TOKYO, July 29 – Sri Lankan middle-distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi did not have any training workouts today as she concentrated fully on tomorrow’s event at the 2020 Olympic Games here in the Japanese capital.
Although the XXX11th Olympic Games started last Friday with a spectacular opening ceremony, the showpiece of any Games is track and field, which will start tomorrow with the Women’s 100m first-round heats.
Liyanarachchi will be seen in action in the Women’s 800m first-round heat 4 to be worked off on Friday (30) at 10.49 a.m. Japan ST (7.19 a.m. SL time).
She will be the first Sri Lankan to compete in the Women’s 800m in 29 years after Sriyani Dhammia Menike, who ran in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
However, Liyanarachchi, ranked 87th in the world and drawn in lane two, has the most expensive entry timing of two hours and 3.15 seconds out of the all eight competitors in heat 4.
“I know it is going to be a tough hurdle. But my aim is to give my heart out,” she said on the eve of her event.
Five of the eight competitors in the Women’s 800m heat 4 have entry timings of under two minutes out of which world number four Reavyn Roders (USA – 1:57.66s) and world no 11 Keely Hodgkinson (Great Britain – 1:57.51s) have the best timings.
Both the entry and the personal best of the duo are identical. There are 48 competitors taking part in the six Women’s 800m round one.
American Athing Mu, Silver Medallist in the 800m at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, is an outside favourite for the 800m title.
Mu, the second youngest of seven siblings whose parents moved to the US from Sudan 20 years ago, dreams of emulating Madeline Mims, who won the 800m at the 1968 Mexico City Games and remains the only US champion in the event.
Mu will face a tough field here loaded with top contenders including four other Women who have run sub -1:57s times this year.
Rose Mary Almanza notched up a trio of 800m victories at home in Cuba and claimed victory in the 4x400m at the World Relays in Silesia.
She then racked up three more wins on the European circuit, including a personal best 1:56.42s in Ordizia, which she then improved to 1:56.28s when winning at the Wanda Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm.
She committed to the swift early pace in Monaco and paid the price on the second lap, eventually finishing ninth but still came away with a 1:58.51s clocking.
Almanza has never advanced beyond the semi-finals though she has competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Jamaica’s Natoya Goule, the 2019 Pan American Games champion, ran a close second to Almanza in Stockholm in 1:56.44s.
She set a Jamaican record of 1:56.15s in 2018 and went on to finish sixth at the 2019 World Championships.
Ethiopia’s Werkwuha Getachew set a national record of 1:56.67s to win the Ethiopian trial race in Hengelo. Laura Muir broke the Scottish 800m record, winning the Diamond League meet in Monaco in 1:56.73s but she has decided to run only the 1,500m in Tokyo.
Britain will still be well represented, though, in Jemma Reekie, who placed second to Muir in Monaco in 1:56.96s, and Keely Hodgkinson, who won the European indoor title in March and improved to 1:57.51s outdoors in her final race before the Games.
World champion Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda posted a national record of 1:58.03s while finishing seventh in Monaco.
Raevyn Rogers and Ajee Wilson, who took Silver and Bronze respectively behind Nakaayi at the 2019 World Championships, will also be in contention. Among the others capable of marching toward the victory podium of the Women’s 800m are Canada’s Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, France’s Renelle Lamote, Oceanian record-holder Catriona Bisset.