Reigning champions favourites for title at National Marathon
Reigning champions will look forward to defend the titles and extend the long run of victories when they compete in the National Marathon, Race Walking and Cycling events of the 35th National Sports Festival here in Dehiattakandiya today (14).
South Asian Games gold medalist Ajith Bandara will vie for his eighth title and the sixth in-a-row in the men’s marathon which will start at 6 am opposite the Mahaweli Ground, Dehiattakandiya.
Bandara won the National Marathon in the years 2000 and 2001 and from 2004 to 2008 at a stretch. Bandara is expected to get a stiff competition from veteran Sujeewa Chandrapala and Ishan Wijethilaka who have proved their capabilities both locally and in international events.
M.A. Chandrawathie, the four times champion in the women’s marathon too has won her bid to take part this year. She won her bid when she won the North Central Province half marathon. Chandrawathie won the marathon in the years 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2008 and is a strong contender for this year’s title along with Manjula Kumarasinghe (2007 winner) of Western Province and two-time champion D.A. Inoka of Central Province.
With many National Marathon winners ending up as SA Games Gold medalists, those who closely analyse the performances expect the next year’s SA Games Gold medalist to emerge from this race, especially in the men’s category. Incidentally, the marathon also will be a selection ground for the next year’s SA Games.
While the country’s reputed runners compete in the gruelling 42 kilometer (42.195 km) race, hundreds of young athletes from 15-20 years of age from Ampara and Polonnaruwa Districts will run in a road race.
In the race walking, B.M.N. Nayanananda of Western Province, who has won the event on eight occasions since 1998, is the favourite while it would be hard to point a favourite in the women’s category as a number of new athletes have taken the place of the veteran runners.
In the cycling events, SA Games gold medalists C.P. Meemanage Perera and U.D. Sriyalatha are the hot contenders for the title in the men’s and women’s categories respectively.