Sri Lanka Athletics team who won a Gold and four Silver medals at the 22nd Asian Athletics Championship in Bhuwaneswar, India, received a warm welcome at the Airport by Sports Ministry and Forces officials yesterday. They were then transported to the Sports Ministry where Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera congratulated them on their excellent performance in a brief address.
Sri Lanka won their first gold medal since 2009 when Nimali Liyanarachchi won the Gold medal in the 800m in a time of 2 minutes 05.23 seconds, while her village mate Gayanthika Abeyrathne sealed the Silver in a time of 2:05.27 seconds. In doing so Nimali also qualified for the IAAF World Championship to be held next month in London.
The most eye catching performance came from sprinter Rumeshika Rathnayake (who hails from Kegalle, the same village as Susanthika Jayasinghe), who won a Silver medal in the 200m clocking 23.43 seconds. She earlier clocked her personal best time of 23.40 seconds in the heats.
Men’s 4x400m relay quartet comprising Kalinga Kumarage, Ajith Premakumara, Tharusha Dhananjaya and Dilip Ruwan clocked 3:04.80 seconds and sealed a Silver medal, while the other Silver medal was won by javelin thrower Dilhani Lekamge who achieved her personal best of 58.11m.
Athletes thanked the Minister for facilitating a training camp in Bhuwaneswar ahead of the Asian Championship, which is the first instance SL got a training camp ahead of the Asian Championship since 2002.
Unlike last year, officials were careful about arranging transportation for athletes to go home this time, whereas in previous instances they had to board buses to go to their homes even though they returned with Gold medals.
Minister also promised to make available necessary facilities for athletes to train targeting their next hurdle, the Asian and Commonwealth Games next year.
Apart from medal winners, other athletes too finished within the best eight of the meet. SL missed a possible medal in the 4x100m where the team finished fourth. SL also missed a medal in the Triple Jump due to bungling by a referee at the event. Men’s 400m event too was within reach of a medal, but Dilip Ruwan mistimed his calculation, though finishing fifth with a strong finish in the last 50m running from lane 8.
Manjula specially thanks Ajith
Team Captain Manjula Kumara Wijesekara specially thanked the team’s trusted Physiotherapist Ajith Kumarage, who decided to stay with the SL team although his father had passed away while he was in India. Kumara appreciated Ajith’s decision as he said those medals wouldn’t have been possible without his services. Ajith faced further trouble as his brother-in-law too passed away due to a road accident just a few days before the team left to Bhuwaneswar and left to Welimada immediately after reaching Colombo as the Ministry provided him with transport.
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