Hiruni Wijeratne became the first Sri Lankan woman to claim Gold in the Marathon event at a South Asian Games while Golds from Nadeeka Lekamge, Dilshi Kumarasinghe and Indunil Herath and both the Men’s and Women’s 4x400m relay teams sent Sri Lanka ahead of India in the Athletics Medal tally.
Wijeratne was the first to take to the streets of Kathmandu for Sri Lanka in the Marathon event for which she holds the National record. Finishing well ahead of the rest of the competitors despite being ill, she ended the race with a time of 2:42.24.00. It was a truly commendable effort from Wijeratne, who not only had to contend with her illness but also the poor air quality in Nepal. She described the race as ‘the most difficult race’ she’s ever run.
Nadeeka Lekamge was the next to raise Sri Lanka’s flag up when she claimed Gold in the Women’s Javelin Throw event. Nadeesha Lakmali followed a short way behind to make it a 1-2 finish for Sri Lanka with a Silver. Captain of the Athletics contingent, Sumedha Ranasinghe managed Bronze in the Men’s Javelin.
Both Indunil Herath and Dilshi Kumarasinghe grabbed Gold in the 800m Men’s and Women’s events respectively, while Gayanthika Abeyratne seized Silver after leading Dilshi for much of the race, making it 4 Golds for Sri Lanka in 5 events concluded (Sri Lanka did not medal in the Men’s Marathon). Like Hiruni, Indunil Herath was also reportedly very ill coming into the race but somehow managed to fight through it and surge through to claim another Gold medal for Sri Lanka.
As always, the 4x400m relays provided a fitting finale to the Athletics leg of the 13th South Asian Games as both races featured thrilling finishes and come from behind wins – great viewing, especially if you are a Sri Lankan!
In the Men’s relay, National Champion Aruna Darshana kicked things off with a near perfect lap, despite starting in Lane 8, handing over the baton to 2nd lapper Senira Gunaratne in the lead. Gunaratne too had a good run but a delay in the exchanging of the baton between him and Rajitha Rajakaruna saw Sri Lanka fall behind considerably as India and Pakistan took the lead. All three teams ended the 3rd lap close together, with Sri Lanka in third position but a fantastic run from Lakmal Priyantha in the final lap saw the Lions seize the Gold.
The Women’s event saw Omaya Udayangani start off the race for Sri Lanka. She showed signs of tiring in the final straight and was only able to hand in the baton in 3rd position to Gayanthika Abeyratne. Neither Gayanthika nor 3rd lapper Kaushalya Madushani were able to catch up to India and Pakistan, who continued to build on the substantial lead they had gained in the 1st lap. Dilshi Kumarasinghe, who had just completed her 800m event an hour ago, started at 3rd, with India nearly 20-30m ahead. The Pakistani athlete too overtook the young Sri Lankan in the 1st half of her lap, but Kumarasinghe made her move in the final 150 meters of the race as both the Indian and Pakistani began to tire. A searing final 100m saw Dilshi secure Sri Lanka’s 15th Gold in Athletics at the Games, a joint record for the most at a single edition (equal with Sri Lanka’s haul in 1991).
With the 2 Golds from the 4x400m races, Sri Lanka went to 15 Golds, thereby securing their spot at the top of the Athletics medal table, ahead of India (12 Golds).
Performances today (7/12)
Hiruni Wijeratne – GOLD – Women’s Marathon – 2:41.24.00
Dilshi Kumarasinghe – GOLD – Women’s 800m – 2:06.18
Indunil Herath – GOLD – Men’s 800m – 1:50.52
Nadeesha Lekamge – GOLD – Women’s Javelin Throw – 55.02m
Men’s 4x400m – GOLD – 3:08.04
Women’s 4x400m – GOLD – 3:41.10
Gayanthika Abeyratne – SILVER – Women’s 800m – 2:08.52
Nadeeka Lakmali – SILVER – Women’s Javelin Throw – 54.41m
Sumedha Ranasinghe – BRONZE – Men’s Javelin Throw – 74.97m