Historic man Yupun secures athletic medal after 24 years

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Sri Lankan Olympian Yupun Abeykoon created history by winning the 100m Bronze medal in Birmingham on Wednesday clocking 10.14 seconds.

Abeykoon also becomes the first Asian to win a medal in the 100m at the Commonwealth Games.

The Italy based sprinter hailing from Pannala secured a Commonwealth Games athletics medal after 24 years. Previously Sri Lanka had won three medals from athletics – Duncan White won a Gold medal in the 440m yards hurdles in 1950; Sriyani Kulawansa won a Silver medal in 100m hurdles in 1998, while Sugath Thilakarathne also won a Bronze medal in 1998.

Africa’s fastest man from Kenya, Ferdinand Omanyala, won the Gold medal clocking 10.02 seconds, while defending champion (from 2018) Akani Simbine of South Africa won Silver in 10.13 seconds.

Earlier, Yupun clocked 10.06 seconds in the heats to advance to the semi-finals as fastest in the heats, while clocking 10.20 seconds in semi-final 3 to finish 4th and advancing to the finals as one of non-automatic fastest qualifiers.

“Myself and my team achieved our goal before I ran the final. Our target was to run a final at the Commonwealth Games and we did that,” said Yupun Abeykoon after he created history.

He further said, “I ran the final with a free mind because the semi-final was a stressful race. It happens in this kind of race. After I reached the final my coach said: ‘you have already achieved your target, and if you run the final with a free mind, you can achieve a podium finish.’”

“I did better in my heats and that was one of the best races I have run in my life, but the final was different. However, I am happy to win a Bronze medal at this level competing with top class runners.”

“Only myself, my team and few people know what we did to come to this level, and I must thank the people who kept trusting me and waiting to watch me run. This is a small gift from me to them,” said Abeykoon. Earlier this year, Abeykoon, 28, who holds both the 100m and 200m South Asian records, became the first South Asian and 167th athlete in history to run the 100m under 10-seconds, while Sri Lanka became the 32nd country in the world to have a sub 10 second runner in the history of the 100m, when he clocked 9.96 seconds at La Chaux-de-Fonds. He is also the first South Asian 100m runner to achieve qualification for the Olympic Games, which he did last year by competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

By Asanka Gammanpila in Birmingham