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Waiting for the next Olympic hurdler 



Duncan White (22) won a silver medal in 1948. From 1900 to 2000 Duncan White and  Miguel White, an athlete of Filipino-American descent were the only Asians to have won podium places in the 400 metres hurdles at Olympics.  


Tokyo Olympics – 6 days to go


by Reemus Fernando
continued from yesterday….. 

Asia’s struggles in 400 metres hurdles  

After Duncan White won a silver medal in 1948 the country had to wait for 52 years to see a Sri Lankan man compete in the 400 metres hurdles again at the Olympics. In 1948, in a race where the Olympic record was broken, White was just fractions of a second behind the Champion and just over a second slower than the then world record. Today the World Record and the country’s national record of the discipline are worlds apart. Early this month Norwegian champion Karsten Warholm broke the world record (subject to World Athletics ratification) with a 46.70 seconds feat. Today, Sri Lanka’s top hurdlers are struggling to stop the clock before 51 seconds. The national record which is 21 years old is just below 50 seconds. 

Certainly, White’s was a rarity in this US-dominated event. The 400 metres Olympics statistics would discourage analysts to suggest it as a prospective medal winning discipline for athletes outside US and Europe. When Kerron Clement won the men’s 400 metres hurdles at the RIO Olympics, the Trinidad-born athlete became the 18th American to win the gold medal of that discipline. 

Two Whites and Asia  

By the end of the 2016 Olympics, the men’s 400 metres had been contested 24 times at Olympics. US athletes have won 40 medals overall. That is more than half the medals distributed in the discipline in history. They have made a clean sweep of the medals on five occasions. The first time an Asian stood on the podium for the medals ceremony of the 400 metres hurdles was in 1936. Miguel White, an athlete of Filipino-American descent won the bronze medal behind Glenn Hardin of the US and John Loaring of Canada.  The two Whites, Duncan from Sri Lanka and Miguel from Philippines remained the only Asians to have won Olympic medals of any colour in 400 metres hurdles for hundred years. In 2000 a third Asian entered the list when Hadi Somayli of Saudi Arabia won a silver (47.53 secs).  

Hurdlers from English speaking countries     

The only times the winner of the 400 metres hurdles came from a non English speaking country were in 1980, 2004 and 2012. In 1980 the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics.  The Jimmy Carter boycott severely devalued competition. The Soviet Union dominated the medals table of the athletics competitions and the Olympics. Volker Beck of East Germany became the first hurdler from a none-English-speaking country to win the gold medal of the event. Felix Sanchez, the winner of the 2004 Athens and 2012 London Games is from the Dominican Republic where the official language is Spanish. Though he was of Dominican descent, he was born and raised in the United States.  

When the athletes take their mark for the 400 metres hurdles at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics there will be half a dozen Asian athletes including three from the hosts. Saudi Arabia -born Abderrahman Samba who represents Qatar is the highest-ranked of them. The Asian Games gold medalist, who earlier chose to represent Mauritania – his father’s homeland – before eventually switching allegiance to Qatar and moving to Doha, has a personal best of 46.98 seconds, though he is yet to run under 48 seconds this season.  His personal best is also the Asian regional record. Anyone familiar with the world-class training facilities available in Doha and knowledge of hurdles guru Hennie Kotze would be surprised by the fascinating performances he produced in 2019. Qatar hosted the last World Championship in Doha and the investments for world-class facilities paid dividends in the form of medals as Samba clinched a bronze. Japan the host of the Olympics has six of the top ten performers in the 400 metres hurdles in Asia this year. Apart from investing in infrastructure the host countries of major sports events also invest in the development of sports in their countries. When talented athletes are provided with the necessary facilities they become good enough to climb up the rankings irrespective of where they come from. 



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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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