US-based Hiruni to compete in Colombo | Sunday Observer

US-based Hiruni to compete in Colombo

Hiruni Wijayaratne-Anuradha Indrajith Cooray-Nimali Liyanarachchi-Waruna Lakshan Dayaratne-USA's Justin Galin salutes Jamaican Usain Bolt after he ended the dominance of undisputed sprint king
Hiruni Wijayaratne-Anuradha Indrajith Cooray-Nimali Liyanarachchi-Waruna Lakshan Dayaratne-USA's Justin Galin salutes Jamaican Usain Bolt after he ended the dominance of undisputed sprint king

Sri Lanka painted a dismal picture at the 2017 IAAF World Championship which concludes in London today. Although four Lankan athletes qualified to compete in the ten-day world track and field extravaganza, none of them could produce any notable performance; forget about winning a medal or entering a final altogether.

Thus, Susanthika Jayasinghe remained the only Sri Lankan medallist in the 34-year-old World Championship history for her women’s 200m silver in Athens 1997 and 200m bronze in Osaka 2007.

For the second successive World Championship, Sri Lanka qualified to field a competitor each in both the men’s and women’s marathons. However, both Anuradha Indrajith Cooray (men’s marathon) and Hiruni Wijayaratne (women’s marathon) could not complete their respective races and were forced to abandon halfway through.

Having competed at two previous World Championships, including Beijing 2015, Cooray made his third successive World Championship appearance. He was placed 28th after the first five kilometers, clocking 18 minutes. But he descended to 63rd position by the 10km mark, clocking 31 minutes and 53 seconds. Despite running under ‘home’ conditions, the UK-based veteran long distance runner from Sri Lanka was forced to withdraw from the race before the 15km mark. In contrast, Cooray finished 29th out of 66 competitors clocking two hours, 25 minutes and four seconds at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Cooray who qualified to compete at London 2017 World Championship after clocking two hours, 15 minutes and 38 seconds registered at last year’s South Asian Games, was not at his brilliant best. The Buckinghamshire-based Lankan long distance champion, encountered an unexpected ligament problem when competing at a half marathon in Beckham mid last month. “I never expected the race to be along such a rough route. The race was an off road event similar to a cross country race. The ligament injury prevented my normal run in London. If not I would have completed the race with a good timing.” Cooray said.

The men’s marathon gold was won by Geoffrey Kirui, who became Kenya’s fifth champion in the event. He survived a testing duel in the sun with Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola over the four-loop course that began and ended on London Tower Bridge. The Boston Marathon winner clocked 2:08:27, extending his country’s record as the most successful nation in the marathon history of the IAAF World Championships.

Tola, the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist and fastest in the field with a 2:04:11 recorded to win the 2017 Dubai Marathon, was rushed to medical treatment after struggling home in 2:09:49, just two seconds ahead of Tanzania’s bronze medallist Alphonce Simbu, who clocked 2:09:41.

Eritrea’s 2015 champion Ghirmay Ghebrselaasie did not come to London to defend his title, but his nation’s hopes were ably carried by Yohanes Ghebregergis, who was seventh in 2:12:07. Although Niluka Rajasekera qualified to represent Sri Lanka at the 2015 IAAF World Championship and 2016 Rio Olympics, the national women’s marathon champion could not reach the qualifying standards for London 2017.

But Sri Lanka, for the second successive championship, was represented in women’s marathon as US-based Lankan lass Wijayaratne had bettered the London 2017 qualifying mark when she won the 2017 Eugene Marathon in USA last month, clocking 2 hours 43 minutes and 31 seconds.

But 26-year-old Wijayaratne’s Sri Lanka debut turned out to be a bitter experience as she too could not complete the course. Having completed the first 5km as 58th in 18 minutes and 32 seconds, 10km as 68th in 37 minutes and 28 seconds, 15km mark as 77th in 57.45 and 20km as 79th in one hour, 18 minutes and 41 seconds, Wijayaratne was forced to withdraw from the race after 22km due to cramps.

“It was too early to get cramps and I thought there is no point in attempting to complete the balance with the pain and risk myself. Had I continued the almost the second half, it would have risked my future events,” she said.

She has been hit by a stomach virus immediately after the race. “That was an unfortunate situation and it affected several competitors,” she said. Although Wijayaratne has now returned to Denver, Colorado, she has still not recovered fully from the stomach virus.

Nevertheless, a determined Wijayaratne hopes to get back to her training soon in preparations for the 2017 LSR Half Marathon in October. “My next target is the Sri Lanka LSR Half Marathon. I want to win that with a new Sri Lanka record. I will definitely be in Sri Lanka to compete in that race,” she added.

If the defending champion Rajasekara returns for her title defence, the women’s race should turn out to be a keen contest with Wijayaratne as they meet for the first time at a key meet. Rajasekara was.;l,k 49th out of 67 competitors at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, returning a timing of 2:50.40.

Rose Chelimo created history to give Bahrain its first ever gold medal in the women’s marathon. In a slow-burning race that flared into dramatic life over the last seven kilometers, Chelimo won a personal duel with Kenya’s 2011 and 2013 winner Edna Kiplagat, who settled for silver by a stride from the fast-finishing US runner Amy Cragg.

Running only in her fourth marathon, the 28-year-old Chelimo finished clocked 2:27:11 after resisting what looked like a decisive break from her 37-year-old Kenyan rival inside the final 1.5km and regaining a lead she would not relinquish.

Cragg came within a metre of silver as she all but caught the flagging Kiplagat, who had been seeking an unprecedented third world marathon title, with both women clocking 2:27.18.

Lankan middle distance star Nimali Liyanarachchi fared no better in women’s 800m. She finished last in women’s 800m qualifying round heat two, clocking an unimpressive two minutes and 8.49 seconds.

She was almost eight seconds slower than Angelika Cichocka of Poland who had a season’s best 2:00.86 to win the heat. Out of 48 competitors in the women’s 800 first round heats, the best timing of 2:00.52 was registered by USA’s Ajee Wilson. Liyanarachchi was placed 43rd in the overall list after qualifying round which consisted of eight heats.

Sri Lanka’s Waruna Lakshan Dayaratne too could secure only the last spot in men’s javelin throw group B qualifying round. He cleared an unimpressive 73.16m in his first attempt and was disqualified in his second and third attempts for overstepping.

Petr Frydrych of Czech Republic finished on top of group B qualifiers with a clearance of a season’s best 86.22m. But Germany’s Johannes Vetter who had a throw of 91.20m to head group A, was the best among 32 competitors. Dayaratne was placed last (31st) in the overall list after qualifying round with Lithuania’s Edis Matusevcius being disqualified.

The 2017 IAAF World Championship, which brought Jamaican sprint merchant Usain Bolt’s invincible and unbeaten run to an emotional end, will conclude today at London’s Olympic Stadium. Eleven gold medals will be decided on the tenth and final day of the 208-nation championship.