With less than a week to go for the first South Asian Aquatic Championship that will take place at the Sugathadasa Indoor Swimming Pool Complex from the 18th to the 23rd of this month, hosts Sri Lanka will be represented by a team of 160 athletes who will all be eyeing a podium finish.
The South Asian Aquatic Championship will run in three age groups; under 15, under 18 and 18 & over, providing the opportunity for junior swimmers to swim in an international event.
In the run-up to the championship, we take a look at the top swimmers from Sri Lanka who are eyeing glory next week.
1. Matthew Abeysinghe
The name Matthew Abeysinghe is now synonymous with Sri Lankan swimming and the twenty-year-old Olympian and South Asian Games champion will be one of Sri Lanka’s biggest hopes as he prepares himself to swim in front of his own audience at the Sugathadasa Swimming Pool. Abeysinghe experienced unprecedented success at the recently concluded South Asian Games, as he went on to win 7 gold medals, 2 silver medals and a single bronze medal.
Working his way up the ladder, Abeysinghe went on become the 1st Sri Lankan to achieve Olympic qualification standards and made his trip to Rio for the 2016 Olympics to race in the 100m freestyle event. Abeysinghe is currently Sri Lanka’s best in the sport and he would wish to conclude 2016 on a high note.
2. Cherantha De Silva
A versatile swimmer who has been dominating the waters since his younger days, Cherantha De Silva has been in the top ranks performing both in the national and international waters. In 2009 he became the youngest swimmer to participate in the 2009 annual two-mile sea swim and afterwards got in line to be one of the recipients of the FINA swimming scholarship to train in Thanyapura Aquatic Centre in Thailand.
De Silva represented Sri Lanka in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and later the 2014 FINA World Swimming Championships and went on to win one gold, four silver and two bronze medals at the South Asian Games that were held in India this year.
3. Kimiko Raheem
The youngest of the Raheem siblings, Olympian Kimiko Raheem will find the Sugathadasa waters quite homely as she will look to add a few more medals to her tally from the South Asian championship. She was the top performer for the Sri Lanka women, winning four gold medals and a single silver medal.
Having represented Sri Lanka in the Kazan World Swimming Championships, Kimiko is also a recipient of the FINA swimming scholarship giving her the opportunity to train at the Thanyapura Aquatic centre in Thailand. She gained entry to the Rio 2016 Olympics via a wild card in the 100m backstroke event.
4. Ishani Senanayake
South Asian Games medallist and national swimmer Ishani Senanayake will be the other key prospect for Sri Lanka, having excelled in the local circuits throughout this swimming season. The South Asian Games saw her taking three medals including a silver in the 800m Free Style. The recently concluded 42nd National Sports Festival Swimming Championship saw Ishani securing four gold medals over the course of two days while setting a new meet record.
With a successful year, she will also be within medal contention next week.