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Historic Golden Night for Sri Lanka Athletics

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Paralympian Bandara provides silver lining
Olympian Abeykoon achieves dream of Lankans
Sports

In a golden night for Sri Lanka athletics, Paralympian Palitha Bandara and Olympian Yupun Abeykoon lifted the spirits of a nation enduring an economic crisis with their heroics in the dazzling glow of lights at the Alexander Stadium and billions of sports fans watching the XXII Commonwealth Games around the globe.

The silver medal of Bandara in the Men’s Discus Throw F42-44/61-64 and bronze medal of Abeykoon in the men’s 100 metres is worth their weight in gold for a nation starved of heroes after prospective medallists flopped following Dilanka Kumara’s solitary bronze medal winning effort in weightlifting.

Yupun Abeykoon

All eyes were on Yupun Abeykoon after he had performed beyond expectations to secure a berth in the final of the blue riband event of the Games but it was another Army Corporal 30-year-old Bandara who lit up the giant screen to put Sri Lanka in contention for a second medal by shooting into second place.

Bandara created history as the first para-athlete to win a medal in the Commonwealth Games. A silver medallist in the F42 shot put at the 2018 Para Asian Games and fifth in his pet event at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics, Bandara feat is amazing since he began throwing the discus just eight months ago and qualified for the Games in a tournament in England in May.

“I had lot of hopes to win a medal but I didn’t expect to win a silver,” said Bandara humbly, a native of Laggala, Matale whose best throw of 44.20m came in his fifth throw after securing second position with distances of 39.54, 41.48, 41.88, 43.13 and a no throw in his final attempt. Wales’ Aled Davies (F42) secured the gold with a throw of 51.39 while another Welshman Harrison Walsh (F44) got the bronze with a throw of 54.76m.

“I am very happy and proud to win a medal. I wish to thank my coach Prabath Danushka Perera and the Army for all their support,” said Bandara, a father of two girls, not forgetting to express his appreciation to the NPC (National Paralympic Committee) and the NOC (National Olympic Committee).

Yupun Abeykoon was elated like an excited schoolboy after his phenomenal feat of becoming the first Sri Lankan to win a medal in the men’s 100m event at the Commonwealth Games. “I am very happy and wish to thank everyone who believed in me. This is a small gift from me to Sri Lanka,” said the 27-year-old from Wennappuwa who is based in Italy for the past several years.

“Really it was the plan of my team to run in the Commonwealth final. Our people also believed in me because I had a great journey this year. Coach said ‘yes we can finish in the podium’. Yes I did it. To win a medal in this Games is my biggest achievement,” he said

“This was a different race from what I had run before. Finally I got the chance to win a bronze medal. It is very precious to me. The reason is because we worked hard for it and only we know what we had to go through to achieve it,” said Abeykoon who clocked 10.14 seconds running from lane two to finish third.

The previous best performance was by Shehan Ambepitiya who qualified to the semifinals in the 100 and 200 at the 2010 Delhi Games.

Abeykoon’s medal in athletics is the first since Sriyani Kulawansa won silver in the women’s 100m hurdles and Sugath Thilakaratne clinched a bronze in the men’s 400m at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games. Olympic silver medallist Duncan White is the only athlete to win a gold medal in athletics in the men’s 440 yards hurdles at the 1950 Auckland Games.

Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala (10.02) took the men’s title ahead of defending champion Akani Simbine (10.13) of South Africa, shaking off the disappointment of last month where he suffered visa issues ahead of the World Championships and only arrived hours before his 100m heat, before being knocked out in the semi-final.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica clinched the women’s 100m title. The 30-year-old ran 10.95 seconds and the Jamaican had not previously won an individual Commonwealth Games title despite claiming five Olympic golds.

She was the only one of Jamaica’s star trio to compete with world 200m champion Shericka Jackson and 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce skipping the Games following last month’s World Championships in Eugene.

Thompson-Herah took 100m bronze behind her teammates in Oregon and was the star name in Birmingham, with England’s Dina Asher-Smith out with a hamstring injury. Julien Alfred of St Lucia came home in 11.01 to take silver, with England’s Daryll Neita winning bronze in 11.07.

Abeykoon was calm as a cucumber during the final and did not even look up to see the result although it was clear to the naked eye that he had finished third. He could not believe his eyes when he was placed third on the giant screen.

“In my mind, I had already won before running the finals. I had achieved the target of my team by qualifying for the finals. My coach told me to run freely in the final. You have already achieved your goal. If you run freely, definitely you can get a podium finish,” said Abeykoon who had the fastest time of 10.06 in the heats but came fourth in the third semifinal clocking 10.20 which was just enough to be among the fastest qualifiers.

“At this level, you have that stress. If you don’t, you are not running on this planet. But every race is different. In the heats, I did very well. Today it was different. Any athlete should have another skill to run in this type of competition because it’s not easy. That is sport. I am very happy,” he said.

“At this level to win a bronze medal running with world-class athletes. To be among them is an honour. It did not happen overnight. It is a result of years of hard work. Only my team and I know the sacrifices we made during this journey,” he added.

 

Men’s 100m FINAL

1 Ferdinand Omanyala

(Kenya) 10.02 seconds

2 Akani Simbine

(South Africa) 10.13

3 YUPUN ABEYKOON

(SRI LANKA) 10.14

4 Benjamin Azamati (Ghana) 10.16

5 Jeremiah Azu (Wales) 10.19

6 Rohan Browning

(Australia) 10.20

7 Emmanuel Eseme

(Cameroon) 10.24

8 Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake

(England) 11.10

Men’s Discus Throw F42-44/61-64 – FINAL

1 Aled Davies (Wales)

(Sport class: F42) 51.39m

2 PALITHA BANDARA

HALGAHAWELA GEDARA

(SRI LANKA) (F42) 44.20

3 Harrison Walsh

(Wales) (F44) 54.76

4 Dan Greaves

(England) (F44) 54.66

5 Devendra Gahlot

(India) (F42) 42.13

6 Kennedy Ezeji

(Nigeria) (F42) 38.76

7 Devender Kumar

(India) (F44) 46.28

DNS Aneesh Kumar

Surendran Pillai

(India) (F44)

 

Friday, August 5, 2022 – 01:00











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