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Yupun stamps his class with new record

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Yupun Abeykoon celebrates after creating a new Sri Lanka record in the men’s 200 metres.

by Reemus Fernando

Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon’s record-breaking feat in the 200 metres at the Stadio Zecchini, Grosseto in Italy on Sunday has placed him among the top performers of his generation in Asia.

His new Sri Lanka record feat of 20.37 seconds is the second-fastest performance in Asia this year and the fourth-fastest time by an Asian during the last two years, while in the history of the sport only 17 athletes had run faster than him in the entire Asian region.

Abeykoon broke the national record held by Vinoj Suranjaya Silva with a 20.37 seconds feat at a meet in Italy on Sunday to create history. His new record mark, which clearly separates him from the rest of the Sri Lankan sprinters in the history to have clocked sub 21 seconds, now makes him a medal contender at Asian level.

Sri Lanka Athletics had set a tough 20.60 seconds mark- the average bronze-winning standard of the last three Games- as the qualifying standard for the postponed Asian Games (2022). Now, with him obliterating the mark he has stamped his class as the undisputed king of sprints not only in Sri Lanka but the entire South Asian region.

The Italy based sprinter who established a new Asian record in the 150 metres recently is now the fastest in the South Asian region in both the 100 metres and the 200 metres. He was already the 100 metres record holder of the South Asian region but was behind India’s Amlan Borgohain (20.52 secs) in the 200 metres until Sunday.

The 27-year-old also joins a handful of Sri Lankan athletes to have held the two sprint records simultaneously. Sunil Gunawardena, Sriyantha Dissanayake, Chinthaka Soysa and Vinoj Suranjaya are the others.

After the Asian Games medallist Sugath Thilakaratne improved his 200 metres national record to 20.69 seconds in 1998 only Vinoj Suranjaya had run faster than that until Sunday.

The historic feat will augur well for Yupun who will vie to earn qualifying standards for the upcoming World Championships in both sprint disciplines. A quick look at the ‘Road to Oregon 2022’ rankings shows that many within the top 50 ranking positions have not produced performances faster than that of Yupun this season. With quality competitions available for him in Italy, it is expected that he would earn a place to compete at the World Championship.

However top-grade competitions have become a luxury for many Sri Lankan athletes including a few who are edging closer to qualifying standards for the World event.



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Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.

The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.

The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.

“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.

Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.

Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.

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Chathurya, Dinara, Saajida, Vishmi advance to second round

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ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament

Chathurya Nilaweera ousted India’s Dhanush Varma to reach the second round of the ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament continued at the SSC Tennis Courts on Tuesday.

Nilaweera was the only player in the boys’ category from Sri Lanka to advance from the first round as he beat Varma 6-2, 6-0.

In the girls’ category Dinara de Silva, Saajida Razick and Vishmi Serasinghe reached the second round when they won their respective first round matches on Monday.

Dinara beat Yu Ching Wang of Taipei 6-3, 7-6(4) and Razick beat Indian Anushka Bhola 6-1, 6-1, while Serasinghe ousted Wei Chiao-Chen also from Taipei 6-1, 6-1.

In the other matches Dinethya Dharmarathe, Dahamna Methnadi, Nesangi Hemakumara, Vinethya Dharmarathne and Gehansa Metnadi conceded first round defeats.

In the boys’ category Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne, Abdul Bashit Cader, Thilina Dissanayake and Zahid Zihar were eliminated in the first round.

The boys’ and girls’ second round matches will be played today.

The tournament which commenced on July 4 will culminate on Friday.

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Sri Lanka add more spin options after first Test disaster

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Maheesh Theekshana and Dunith Wellalage are likely to make their Test debuts in the series-deciding second Test in Galle.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka have taken some desperate measures leading up to the second Test against Australia in Galle by adding more spin options indicating that the team management and the selectors are willing to make wholesale changes after the pathetic performance in the first Test which they lost before lunch on day three.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya has been sent home after he failed to make an impact following the ten-wicket loss last week. In an inexperienced attack, the 25-year-old with 17 Test caps is the senior most bowler but he had got his lengths wrong in a game dominated by Australian spinners. Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh as well and was dropped. Instead of letting him fight his way back, he was drafted into the first Test against Australia and it wasn’t surprising to see him failing to make an impact. Now with the series at stake, Sri Lanka have pressed the panic button.

Even if Dimuth Karunaratne’s side win the second Test, Australia will retain Warne-Murali Trophy since they are the holders having blanked Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2019.

Sri Lanka’s desperation is evident by the fact that they have recalled Maheesh Theekshana, who hasn’t played a First-Class game in four years. In fact, Army had been told not to consider Theekshana for the ongoing one-day competition to help him recover from niggles but suddenly he finds himself in the hot seat with a Test series at stake.

Uncapped Dunith Wellalage also has been added to the squad giving the left-arm spin option that has been taken away following the axing of Embuldeniya. Support left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama had tested positive for COVID.

Former captain Angelo Mathews who was in isolation after testing positive for COVID has returned a negative test and has rejoined the team.

Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe is the third player to be added to the group. He had an impressive series against Australia ‘A’ too. It is expected that Wellalage will make his Test debut while the slot for the third spinner is a toss-up between Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana. The leg-spinner was untidy in the opening Test and the more realistic option seems to be that Theekshana debuting alongside Wellalage.

Although three replacement spinners have been added, some wonder why Sri Lanka have not thought of some batting replacements. It was a pathetic display by the team in the second innings where they were shot out inside a session and faced only 22.3 overs.

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