Samaakhya Gajanayake came close to an Olympic qualification while Nissanka Somarathne finished 17th at the 2016 FISA Asia and Oceania Continental Olympic Qualification Regatta in Chung-ju, Korea.
There were 26 countries all vying for the 7 spots at the Rio Olympics in the Men’s and Women’s Single Scull categories.
Samaakhya needed to finish 1st in the Women’s B final, to grab the 7th and final qualification spot, but could only manage to finish in 6th place which left her in 12th place overall. A Singapore oarswoman finished 1st in 7 mins 53.13 secs to qualify for Olympics while Samaakhya finished in 9 mins 06.20 secs.
Nissanka Somarathne who had earlier lost his opportunity for qualification raced in the Men’s C final and finished in 5th position, leaving him 17th overall in rankings. Nissanka finished with a timing of 8 mins 00.97 secs.
On day one both Nissanka and Samaakhya’s qualification pursuit hung in the balance after they finished last in their respective heats. However they had one last opportunity in the repechage event, where the fastest losers vie for a place in the semi-final.
Olympic qualification hangs in the balance for Nissanka and Samaakhya
In the repechage Men’s event Nissanka could only finish 5th in 7 mins 51.26 secs pushing him to the C/D semi-final but Samaakhya came back strongly to finish in 3rd place, thus booking a place in the A/B semi-final. She finished with a timing of 8 mins 51.96 secs, 2 seconds ahead of her Malaysian opponent.
In the Men’s C/D semi-final Nissanka with a timing of 8 mins 06.99 secs finished 2nd and booked a place in the C final. In the Women’s A/B semi-final Samaakhya finished a distant 6th after a poor race in 9 mins 24.87 secs. The top three of the two A/B semi-finals automatically qualified for the Olympics.
“Although the wind was really bad causing the timings to be bad, Nissanka still managed to give an amazing fight. He was leading till the final 250m and then found it hard to hold on to the lead, while I had quite a bad race,” Samaakhya said, speaking exclusively to ThePapare.com about her’s and Nissanka’s semi-finals.
“The competition was very tough. A few of the top finalists had competed in the 2012 Olympics and most of them had been training for around three years specifically for this regatta,” Samaakhya added, where the two Sri Lankans had only a couple of months training for the qualifiers.
“Lots of credit goes to Nissanka Somarathne. The men had a bigger number of competitors who were also much more experienced and he gave a good fight,” she praised her fellow countryman.