Sri Lankan Olympians assemble one by one in Tokyo | Sunday Observer

Sri Lankan Olympians assemble one by one in Tokyo

18 July, 2021
Rifle shooter Tehani  Egodawela hard at training in Brandix attire-Shuttler Niluka Karunaratne, down to play in his third successive Olympics, in new kits supplied to the team by Brandix
Rifle shooter Tehani Egodawela hard at training in Brandix attire-Shuttler Niluka Karunaratne, down to play in his third successive Olympics, in new kits supplied to the team by Brandix

We are only five days away from the launch of the world’s most spectacular sporting event – the Olympic Games, the XXX11 edition of the summer Olympic Games, postponed exactly by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic that will finally start in the Japanese capital of Tokyo on Friday, July 23.

Over 11,200 athletes drawn across 206 nations from all corners of the globe will vie for honours for supremacy during the 16-day competition, now in its 125th year. All in all, there are 339 gold, silver and bronze medals each to be decided in 33 sports and 50 disciplines.

Exactly 21 years after sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe bagged the women’s 200m silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Sri Lanka is still in search of another medal.

Even then, Jayasinghe broke a 52-year-hoodoo to become only the second Sri Lankan medallist and first woman after Duncan White accounted for the first ever Olympic medal for his country – a silver medal in men’s 440 yards hurdles.

Sri Lanka will be fielding a nine member team – four men and five women. Out of them, only three will travel to Tokyo direct from Colombo while the rest will go to Japan from various countries they have been training in.

Sri Lanka team’s Chef-de-Mission Gamini Jayasinghe was the first to arrive in Japan four days ago. Shuttler Niluka Karunaratne and rifle shooter Tehani Egodawela, along with press attaché Wing Commander (rtd) Chandana Liyanage and manager cum coach of shooting Pradeep Chinthaka Edirisinghe were scheduled to arrive in Tokyo yesterday. Karunaratne and Egodawela were the first Sri Lankan competitors to arrive for the Tokyo Olympics.

Former three-time badminton singles champion Dinuka Karunaratne, who functions as his brother Niluka’s coach and training partner, was also due to arrive yesterday from London.

Judoka Chamara Nuwan Dharmawardena, the men’s overall captain, is due to arrive from Kosovo tomorrow. His manager Amal Ratnayake will fly from Colombo, along with shooting coach Rangana Tharanga and manager Kapila Jeevantha.

Gymnast Milka Gehani de Siva, who has been training in Japan, is due to check into the Tokyo Athletes Village this evening. De Silva, whose current sports scholarship to train in Japan has been extended by another two years, is widely considered as a possible medal prospect at next year’s Asian Games in China.

Swimmer Matthew Abeysinghe, due to fly from Columbus, USA today, will reach the Athletes' Village in Tokyo tomorrow. His father Manoj Abeysinghe, who functions as swimming manager is due to leave Colombo tomorrow. Women’s swimmer Aniqah Gaffoor, who has been training in Thailand, is due to reach Tokyo today.

Middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi and her manager cum coach Sujith Nilantha are due in Tokyo on Friday (23). Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon is also due to arrive from Rome, Italy on the same day along with his coach Claudio Littiardello.

Matilda Karlsson, who competes in the equestrian women’s jumping individual event, is due to arrive in the Olympic city from Germany on July 25. Her manager Suranjith Abeysekera and four other support staff for her horse will reach Tokyo on July 26.

Three Sri Lankans are also assisting the Tokyo Games Organizers as officials. They are Thilak Chandana Dissanayake (archery official), Agalya Marymuththu (line judge in badminton) and Nelka Shiromala (boxing technical official).

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan task force has requested Tokyo 2020 not to stage the Olympic Torch Relay on public roads and to hold celebration events amidst Covid-19 threat. As such, Tokyo 2020 will implement an alternative lighting ceremony format whereby each torchbearer will pass the Olympic flame to the next torchbearer at a “torch kiss” point at the Celebration venues on those days –Wednesday (21) at Shinagawa Central Park and on the following day at Shiba Park.

The Opening Ceremony of the XXX11 Olympiad is as anticipated as the Games itself and final preparations are well underway for the grand opening of the biggest sporting event on the planet. Billions of people around the world are expected to tune in to watch the proceedings at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium on Friday commencing at 8 pm JST.

The event is exactly a year late than originally planned due to the postponement caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However the expectation and anticipation is greater than ever.

The Opening Ceremony of any Olympic Games is always a closely-guarded secret, and Tokyo 2020 is no different. Although there will be no spectators in Tokyo, you can expect fireworks, flag bearers and fanfare as each of the competing nations are led out by Greece, home of the Ancient Olympic Games, with host nation Japan entering the stadium last.

After the Olympic oath is taken by athletes, officials and coaches, and the Games are officially declared open, viewers can look forward to a spectacular artistic display as the flame enters the city's Olympic Stadium and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron takes place. Unlike previous Games, the cauldron will in fact be located away from the stadium and situated in Tokyo's waterfront city.

Sri Lanka contingent for Olympic Games 2020:

Athletes: Chamara Nuwan Dharmawardena (judo men’s 73kg – men’s overall captain), Milka Gehani de Siva (women's artistic gymnastics - women’s overall captain), Niluka Karunaratne (badminton men’s singles), Matthew Abeysinghe (swimming men’s 100m freestyle),Tehani Egodawela (shooting - women’s 10m air rifle), Aniqah Gaffoor (swimming women’s 100m butterfly stroke), Nimali Liyanarachchi (athletics women’s 800m), Yupun Abeykoon (athletics men’s 100m), Matilda Karlsson (equestrian women’s jumping individual).

Officials: Gamini Jayasinghe (Chef-de-Mission), Wing Commander (rtd) Chadana Liyanage (Press Attaché), Dr. Himan Shashidara de Silva (Covid-19 Liaison Officer), Dinuka Karunaratne (Badminton Coach cum Manager), Manoj Abeysinghe (Swimming Coach), Pradeep Chinthaka Edirisinghe (Manager cum coach of shooting), Suranjith Abeysekera (Equestrian Manager), Sujith Nilantha (Athletic Manager cum Coach), Claudio Littiardello (Athletic Coach), Amal Ratnayake (Judo Manager), Ranjana Tharanga (Gymnastics Coach), Kapila Jeevantha Rupasinghe (Gymnastics Manager), Hansika Wijayagunasekara (Games Operations – NOC).