Sumeda qualifies for Olympics  with stunning feat


By Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Jayawardenapura University thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe stunned country’s athletics enthusiasts with a new Sri Lanka record mark which earned him Olympic qualification on day one of the South Asian Games athletic trials held at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium on Thursday.

Sumeda cleared a distance of 83.04m in his fifth throw to lower the national record, held by Asian Championship medallist Sachith Maduranga, by more than three metres. With his stunning feat the athlete, trained by Pradeep Nishantha, became the first Sri Lankan male thrower in the history to earn qualifying standards for the Olympic Games. He bettered the qualifying mark by 0.04m.

Some hundred spectators including his parents, athletes and coaches cheered as the javelin sailed beyond the national record marked by a flag and the champion raised his hands in jubilation once the distance was announced by on-field judges. Ranasinghe skipped the final throw once he was assured of his place in the South Asian Games pool. His training partner and former National record holder Lakshan Dayaratne was off colour on Thursday and could not be within the first three.

His other throws were marked as 73.80m, X, X and 72.66m.

Ranasinghe was greeted by most of his colleagues and coaches of the South Asian Games athletic pool as he left the field to applauds.

It was also the first time that a Sri Lankan threw the javelin beyond the 80m mark. The 24-year-old hailing from Kegalle credited his performance to hard work and pure Sri Lankan training.

"My aim was to break the national record to qualify for the South Asian Games. It ultimately sailed over the record mark and I am really happy that I was able to break the record without any foreign training," Ranasinghe told ‘The Island’ while waiting for a dope test.

The former national record holder Sachith Maduranga established the national record at the Asian Championship in 2013 after training in Finland.

"I am really happy about my trainee’s achievement. His dedication for the sport is praiseworthy as he has endured the rigors of routine training and managed his university education as well," said his coach Nishantha who has just returned to the country after completing his level three IAAF coaching course in Korea.

Analysts were stunned by the meteoric rise of Sumeda during the last few months as he has improved his previous personal best at the Nationals (76.51m) by some six metres within five months. His record-breaking feat on Thursday was better than that of the gold medallist’s feat at the last Asian Athletics Championship.

A volleyball player at the Under-15 level, Sumeda took to javelin when he was in the Under-17 level and had a personal best of 69m when he first joined Nishantha, one and half years ago.

Sumeda rose to prominence at the last National Championship where he beat his training partner and former national record holder Lakshan Dayaratne to the second place. There he cleared a distance of 76.51m.

Sumeda was first coached by Lalith Liyanage at Kegalle.

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