Lakmali’s dramatic rise

Lakmali reaches career high IAAF ranking


Victories at this year’s Asian Grand Prix was a prelude to the record breaking streak. In this May 2013 file picture Nadeeka Lakmali competes at the 3rd lag of the Asian Grand Prix at the Sugathadasa Stadium. (Pic by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

by Reemus Fernando

Javelin thrower Nadeeka Lakmali’s ranking keeps rising. The silver medal winner at the recently held Asian Athletics Championship, Lakmali has improved on her Sri Lanka national record on three occasions during the last three weeks, and has twice bested the IAAF qualifying standards for the forthcoming World Championships, to be held in Moscow. She was not even among the best 70 throwers within this year. But within the last month she has leapfrogged to be placed 25th in the IAAF world rankings, which is nothing short of a dramatic improvement.

On June 30, Lakmali commenced her record breaking spree with a throw of 59.32 metres at a competition in Finland, to improve on her own long held national record. She had attended a nearly month long training stint at the IAAF high performance training centre. A week later, she was turning tables on the region’s power houses at the Asian Athletics Championships in Pune. She won silver with a new Sri Lanka record of 60.16 metres.

The streak continued on Wednesday, when she hurled the javelin a distance of 60.64 metres at the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force Inter-Regiment Athletics Championship, at the Sugathadasa Stadium, in Colombo.

Was it the month long training that has helped her improve? How different was the training in Finland? "Training in Finland really helped. There was no big difference in training methods. But the facilities there were excellent," said a beaming Lakmali, in an interview with the ‘Sunday Island Sportstar’.

The record throws have come after her training in Finland, but signs of better days were sensed much before that and it was none other than her unassuming coach, A. J. Rodrigo who predicted it first.

He was optimistic that Lakmali would soon break the 60 metres barrier. Rodrigo predicted it before she left for Finland. No Sri Lankan woman had cleared even 59 metres at that stage and Rodrigo’s prediction came after Lakmali recorded a hat-trick of victories at the Asian Grand Prix.

Lakmali’s calibre as a top thrower was first recognized when she won the gold at the 2006 South Asian Games. She surprised many when she won the gold ahead of former Sri Lanka record holder, Anne Maheshi. A year later, she won a bronze at the Asian Championships in Amman, Jordon.

Incidentally, Lakmali first broke the national record after that victory in Amman.

But bad luck and injuries haunted her after she participated at the Beijing Olympics (2008). After a rather lengthy bad patch, things started turning for the better from last year. Victories at this year’s Asian Grand Prix was a prelude to the record breaking streak. At no time during her career has she been so consistent as she is today. As of Thursday, she was still ranked among the best 26 throwers in the world and fourth in the Asian region, behind three Chinese and a Japanese.

However, she will have a tough challenge when she competes in Moscow against the world’s best athletes.

Her rising profile is a solace for many a Sri Lankan thrower who have been toiling hard without much success internationally, in this, not so glamorous discipline.

Together with the Sri Lanka’s men’s 4x400 metres relay team, who have qualified for the IAAF World Championships, she has given some breathing space for the country’s athletics officials, who have been waiting for years to send a substantial number of athletes to an IAAF event.

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