SLA Request Diamond League Slots for top Athletes
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) have requested Diamond League slots for several top National Athletes who are on the verge of Tokyo Olympic qualification, said SLA President Maj. Gen Palitha Fernando. Accordingly, SLA had requested slots for the Doha Diamond League to be held on 28 May for several athletes, which includes 400m runner Kalinga Kumarage, Javelin Throwers Sumedha Ranasinghe and Nadeeka Lakmali, 800m runners Dilshi Kumarasinghe, Nimali Liyanarachchi and 400m runner Nadeesha Ramanayaka.
“They have informed us it’s very difficult since slots have already been filled, but will keep our request in the waiting list. I believe we have a strong chance of getting two slots (Kalinga Kumarage and Dilshi Kumarasinghe) who have good seasonal best times in their respective events,” said Fernando. Of the abovementioned athletes, Dilshi Kumarasinghe and Nimali Liyanarachchi have a realistic chance of making it to the Olympics, as the duo are ranked 57th and 66th with a gap of around 30 points for the last Olympic qualification slot, and can catch up with one good performance. Third placed 800m runner Gayanthika Abeyrathne is 61st in the list.
Even though Kalinga Kumarage has a season best of 45.99 seconds, he is nowhere near the direct qualification quota or by points. In order to qualify direct for the Olympics he has to clock 44.90 seconds, or by points he has to run about 3 or 4 more sub 46 seconds races, that too in higher ranked competitions. Meanwhile, US based high jumper Ushan Thiwanka, who leaped 2.30m recently and is ranked joint 3rd in the world, has to leap 2.33m to earn direct qualification, or has to achieve the same height of 2.30m or around that mark at higher ranked competitions, which will give him additional placing score and earn more points to make the cut from the world ranking quota. “We feel he will achieve 2.33m. If not, we have requested one Diamond League slot from any edition in the European circuit for him.
Also, as a last resort, we have the option of getting him down to Sri Lanka to compete in the last stage of the National Championship which will be held just before the Olympic deadline of 29 June.
But it will include several complexities, like quarantine period or bio bubble,” said Fernando. Fernando also said the Qatar National Championship has been postponed, and SLA has requested Doha Diamond League slots for two athletes - triple jumper Greshan Dhananjaya (who is in Olympic targeted training in Qatar) and long jumper Sarangi Silva. Dhananjaya is ranked 59th in the Road to Tokyo list with 1,133 points, while the last ranked qualified athlete has 1,189 points, a gap of 56 points. Sarangi Silva is not in the ranking list as she does not have five good performances during the qualification period.
Qualification process in short
World Athletics introduced new qualification system ahead of the 2019 World Championship which is applicable for global events from there onwards. They also made direct qualification standards tougher – e.g. Bronze medal level of Olympic Games in some events. Then they introduced a world ranking system, which takes into consideration the five best performances of an athlete during the qualification period, and ranked them according to the average of these five best performances. When calculating points, one performance has two parts. An athlete gets points for their result in the competition, as well as points for their position in the competition.
This placing score varies from competition to competition based on competition rank categorized by World Athletics. For example, clearing 2.30m in the high jump during a college event in USA, Ushan collected 1,179 points plus 15 points for 1st place, which gave him a performance score of 1,194 points. If he cleared the same height at any National Championship, it would have given him plus 100 points for 1st place instead 15, which will give him a performance score of 1279.
The same performance at a Diamond League meet - which is categorized higher than the National Championship - would have given him 240 additional points if he won, which will give him 1,419 points. To achieve 1,419 in a college meet Ushan will have to clear more than 2.60m, while the world record in the event stands at 2.45m, which emphasizes the importance of better competitions. Also, in competitions such as the Diamond League, an athlete gets additional placing score. Finishing in 12th place gives 60 points, while finishing 8th will give 125.
Sri Lanka’s chances
Among Sri Lankan athletes, 3000m steeplechase runner Nilani Rathnayaka is already within the qualification quota of 45 for the Olympics, as she is in 39th position. As Ceylon Today reported, the trio of female 800m runners - Dilshi, Gayanthika and Nimali – have a good chance of making it to the qualification quota as all three of them are within 30 points of the last qualified athlete, which they can easily achieve with one good performance at the National Championship or better ranked competition.
400m runner Nadeesha Ramanayaka is in 64th position in the Road to Olympic list with 1,147 points with a gap of 30 points separating her from the qualification slot, and she will have to run sub 53 seconds to catch up. Nadeeka Lakmali who has a personal best of 60.64m which she set 8 years ago, is in the Road to Tokyo list despite recent modest performances. She is ranked 58th with 1,038 points whereas the last qualified athlete has 1,107 points – a gap of 69 points. Nadeeka will need several good performances to catch up.
Javelin Thrower Sumedha Ranasinghe is in 38th position in the world ranking list with 1,126 points, while the athlete who is last in the qualified list has 1,150 points, a gap of 24 points. He can catch up if he finds his 2016 form when he threw 83.03m. Meanwhile, neither 100m runners Himasha Eashan (men), Amasha de Silva (women) nor 400m runner Kalinga Kumarage are in the world ranking list, though SLA is optimistic and has included their events in stage one of the National Championship as Olympic targeted events. Their only chance of direct qualification will be running their events in a spectacular time, which is a distant dream based on their current season performances.