the meet in two or three days that discourage officials from conducting it properly,” says a coach.

 “There used to be a time when you could see hurdles set up at St. John Bosco ground, Hanwella all day around. That was the time when Rev. Fathers trained athletes. During that time Hanwella had the best hurdlers in the country. Children who pass by the hurdles would make attempts to clear the hurdlers. Those sights are rare nowadays,” says Saman Kumara, Sri Lanka Athletics statistician.

Setting up hurdles and removing them after training is a time consuming endeavour.  Sports Instructors at schools that promote more than one sport find it difficult to leave hurdles at the ground for the next  training session when the ground is also used for other sports.

However, dedicated coaches and their athletes have often overcome the unavailability of facilities. When St. Joseph’s Balika, Kegalle was producing the fastest female sprinters at school level nearly a decade ago A.D. Nandawathie’s trainees would carry hurdles from the school to the ground in Kegalle on foot. After the training session in the morning, they would return to school on foot carrying the hurdles. One of Nanda’s trainees, Amali Harshani went on to win at the national level. That was in the 100 metres hurdles. She had a wind-aided personal best of 14.08 seconds in 2012.

To be continued……..

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Moose signs up as cricket’s clothing partner



Moose CEO Hasib Omar hands over the new Sri Lankan jersey to Dimuth Karunaratne, who will make a return to the ODI side in the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan. SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva and CEO Ashley de Silva are also in the picture

by Rex Clementine  

Singer had been a loyal sponsor of Sri Lankan cricket but a little heard company called Dilmah outbid Singer when the sponsorship was up for grabs in 2002. Singer boss Hemaka Amarasuriya wasn’t whinging and went on record saying that he welcomed local companies coming forward to back the sport.

Within a few years, Dilmah, an entity that was hardly known by most Sri Lankans became a global brand. That exactly is the strategy that Moose have adopted in their bid to become a global brand.

Moose a clothing company that is becoming quite popular among youth for their denims and t-shirts have been associated with cricket sponsorships in the last five years. On Thursday, they announced a four year deal with SLC to be clothing sponsor of the national cricket teams – both men and women.

Moose CEO Hasib Omar is a soft spoken young man who reminds you of the great Aravinda de Silva. But like in Ara’s case, beneath the soft exterior lies a sharp brain.

MAS had been the clothing sponsor of SLC for the last 16 years and Moose has outbid them signing a four year deal that will take them through all bilateral series, ICC events and Asian Cricket Council tournaments.  The partnership brings together two of the nation’s main strengths – cricket and apparel industry.

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Dimuth’s return to ODIs, a welcome move



by Rex Clementine  

After more than two years of stubborn resistance, the selectors have been forced to bite the bullet and admit that their strategies have been faulty and the top order of the ODI outfit needs stability. Hence the return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne for white ball cricket for the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan and he should retain his place for the World Cup qualifiers later next month in Zimbabwe too.

One of the troubles with the 50 over side is that the batting department has been found wanting not able to bat out the 50 overs. Dimuth provides the stability opening the innings with his ability to bat through the 50 overs. Other stroke makers can bat around him.

In 2021 April, Dimuth Karunaratne posted his career best Test score of 244 against Bangladesh. A month later, Sri Lanka’s white ball team was touring Bangladesh and Dimuth was sacked from the captaincy as the leadership of the white ball teams was handed to Kusal Perera. It was a left field choice. That was an experiment that didn’t last long.

Not only was Dimuth removed from the captaincy he lost his place in the side as well. It didn’t dawn to the selectors that the batters will be encountering the same bowlers and in Karunaratne they had a man who was in good touch, having smashed a double hundred against the Bangladeshis. The result was catastrophic. Sri Lanka lost the series and in both games they lost, the batting had collapsed.

It is these senseless moves that has resulted in Sri Lanka being forced to play the qualifying round of the World Cup.  By the time the selectors wisened up, the horse had bolted. The recalling of Dimuth is an admission by the selectors that they had got their act wrong in axing him.

It will be early winter in Zimbabwe in June and with day games teams will encounter some dew in the morning and need to adjust accordingly.  On paper, Sri Lanka should go through, but they are a team that has got everything to lose having won the World Cup once and featured in two other finals. For smaller nations, this is a massive opportunity and if they win, there’s nothing like that but if they lose, they can always try next time. Not for Sri Lanka though, who have featured in every World Cup since the tournament was launched in 1975.

Complacency is the only thing that Sri Lanka need to guard themselves against. A mindset that this is not a tough challenge could see them losing the plot as we have seen it happening to many teams time and again.

In Chris Silverwood the team has someone who knows what to expect in Zimbabwe as he started his coaching stint there having overseen Mashonaland (Harare).  The Head Coach will be tapping into the brains of his contacts in Zimbabwe as to what his team can expect when they travel for the qualifiers.

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Russian doubles player cleared of match-fixing two years after Roland Garros arrest



Yana Sizikova has a career-high ranking of 44 in women’s doubles

Russian doubles player Yana Sizikova has been cleared of match-fixing two years after her arrest at the French Open, according to her lawyer.The 28-year-old was arrested at Roland Garros in 2021 as part of an investigation into match-fixing allegations dating back to the 2020 edition of the Grand Slam.

Sizikova, ranked 50th in doubles, has continued to play on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour since her arrest and will compete at this year’s French Open, which starts today.

“After two and a half years of investigation, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office definitively closed the case on 11 April 2023, considering that criminal proceedings could not be initiated, as the facts of which Sizikova was accused could not be established,” her lawyer Frederic Belot told Reuters.

Officials began investigating in October 2020 after suspicions of “organised fraud” and “corruption in sports”.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC at the time the inquiry focused on a first-round match in which Sizikova and American partner Madison Brengle lost 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.

Suspicions were reportedly raised after betting companies noticed hundreds of thousands of euros had been wagered on a break of serve in the second set.Sizikova was released a day after her arrest in 2021.In July 2022 she and fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova won the Prague Open, while Sizikova reached two other finals last year.

(BBC Sports)

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