Sri Lanka’s Karunaratne and Gaffoor fail to make headway | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka’s Karunaratne and Gaffoor fail to make headway

25 July, 2021
Aniqah Gaffoor-Niluka Karunaratne
Aniqah Gaffoor-Niluka Karunaratne

TOKYO, July 24. – Sri Lanka middle distance runner Nimali Liyanaarachchi, accompanied by her coach Sujith Abeysekera, arrived in the Japanese capital Tokyo today to take part in the XXX11 Olympic Games.

Liyanaarachchi looked cheerful as she checked in at the Athletes Village, hoping to make her presence felt. She is due to compete in the women’s 800m qualifying round heats scheduled to be worked off on July 30 from 9.55 am Japan ST (6.25 am SL time).

Sri Lanka’s Aniqah Gaffoor clocked one minute and 5.33 seconds in the women’s 100m butterfly stroke event first round heats. Taking part in the first of the five 100m butterfly heats, she finished second behind Mariam Sheikhalizadehkhanghah who clocked 1:01.37. However, only three competed in heat one.

Out of the 33 who competed in the five 100m butterfly heats, China’s Yufei Zhang had the best timing of 55.82 seconds. All competitors who took part in heat 3,4 and 5 swam under one minute while the Lankan lass could finish only 32.

In the men’s singles badminton preliminaries at Musashino Forest Plaza, Sri Lanka national champion Niluka Karunaratne’s third successive appearance in Olympic Games ended in disarray. Tzu-Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei beat Karunaratne and took no time to win in straight sets 21-12, 21-15.

The Sri Lankan did not offer much challenge in the first set which lasted just 18 minutes. But the second set was a little longer – 22 minutes as Karunaratne lost 15-21. Karunaratna who went up to third round in his previous Olympics was nowhere near his brilliant best.

Meanwhile, Naohisa Takato has the honour of being Japan’s first gold medallist at the Olympic Games 2020 after winning by ippon over Yung Wei Yang of Chinese Taipei in the judo men’s -60kg contest. Takato was also the bronze medallist in the same event at the Rio Games in 2016.

“During the past five years, I’ve been living as a bronze medallist,” he said. “I felt that there was a gap between myself and the gold medallist. In Tokyo, I wanted to win a gold medal no matter what,” he said.

His setbacks in Rio five years ago, where he was a medal favourite, has been a driving force for the three-time world champion. His ippon victory came off the back of multiple shido infractions by Yang. It was Japan’s first gold medal in the weight class since Tadahiro Nomura bagged gold in Athens 2004.

The Covid-19 pandemic postponed the Olympic Games by a year and even the opening ceremony was held before a virtually empty stadium and the medal presentation ceremonies looked different.

It started with Chinese shooter Yang Qian, who won the gold medal in the women’s 10m air rifle who had to put her own medal round her neck. Then she had to sing the national anthem behind a mask to an empty stand. She was handed her medal on a tray by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and not garlanded as usual.

South Korea once again lived up to expectations after they claimed the first gold medal in the mixed team archery event in the Olympic Games. The pairing of 17-year-old Kim Je Deok - who won yesterday’s men’s event - and An San - who set a new Olympic record in the women’s event on Friday - proved to be unbeatable against the Netherlands’ Gaby Schloesser and Steve Wijler who succumbed to second place.

They did well to hold off the Dutch pair’s onslaught with a tally of 5-3 to bring home another archery gold for South Korea.

They have now pocketed 14 of 17 gold medals in archery competitions since the new format was introduced to the Olympics in 1988.

Gaby Schloesser became the first female from the Netherlands to win an Olympic medal in archery for the Netherlands since 2000.

Hungary’s Áron Szilágyi cruised to victory in the men’s individual sabre in fencing. He went into the history books after defeating Italian Luigi Samele 15-7 on Day 1 of the fencing competition.

The victory made Szilágyi become the first man ever to win three Olympic gold medals in an individual fencing discipline – he was also champion at London 2012 and Rio 2016. The 31-year-old lad pocketed victory over Samelo at the Makuhari Messe B Hall. He had earlier crushed Mojtaba Abedini of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the semi-finals 15-7.

South Korean Junghwan Kim defeated Georgia’s Sandro Bazadze to take bronze in 15-11.