Cooray, first Lankan to be seen in action in London | Sunday Observer

Cooray, first Lankan to be seen in action in London

Anuradha Indrajith Cooray, the Buckinghamshire-based Lankan long distance champion,  had the honour of representing Sri Lanka in three Olympic Games
Anuradha Indrajith Cooray, the Buckinghamshire-based Lankan long distance champion, had the honour of representing Sri Lanka in three Olympic Games

Veteran marathon runner Anuradha Indrajith Cooray will be the first Sri Lankan athlete to be seen in action at the 2017 IAAF World Championship which begins in London later this week.

The 39-year-old Cooray, one of the most successful long distance runners that Sri Lanka has ever produced, will compete in his pet event on August 6 (next Sunday) at 10.55 am (3.25 pm SL time).

He qualified to compete at London 2017 World Championship for his timing of two hours, 15 minutes and 38 seconds registered at last year’s South Asian Games. The qualifying standard for men’s marathon is 2:17.00.

Cooray, the Buckinghamshire-based Lankan long distince champion, had the honour of representing Sri Lanka at three Olympic Games – 2004 Athens, 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro, performing the role of the overall captain of the Sri Lanka contingent at the last Olympics in Brazil. 

A regular competitor at the famous London Marathon, Cooray will be running under familiar weather conditions in London and it will be interesting to see whether he could establish a new Sri Lanka record with a final placing at his third World Championship.

For the first time in more than a decade, four Sri Lankan athletes have reached qualifying standards to compete at 2017 London World Championships.

Wijayaratne, the Eugene Marathon champion

Besides Cooray, the other Lankan athletes to be seen in action in the British capital are Hiruni Wijayaratne (women’s marathon), Nimali Liyanarachchi (women’s 800m) and Waruna Lakshan Dayaratne (men’s javelin throw). This is the largest Sri Lanka team for a World Championship since Paris-Saint Dennis 2003 at which Sri Lanka fielded a team of six athletes.

US-based Wijayaratne is a dual citizen who has clocked two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds to win 2017 Eugene Marathon, well under the World Championship qualifying standard of 2:45.00. Having migrated to the US with her family when she was 11 years, Wijayaratne has shown good form in recent times. She is due to compete in women’s marathon final of the IAAF World Championships on August 6 at 2 pm (6.30 pm SL time). This will be Wijayaratne ’s debut for Sri Lanka at a major international meet.

Both the remaining Lankan athletes will be seen in action on the same day – August 10.  Liyanarachchi, the women’s 800m gold medallist at the 22nd Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, India earlier this month, has booked per place in the 2017 London World Championships as the reigning Asian champion. She is due to compete in the first round heats on August 10 at 7.25 pm (11.55 pm SL time). If she makes it to the last 16, she will run in the semi finals scheduled for August 11 at 7.35 pm (12.05 am SL time on August 12). The final of women’s 800m will be held on August 13 at 8.10 pm (12.40 am SL time on August 14). Men’s javelin thrower Dayaratne qualified to make the IAAF World Championship debut although he is placed 35th in the IAAF World rankings for the event.

As there had been five javelin throwers from Germany within the first 32, Dayaratne managed to make it to the event as the IAAF permits only three athletes pet event from a country.  The Lankan has a personal best of 82.19m, slightly under the qualifying mark of 83.00m. However, he will have to come out with a vastly improved performance than his feat at the 2017 Asian Championship (76.78 to be placed eighth) if he is to make his presence felt in London.

The men’s javelin throw qualifying rounds will be worked off on August 10 Group A at 7.05 pm (11.35 pm SL time) and Group B at 8.35 pm (1.05 am on August 11 SL time). The final is scheduled for August 12 at 8.15 pm (12.45 SL time on August 13).

The latest edition of the IAAF World Championship will begin in London’s Olympic Stadium on Friday (4). The USA, which will compete with Jamaica for the world track and field supremacy, will field a string 132-member team for the 2017 IAAF World Championships. The star-studded American team comprises of four reigning world champions and eight 2016 Olympic individual gold medallists.

There are 77 Olympians in the US team, including 13 Olympic medallists from 2012 who will return to London Stadium for another chance at the victory podium. Among the American athletic stars returning to defend their world titles won in Beijing two years ago, are Tianna Bartoletta (women’s long jump), Allyson Felix (women’s 400m), Joe Kovacs (men’s shot put) and Christian Taylor (men’s triple jump). Bartoletta, Felix and Taylor all lead the world in their respective events in 2017, while Kovacs is second in the world in the men’s shot put behind 2016 Olympic champion Ryan Crouser. 

Eight Olympic champions

Eight individual reigning Olympic gold medallists from the USA who will compete in London are Crouser in the men’s shot put, Taylor in the men’s triple jump, Bartoletta in the long jump,  Clement in the men’s 400m hurdles, Matthew Centrowitz in the men’s 1,500m, Michelle Carter in the women’s shot put, Jeff Henderson in the men’s long jump and Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400m hurdles. 

Double Olympic sprint champions Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson will lead a strong 56-member team from Jamaica, which poses the biggest threat to the US sprint supremacy.  

Bolt, the defending 100m and 200m world champion, and Thompson, who took silver in the 200m at the world championships two years ago, will only be competing in the 100m event in London. The Jamaican squad also includes Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod. It was at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin that Bolt stunned the sporting world with back to back world records to complete a sprint double.