The newly appointed committee of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) are not afforded a honeymoon period as they are compelled to get into business straight away with the 2nd stage of the national trials scheduled for the 01st and 2nd June to finalize the final squad for the 22nd Asian Athletic Championship to be held in India.
ThePapare.com caught up with the much respected veteran, and the walking stats bank of SL athletics, Mr. Samankumara Gunawardhane, who is also the Chairman of National athletics selection committee and serves as the recorder for AASL to get to know what his expectations and thoughts were regarding the upcoming Asian athletic championship.
When queried about the 2nd National trials set to take place on the 01st & 02nd June, Mr Gunawardhane added that “The prevailing weather is a concern but we cannot postpone since we have to send in the applications for the competition. We are hoping to enter 15-20 athletes for the championship”.
Sri Lanka only managed a single bronze medal in the 21st edition of the Asian Athletic championship but chairman of selectors is aspiring for more this time around “We are expecting a minimum of 5 medals this time, some of the front-liners like Himasha (Eshan) and High jumper Manjula Kumara are not taking part in the trials as Himasha will be attending training in Italy and Manjula Kumara is unwell. However they will be subjected to a fitness test at the end of this month” With the championship being held in India Gunawardhene claimed that it will assist the Sri Lankan athletes to perform well “This championship is special because it is conducted in India, the weather there is similar to what we have here and we expect our athletes to perform well”
The last Sri Lankan medal at the Asian Athletic championship was a bronze by Nimali Liyanarachi who competed in the women’s 800m. Sri Lanka have seen a brilliant rivalry that has built up between Nimali Liyanarachi and Gayanthika Abeysinghe. Both athletes have gotten the better of each other and have exchanged the National record between them of which Gayanthika is the current holder.
ThePapare.com queried from Mr.Gunawardhane about his expectation from these two athletes as he has been closely monitoring the progress of the two athletes “In the women’s 800m we have(medal) hope from both Gayanthika and Nimali. We expect both of them to do well and win medals. In the concluded Asian Grand prix Gayanthika displayed great form and managed to clinch the gold in the final leg. Nimali however has been reported not fully fit. We are expecting both athletes to compete in the upcoming trials but if there is a request by them to bypass the second trial we will take that into consideration since during this year they have tried hard to get their peak performances in couple of occasions. So if there is a request from them and their coaches we will consider allowing them to bypass the trails and participate in the Asian Athletic Championship”
Athletic has yet again come to limelight in the country after being in hibernation in the past couple of years. This is mainly due to the encouraging results the athletes and their coaches have worked really hard to produce despite having to struggle to keep up their passion without a single proper training facility available in the country. The Chairman of selectors admitted that the lack of a proper training facility is huge set back but advised that plans are in place for the selected squad for the Asian Athletic Championship to be sent to India in advance to get acclimatized to the conditions and to work on their training “Indian authorities have extended an invitation to us and a few other countries to come early so we can train there. We have already forwarded the proposal to the sports minister and have been assured a positive response ”.
We also queried him on selection criteria. The chairman added “We have analyzed the last three editions of the Asian Championships and have taken an average of the bronze medal performance of the three years. So the athletes who are within the performance levels or the athletes who perform close to that will be selected as we are focused on sending the ones who will be able to challenge for a podium finish”
The selection committee is tasked with the difficult endavour of selecting the best possible squad that will be able to bring optimum results for the country and we eagerly look forward to announcing the selected squad that will be representing Sri Lanka at the Asian Athletic Championships.