Sandaruwan creates history,disappointment for Olympic hopefuls


Ishara Sandaruwan (File Pic)

by Reemus Fernando

Pole vaulter Ishara Sandaruwan created history by becoming the first Sri Lankan to clear the five metre barrier in his pet event on the final day of the 94th National Athletic Championships as the three-day event concluded with none of the top contenders reaching qualifying standards for the Rio Olympics at Diyagama on Sunday.

The Sri Lanka Athletics Association was expecting at least four athletes, who were closer to the Olympic qualifying standards, to attempt the difficult entry standards at the three day meet, though it remained a huge ask due to the pathetic condition of the track.

The condition of the synthetic track at Diyagama was so bad it forced Sumeda Ranasinghe who had already qualified for the Rio Olympics in men’s javelin to skip his discipline fearing injury.

Manjula who missed the opportunity by falling short of five centimeters on Friday was probably the closet to the qualifying standards. He earned the best athlete title for his 2.24 metrs feat. He was given a special trail on Sunday where he managed only to reach his seasonal best with a jump of 2.25 metres.

Beijing Olympic participant Nadeeka Lakmali was another hopeful but she failed to impress. Instead she was edged out by her former training partner Dilhani Lekamge in the women’s javelin with a throw of 56.06 metres.

Sprinter Suranjaya de Silva, who produced one of the best performances in men’s 200 metres in recent history at an overseas championship, was considered as yet another hopeful. But on unhelpful conditions the sprinter clocked just 21.2 seconds to win he men’s 200 metres ahead of training partner and 100 metres champion Himasha Eshan.

The day’s best dual was in the women’s 800 metres where the other two Olympic hopefuls ended up seconds short of the target. The Sri Lanka Air Force athlete Nimali Liyanarachchi was leading from the start but was given a close fight in the last 100 metres by Gayanthika Abeyratne. Nimali however won the event in a time of 2:04.8 seconds. Abeyratne clocked 2:05.1 seconds.

South Asian Games gold medalist Sandaruwan’s performance was probably the most notable achievement of the day as he improved the national pole vault record for the fourth time in a year.

The other national record in the men’s category was established by Kumara Karunathilaka of Sri Lanka Army. Karunathilaka aggregated 6724 points to improve his own national record in the decathlon on Saturday.

The final day’s events saw two other national records being established in still developing women’s events.

While Ayesha Maduwanthi regained her national record with a throw of 44.14 metres in the women’s hammer throw, Lakshika Sugandi improved her heptathlon record aggregating 4547 points.

Nilani Ratnayake’s 10:10.3 seconds feat in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase won her the Best Athlete title in the women’s category.



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