Many a spectacle to watch as Asian Games loom

National Athletics Championship



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An interesting contest in on the cards when school athlete Aruna Dharshana take on seniors in the men’s 400 metres.


by Reemus Fernando


This weekend’s National Athletics Championship at the Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo is likely to provide clues to Asian Games medal prospects as the track and field sport prepares to break the Games’ jinx that had befallen over it since the likes of Rohan Pradeep, Prasanna Amarasekara and Olympic medalist Susanthika Jayasinghe won their last at the quadrennial event way back in 2006.


Athletics remains country’s highest medal winning sport at the Asian Games but after the retirement of former stars country is yet to win a medal. However analysis of recent athletics feats indicate that there is all likelihood the emerging athletes would secure several medals at the Games which will be held in Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.


Sri Lanka won the last Asian Games athletics medals in 2006. While Susanthika Jayasinghe won a silver (100m) and a bronze (200m), Rohan Pradeep, Rohitha Pushpakumara, Prasanna Amarasekara and Asoka Jayasundara combined to win the men’s 4x400 metres bronze.


Men’s 400 metres spectacle


Twelve years after winning those medals the country will attempt to break the jinx. The recent emergence of the schools athletics prodigy Aruna Dharshana, who won the 400 metres gold at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship with an impressive time, has widened the chances of men’s 4x400 metres team at the senior level. The battle to get into the 4x400 metres relay team is likely to produce an intriguing contest in the men’s 400 metres at the National Championship which is sponsored by Sri Lanka Telecom.


A lot will be at stake when two juniors Aruna Dharshana and Pasindu Kodikara compete against seasoned campaigners Kalinga Kumarage, Dilip Ruwan, Premakumara and Anjana Gunaratne in the 400 metres.


Dharshana registered a time worthy of a podium finish at the event starting on August 18. His record performance of 45.79 seconds in Gifu, Japan is better than that of the bronze winning feat at the last Asian Games.


With his heroics at three international events this year Dharshana will be one of the main attractions at the three-day championships.


The National Athletics Championship starting on Friday is compulsory for all athletes selected for the Games, though few could get exemptions.


The men’s 200 metres is one of the main events that the AASL will have high hopes of a medal at the Asian Games after sprinter Vinoj Suranjaya smashed the National record held by Asian Games gold medalist Sugath Thilakaratne at the selection trials couple of months back. Suranjaya is another athlete to watch if he competes in the 200 metres.


US based athlete Hiruni Wijeratne, who is selected for women’s 10,000 metres and Indunil Herath who established a new Sri Lanka record in the men’s 800 metres recently while training in Kenya are unlikely to compete.


Their absence is unlikely to bring down the interest at this edition of the Nationals as there are several sub plots to watch.


Though he is yet to match the prowess of National record holder Chaminda Wijekoon, Hemantha Kumara has filled a huge vacuum with his notable performances in the 1,500 metres. It will be interesting to note weather he would improve on the 3:48.75 seconds feat he displayed in the heats of the selection trial.


Young Ushan Thiwanka has been selected ahead of national record holder Manjula Kumara on merit for the Asian Games. The National selectors will be having a close look at the performance of the former Maris Stella College athlete as he competes against seniors to prove his credentials.


Rumeshika Ratnayake has been the sprinter to watch in the women’s category. But there is company for her this time as the Asian Junior Championship medalist Amasha Silva joins the fray.


Sri Lanka will not be fielding an athlete for the women’s 400 metres at the Asian Games. But there will be interest in that discipline at the Nationals as they would be watching whether Upamali Ratnakumari and Nadeesha Ramanayake are inform to join the two male athletes to form the Mixed Relay team.


Nilani Ratnayake is highly unlikely to be challenged in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase. But she has to produce an impressive time to be in the flight for the Asian Games.


Women’s 800 metres witnessed a lackluster performance at the last selection trial. Experienced campaigner Nimali Liyanarachchi played mind games with Ratnayake Central damsel Dilshi Kumarasinghe resulting a below par two minutes and 10 seconds performance. That is likely to change if Asian Games contenders Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne both go head to head in what could be a thrilling contest in the women’s 800 metres.


The men’s long jump witnessed a massive anticlimax at the 2014 Nationals just ahead of the Asian Games. Amila Jayasiri produced a stunning feat to win but he could not make it to the team for the Asian Games. In a highly technical event, it would not be a huge surprise if a repetition happens. Janaka Wimalasiri and Danushka Piyaratne are the athletes who have been picked for the Asian Games. It will be interesting to note how they take the challenge.


In the 100 metres sprints the AASL will be looking to witness at least four sub 10.50 seconds performances to form a 4x100 metres team.


Record holder Himasha Eshan, former champion Shehan Ambepitiya, Mohamed Ashrof and W.P.D.K. Wijeratne are the strong contenders.


The AASL has for some 23 athletes for the Asian Games and Sri Lanka’s Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe will be under huge pressure to win back his place in the team after the National Olympic Committee dropped his name.


Despite performing up to the expectations of the selection committee at the last selection trial he has been dropped by the NOC. The National Championship will be the ideal platform for him to prove his credentials. If the national record holder could hurled the javelin some where close to his personal best that will certainly put pressure on authorities to recall him.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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