Liyanaarachchi’s timing of two minutes and 10.23 in finishing last in women’s 800m first round heat 4 is her worst performance in recent times. It is also way behind Sriyani Dhammika Menike recorded in the same event at the Olympics some 29 years ago in Barcelona, 1992 – 2:03.85. She was well behind her personal best of 2:02.58 and also the Sri Lanka record of Dilshi Kumarasinghe in 2:02.52.
Many expected the girl from Sooriyawewa to make her presence felt but it was not to be here. She not only finished last but also way behind seventh-placed Siofra Cleirigh Buttner of Ireland who clocked 2:04.62. But they were nowhere near the 2019 Doha IAAF Championship silver medallist Raevyn Rodgers of USA who took 2:01.42 to win heat no 4.
Even then, the Lankan lass was well within the top five at the halfway mark but she descended in worst fashion since then.
At the first 400m mark, Liyanaarachchi was in fifth place clocking 1:02.2. In contrast, Rodgers, who was in fourth place at the 400m mark, accelerated to win the race in style.
There were six women’s 800m first round heats, competed by 46 middle Distance runners. Liyanaarachchi’s unimpressive performance gave her only the 43rd place overall.
Most importantly, two athletes finished the heats under two minutes – winner of heat 2 Natoya Goule of Jamaica (1:59.83) and the winner of heat 6 Jemma Reekle of Great Britain (1:59.97) who headed the overall list.
Liyanaarachchi, speaking to the Daily News after her race, said it was one bad day for her. “Competing at the Olympic Games is a dream for any athlete. I fulfilled that cherished dream, coming to the sport from a remote town. At the same time, I am disheartened because it didn’t go in the way I had dreamt of. but I will fight back and use this Olympic experience to give Sri Lanka a medal at next year’s Asian Games,” Liyanaraachchi said today.
“My career is not over yet. I will live with the sport to fight for another day. Hopefully, it will come next year. I will only concentrate on the 800m and give it my best effort to bring a medal at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China,” she said.
Beside Goule and Reekie, the others who booked their places in women’s 800m semi finals are Ajee Wilson (USA), Chunyu Wang (China), Noelie Yarigo (Benin), Sara Kuivisto (Finland), Rose Mary Almanza (Cuba), Hedde Hynne (Norway), Deborah Rodríguez (Uruguay), Halimah Nakaayi (Uruguay), Rababe Arafi (MAR), Alexandra Bell (Britain), Katharina Trost (Germany), Elena
Bello (Italy), Athing Mu (USA), Natalia Romero (Spain), Habitam Alemu (Ethiopia), Raevyn Rogers (USA), Keely Hodgkinson (Britain), Mary Moraa (Kenya), Joanna Jozwik (Poland), Renelle Lamote (France), Winnie Nanyondo (Uruguay) and Lore Hoffmann (Switzerland).
At the Olympic Aquatic Centre, Australia’s Emma McKeon powered to the women’s 100m freestyle gold medal. McKeon led from the front and touched the wall in an Olympic record time of 51.96 seconds, beating the previous marker she set in the heats. McKeon finished 0.31 seconds ahead of Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey. McKeon’s Australian team-mate Cate Campbell took the bronze medal in 52.52 seconds.
It was McKeon’s first individual gold at an Olympics. She became just the second person ever to swim under 52 seconds in the event. McKeon is the third Australian swimmer to win a gold medal in the women’s 100m freestyle at the Olympic Games. This was after Dawn Fraser (1956, 1960, 1964) and Jodie Henry (2004).
McKeon is from a family of swimmers. Her brother David competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, her father Ron swam at Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984.
Her mother Susie (nee Woodhouse) raced at the 1982 Commonwealth Games, and her uncle Robert Woodhouse won a bronze medal in the 400m individual medley at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Australian swimmer has won four medals so far at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – two gold and two bronze – and is on her way to becoming her country’s most successful ever Olympian.
“I still can’t believe I’ve just won a gold medal. The emotions will really come out when I get back to Wollongong in New South Wales. I’ve never won an Olympics or Worlds Championships individual title. That’s what the Olympics is all about, to be able to stand on top of that podium,” said McKeon.
The absence of world and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic champion Simone Manuel opened the event up. McKeon, Campbell and world record holder Sarah Sjostrom were the favourites going into the final. But Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, who won gold alongside Manuel in Rio, finished fourth, while Sjostrom finished in fifth. Haughey came through to touch the wall in second place, making her the first athlete representing Hong Kong to win two Olympic medals. She also took silver in the women’s 200m freestyle.