SLA Names 41 Athletes in Elite and National Pools
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) has named a 41-member athletics team in their two pools - Elite and National - which has been sent to the Sports Ministry for ratification, following their performance at the recently concluded National Athletics Championship 2020 (held from 26-29 December).
Accordingly, 21 athletes have been named in the Elite National Pool, which includes Men’s 4x100m& 4x400m, Women’s 4x100m and 4x400m Mix Medley relay team members.
SLA made some minor adjustments to the National Pool qualification standards for field events following the National Championship, which opened the doors for a few more athletes who came very close to qualification standards despite weeks of lockdowns which hampered their training schedule.
Three 800m runners, Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyrathne, sprinters Kalinga Kumarage, Amasha de Silva together with Nilani Rathnayaka qualified to the Elite Pool by achieving the qualification standards set during the National Athletics Championship. Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon and US based Marathoner Hiruni Wijayarathne- who shattered SL records earlier in the year, too, have been included in the Elite National Pool.
Apart from them, the top five finishers in the 100m (Men), 400m (Men) and 100m (Women) events,have been included targeting three relays which Sri Lanka has a high chance of winning according to Asian Standards.
All three relay teams had finished fourth in Asian level competition within the last two years, while winning SAG Gold medals in all four relays (including Women’s 4x400m).
400m runner Nadeesha Ramanayaka, who barely missed out from qualification standards for the Elite Pool, has been included to the mix 4x400m relay team, where Sri Lanka currently has chances of a possible Bronze medal, and even achieving Olympic qualification. Nadeesha and Dilshi have the potential to run below 53 seconds in the event, while Kalinga Kumarage and Aruna Darshan have both previously clocked under 46 seconds in the 400m.
There is also a question mark regarding the omission of Dilhani Lekamge, Javelin Throw SAG Gold medalist, Asian Championship Silver medalist and Commonwealth Games finalist, from both pools, despite being in the Elite Pool coming into the championship.
Is it fair to judge from one competition?
Several athletes - like Lekamge- did not have much preparation coming into the Nationals due to COVID-19 restriction hampering their training; and hence, could not perform well, while some opted out from competing due to lack of preparation. Therefore, many argued how fair is it to remove them from the pool judging from just one competition, despite winning medals for the country when it mattered.
Likewise,Hashini Balasooriya too has been removed from the Elite Pool despite her winning the Triple Jump with a leap of 13.07m. Though she could not emulate her personal best 13.40m mark during the Nationals, the fact that she had to undergo two weeks of quarantine in December ahead of the Nationals due to a blunder by the officials should have been considered, as it clearly hampered her progress coming into the Nationals.
Several other athletes too who participated in the Nationals and could not maintain their earlier personal best due to lack of preparation, were removed from the Pools despite being SAG Gold medalists, and many argued it’s not fair to remove them based on their performance at the Nationals.
All athletes did not have sufficient time to prepare for the Nationals. Some were fortunate and had uninterrupted training for months, while some had to run on adjoining roads to maintain physical fitness during the pandemic, depending on the area they lived in during the time.
The next National Pool update will be following National Trials to be held in March this year.