New high jump discovery Thiwanka takes up Olympic test | Sunday Observer

New high jump discovery Thiwanka takes up Olympic test

4 April, 2021
Ushan Thiwanka goes over the bar
Ushan Thiwanka goes over the bar

World Athletics has set a very high qualifying standard of 2.33 in the high jump event for Tokyo Olympics.

While 12 athletes will be selected from qualifying standards, 20 other athletes reaching top world rankings will be eligible for the Olympics and Sri Lankan champion high jumper Ushan Thiwanka based in the USA already taken up the challenge to reach this target

The 23-year old Thiwanka shattered the 16-year old National high jump record held by Manjula Kumara Wijesekera at the Texas Relays Championship last week with a performance that would rank as the world’s third best outdoor performance of the year. He cleared 2.28m to win the event as he bettered Wijesekera’s 2004 mark by one centimeter. Earlier last month Thiwanka shattered Olympian Wijesekera’s indoor National record of 2.25m competing in his first outdoor event of the year.

He had an amazing season this year breaking several records, including his college record, Sri Lanka Indoor record (2.26m) and finally the National outdoor record while this performance is ranked as the third best performance of the year in the world outdoors.

At the moment Thiwanka is the leading high jumper in Asia, be it indoor or outdoor. His 2.28m leap is also the joint best performance in the world this year (11th overall - indoor or outdoor). Thiwanka has more confidence after he set up back to back records and he is ready to take up Olympic challenge.

However his journey up to date had many difficulties. He started his education at Karunaratne Buddhist school at Welisara and then crossed over to Maris Stella College Negombo where he built up his athletic career to reach National level under the guidance of coach Senarath Fernando.

During his school days, Thiwanka won the South Asian Silver medal and had a personal best of 2.24m when he left for the USA on a scholarship.

He had a very different story and always focused on his studies as well as sports. He had a difficult childhood as both his parents suffered from polio and was even compelled to sell his car which he won when he was adjudged the best athlete at the 2019 National Sports Festival, to finance his trip to the USA.

However, that did not stop the determined athlete from achieving great heights in his life, where he is now a step closer to his Olympic dream.

Thiwanka has to study, train and also earn some money for both his studies and his parents wellbeing.

Thiwanka first went to the USA in 2018 after Olympian and Asia Games medallist Nagalingam Ethirweerasingham influenced him to take up higher education in that country where Manjula Kumara Wijesekera the previous National record holder also graduated.

Ethirweerasingham, who has followed Thiwanka’s progress in the USA closely was the first to predict that the champion athlete has the potential to break Wijesekera’s record before June this year and strive for an Olympic berth.