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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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So near yet so far for several junior athletes

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Medhani Jayamanne (centre) wins the girls’ 100 metres. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

by Reemus Fernando

While sprinters Isuru Kaushalya and Medhani Jayamanne further cemented their places in the team for the World Junior Championships it was a case of so near yet so far for a number of athletes who missed qualifying standards by narrow margins at the Junior Trial held at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday.

After going through many a hardships to continue training amidst the Covid 19 pandemic junior athletes produced some outstanding performances during the one-day competition yesterday.

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres was measured with a wind reading of +3.7. The qualifying standards (QS) achieved with a tail wind of +2 are not considered eligible. He had two outstanding jumps measured at 15.76 metres (+3.7) and 15.47 metres. The qualifying standard is 15.60 metres.

Hurdlers Amesha Hettiarachchi from Kandy, M.D. Dharshana of Ambagamuwa Central and Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo narrowly missed the qualifying mark. Amesh, despite failing to maintain the rhythm from the penultimate hurdle, returned a time of 62.66 seconds (QS: 60.75secs)

Dharshana hardly had any competition in the boys’ 400 metres hurdles and returned a time of 53.22 seconds which was a fraction of a second behind the qualifying standards (QS: 53.10). Royal hurdler Bandara was unlucky as he battled wind to return a time of 14.34 seconds in the 110 metres hurdles (QS: 14.15).

St. Peter’s College javelin thrower Ramesh Tharanga who is one of the promising throwers to have emerged from the junior circuit hurled the javelin to 68.33 metres (QS: 69.5m) which was just short of the target.

Long jumper Hirusha Hashen too narrowly missed the target as he cleared 7.31 metres (QS: 7.58 m).

Lumbini College missed a rare opportunity to field two 100 metres sprinters for the World Junior Championships when Chalith Piyumal had to run against the wind (-2.1). When Medhani Jayamanne who is also from Lumbini achieved the qualifying standards in the girls’ 100 metres, Piyumal clocked 10.78 seconds running against the wind (QS: 10.58).

 

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Kaushalya, Medhani dazzle as chance looms for mixed relay team

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by Reemus Fernando

Ananda Sastralaya Matugama sprinter Isuru Kaushalya produced one of the best performances by a junior athlete in Asia in the 400 metres this year when be bettered the World Junior Championship qualifying mark for the second time this season at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducted a Junior Trial yesterday to provide competition-starved junior athletes a chance to reach qualifying standards for this year’s World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

Kaushalya and sprinter Medhani Jayamanne were probably the best performers on the day as several athletes met disappointment after having come almost close to achieving qualifying standards for the World Junior Championship which will be held in three weeks time in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kaushalya, who had already achieved qualifying standard when he entered the one-day meet, clocked 46.90 seconds in the 400 metres final. His outstanding feat is the seventh fastest time this year by a junior athlete in Asia. While only seven junior athletes had clocked sub 47 seconds in Asia, Kaushalya improved his personal best clocking sub 47 seconds and now is the seventh fastest Asian over the 400 metres in his age category.

Medhani Jayamanne, who qualified for the world event in the 200 metres at the Interstate Championship in India recently, did her best to qualify in the 100 metres as well. Her efforts aided by a tail wind (of +2) stopped the clock at 11.85 seconds, the exact qualifying standard required to enter the event.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha runner Shanika Lakshani and Ratnayake Central athlete Tharushi Karunaratne are the others who had already qualified for the World Junior Championships. Having already secured her place in the team in the 800 metres, Karunaratne tried to achieve 400 metres qualifying standards as well yesterday. She fell just short of the target as she returned a time of 55.19 seconds (qualifying standard: 54.85 secs).

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres had a wind reading of +3.7. There were a number of others who met similar disappointment.

Chance to field mix relay team

Sri Lanka is yet to field a mix relay team for any international event. However with strong performances in both the boys’ and girls’ 400 metres yesterday Sri Lanka Athletics has a golden opportunity to provide youngsters an opportunity to compete in the combined event in Kenya.

In the girls’ 400 metres, both Tharushi Karunaratne (55.19 secs), who has already qualified for the World Junior event in the 800 metres, and Holy Cross, Gampaha athlete Lakshima Mendis (55.29secs) both produced their personal best performances. In the corresponding boys’ event Wekada MV sprinter R.D. Bandara who finished second behind Kaushalya clocked 47.55 seconds.

With junior athletes lacking international exposure, exploring chances of fielding a mix relay team will augur well for their future.

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Second T-20 postponed after Pandya tests positive

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by Rex Clementine

Yesterday’s second T-20 International between Sri Lanka and India at RPS was postponed after Indian player Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID. The game is expected to be played today followed by the final T-20 International on Thursday depending on the PCR results of the remaining players.

During the Antigen test taken on all players yesterday afternoon, Pandya had tested positive. Accordingly, seven other players who are identified as his close contacts were isolated.

All players of the Indian team and support staff then did PCR tests and although the results were expected by 6 pm yesterday, there was no official announcement when this edition went to print. Sources said that Pandya had tested positive in his PCR test as well.

There were a few concerns as to how Pandya tested positive as all players and coaching staff are in bio-secure bubbles and outside interaction is little. Health authorities were conducting investigations.

It is not clear as to how many days Pandya’s close contacts have to remain in isolation. However, India are carrying an extended squad and fielding a decent team should not be a worry.

This is the second instance the series has been postponed due to the pandemic. Earlier, after Sri Lanka Batting Coach Grant Flower tested positive, all Sri Lankan players were isolated and the series was pushed back by several days.

The Sri Lankan team was informed about the series being pushed back when they gathered for the team meeting at the hotel at 3pm. The Sri Lankans are staying at Cinnamon Grand while the Indians are at Taj Samudra. Both teams were supposed to stay at Taj but the Sri Lankans were evacuated after Flower tested positive.

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