Javelin thrower Rumesh creates history in Cali

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Sri Lanka Junior team went through agony just to get to Cali, Colombia, where two athletes even missed their events when they failed to reach Cali on time. However, after a week they have produced some amazing results, which justified their outcry when officials failed to do their duty.

Javelin Thrower Rumesh Tharanga became the first Sri Lankan field athlete to finish among the best eight at the World Athletics Under-20 Championship, when he finished 7th overall; the best by a Sri Lankan field athlete and equaled Shehan Ambepitiya’s feat of also finishing 7th in the 100m 14-years-ago in 2008.

Tharanga who saw his St. Peter’s College schoolmate Hirusha Hashen miss out from his pet Long Jump event after a flight delay caused him to fail to get to Cali on time, was determined to put up a better show when he got the chance. He set a new Sri Lanka Junior javelin record with a throw of 70.68m, finishing third in the qualification round to advance to the finals. In the final he threw 69.98m and finished 7th overall.

Apart from Tharanga and Ambepitiya, the only occasion where Sri Lanka finished within the top 8 at the World Junior Championship was in 2018, when the Aruna Darshana led 4x400m relay team finished 8th in Finland.

Triple Jumper Pasindu Malshan from St. Joseph’s College is the other finalist at the World Athletics Championship. He finished 11th in the event with a leap of 15.14m. In the qualification round he finished 5th with a leap of 15.73m, which is his personal best. Meanwhile, 400m hurdler Dhanuka Darshana hailing from Ambagamuwa Central College clocked 51.41 seconds in the 400m hurdle to set a new Sri Lanka Junior record in the event. He finished 2nd in the heats and advanced to the semi-finals. He finished 7th in the semi-finals in 51.59 seconds, and overall 18th out of 49 competitors.

Darshana trains under Coach Anura Bandara, who also coached 400m great Sugath Thilakarathne. Thilakarathne, too, personally helped Darshana for a short while.

Meanwhile, Hurdler Kaveesha Bandara from Royal, clocked 14.18 seconds and finished 6th in the heats of the 110m hurdles, running straight from the flight. Kaveesha landed very close to the time of his event, then rushed directly to the stadium to participate in his event without any rest or warm up.

400m hurdler Amesha Hettiarachchi from Girls High School Kandy clocked 1:02.11 seconds and finished 7th in her heat.

A. Rathnayaka CC Walala athlete, Tharushi Karunaratne missed her pet 800m event as she could not travel with the first group of athletes. However, she competed in the 400m and qualified for the semi-finals. The 400m is not her strong suit compared to the 800. Tharushi clocked 54.13 seconds in the heats finishing 4th and then 54.86 seconds in the semi-finals to finish 7th.

Earlier, Ceylon Today reported bureaucratic bungling and visa delays meant the team of 7 athletes and 2 officials who were to take wing to Cali, Colombia for the World Junior Championship on 1 August, were unable to do so without tickets which created havoc.

The team protested and stayed overnight at Torrington on Friday, where officials and Ministers just managed to send the team to Cali in two groups after a chaotic process. One group flew on Saturday night while the others went on Sunday night.

Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe said disciplinary action will be taken against Director General of Sports Amal Edirisuriya, Director of Sports I.P. Wijerathne and top officials of Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) regarding the air tickets mess up, which almost prevented the Sri Lanka Junior team flying to Colombia. The Ministry has now asked for a written explanation from Sri Lanka Athletics.  

By Anjana Kaluarachchi