Amila’s stunning feat met with disappointment due to lack of facilities


by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Air Force athlete Amila Jayasiri had a bitter experience after he equalled the long standing national long jump record in 2014. He was the best athlete of the 2014 edition of the National Athletics Championships but the bungling National Olympic Committee officials did not pick him for the Asian Games that year. Instead, they picked the second runner up in the long jump, citing that Jayasiri’s name was not in the ‘long list’ sent to the Asian Games organisers.

On Tuesday, the Airmen achieved a stunning feat as he became the first Sri Lankan to clear the eight metre barrier in the men’s long jump. He bettered the national record mark on the final day of the Defence Services Athletics Championship at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium only to be told that it was doubtful whether it would be recognised as a national mark due to the absence of a wind gauge.

Jayasiri who had equalled Sujith Rohitha’s 1999 national record mark of 7.86 metres in 2014 won the Defence Services competition with a leap of 8.15 metres on Tuesday. Incidentally Danuka Liyanapathirana who is also from Sri Lanka Air Force too bettered the previous mark with a leap of 7.94 metres.

The 22-year-old equalled the previous record with a distance of 7.86 metres in his first attempt and then performed better jumps on three other attempts. His last jump too went beyond the eight metre mark.

"I was delighted but at the same time I was disappointed when I was told that my performance would not be recognised due to the absence of wind gauge," said Amila in an interview with The Island.

The absence of a wind gauge at the long jump event was the latest blow to the country’s track and field sports which is the only sport in which three athletes qualified for the ongoing Rio Olympics.

Track and field athletes have been hit by a serious lack of equipment and proper training venues.

The country does not have properly functioning electronic timing equipment and even the last National Championship was held without them.

Jayasiri and a number of leading national athletes were trained by Cuban coach Luis Miranda Ramirez who is yet to return after his vacation.

In his absence Manjula Kumara, the national record holder in high jump, who too was trained by Miranda, has trained the long jumper.

"The absence of a wind gauge is not a fault of the long jumpers. They did their part. Absence of the mechanical aparatus does not mean they jumped with the aid of wind," said Manjula Kumara in reply to a query by The Island.

The former Olympian said that Jayasiri’s performance deserves to be recognised as the national record.

When contacted in this regard Saman Kumara Gunawardena, the statistician of the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka said that he was yet to analyze the report.

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