The first competition of the 44th National Sports festival, the National Cross-Country Championship was held today (18th) at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Course. With Central province becoming the overall champions in both Men’s & Women’s Categories.
A total of 82 male athletes and 54 female athletes participated in the competition representing the respective provinces. The competition also worked as a trial for the upcoming Asian Cross-Country Championship which will be held in China on 15th of March and the South Asian Cross-Country Championship in Bhutan on the 5th of March.
It was the bitter sweet day for both the Male and the Female athletes who were legitimate winners on the day. Samantha PushpaKumara and Nilani Rathnayake were clear winners in the Male and the Female competition. Pushpakumara clocked 33:22.44 to win the race while Ratnayake finished with a timing of 39:33.29. Both athletes who represented the country at the 18th Asian Games invitational tournament which was held from the 11th to 15th of February in Indonesia had only returned to the Island in the early hours of Saturday (17th) morning and had travelled straight to Nuwara Eliya to take part in the Cross-Country Championship.
However, their registration for the competition was refused by the Department of Sports Development sighting that athletes had not been physically present in Nuwara Eliya before the end of the registration deadline which was at 06.00pm on the 16th of February. Nilani and Samantha were however allowed to participate in the competition as independent athletes and were only considered for the trials where they could earn a place to compete in the Asian competitions in March. The Athletes were not considered for any awards from the competition nor did their province earn any points for the 44th National Sports festival.
It was heart breaking to witness both Nilani Ratnayake who managed renew the National record in the Women’s 3000m steeple chase and Samantha Pushpakumara who won Gold in the Men’s 3000m steeple chase and Bronze medal in the Men’s 5000m at the 18th Asian Games Invitational tournament, watching the awards ceremony teary-eyed while the competitors who came second were awarded cash prizes and trophies.
With the two victors in both male and female categories not recognized for the National Sports festival, the runners who came second best were crowned as the Champions of the event. In the Men’s event it was S. Chandradasan of central province who was adjudged the champion clocking a time of 33:24.74 . Last year’s champion and a front runner in the event, D L Samarajeewa had a heart-breaking finish as he misjudged the start point as the finish point and sprinted and stopped thinking that he won the competition while the finish point was 500m away. With Samarajeewa’s mistake it was Chandradasan who benefited as he managed to overtake the defending champion to race to the finish line to become the winner of the 44th National sports festival’s first victor.
In the female competition N.M Nandasena of Eastern province was adjudged the winner clocking a time of 39:48.94 despite finishing over 15 seconds after Nilani Ratnayake. Anusha Lamahewage of Southern province finished second while B G L Anuradhi of Central Province was placed third in the competition.
Host of the event, Central Province continued to hold their dominance in the cross-country championship as they managed to hold onto the titles that they won last year.
Overall Winners Men’s – 1st place – Central Province, 2nd Place – Uva Province, 3rd Place – North Central Province
Overall Winners Women’s – 1st Place – Central Province, 2nd Place – Western Province, 3rd place – Uva Province