Asian Athletic Grand Prix 2nd leg today
Lankan athletes will look to perform better at home
By M. Shamil Amit
The much looked forward event of the local athletics calendar the Asian Athletic Grand Prix which is the second leg of the four leg event will be held today at the Sugathadasa Stadium. The Grand Prix events which is scheduled to begin at 5.30 p.m. will be preceded by some colourful events which has been planned by the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka starting from 3.00 p.m. onwards.

Gymnastic and Rythmic Activity Display by the NYSC, Sirimavo Bandaranayake Vidyalaya and Visakha Vidyalaya. Colour Formation Display by Viharamahadevi Devi BV, Kiribathgoda and Cultural Display by the armed forces and the NYSC are some colourful events scheduled to be held. The event held for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka is being sponsored by Dankotuwa Porcelain (Pvt) Ltd and Sri Lankan Airlines.

The cream of athletes from twelve countries will take part in the 16 events to be held in the three hour event scheduled for the evening. The Sri Lanka contingent comprising of sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darsha, Sriyani Kulawansa, Rohan Pradeep Kumara, Sugath Thilakaratne and Kumara de Silva will have the advantage of the support of the home crowd and will look forward to put a better showing than the first leg which was held at Hyderabad, India on May 28. When the Asian Grand Prix was first held it was a three leg event but this time Sri Lanka has been added and it will be continued in this manner.

At the event held in Hyderabad the Sri Lankan's were successful in securing two golds in the women's 100 metres sprint through Susanthika Jayasinghe and the men's 400 metres through Rohan Pradeep Kumar. The other athletes Damayanthi Darsha, Sugath Thilakaratne, Sriyani Kulawansa and newcomer Kumara de Silva performed well under hot and humid conditions in Hyderabad where over 400 people have died with the temperature exceeding over 43, to secure silver medals in their respective events.

The athletes from Kazakhastan was the most succesful when they won four gold medals with Chernovol Gennaidy taking the men's 100m, Bodritskaya Svetlana the women's 400m, Tatyana Rostanova the women's 800m and Yelene Kochsheyeva winning the women's long jump event and a silver medal in the 800m men's event.
All the participating athletes amounting to over 130 arrived on Friday afternoon at the Katunayake Airport. The event at the Sugathadasa Stadium is expected to be participated by over 175 athletes as the countries hosting the event are given the option of fielding extra athletes and to hold any other events along with the Grand Prix. Home conditions will favour the local athletes though Susanthika Jayasinghe was not at her best at Hyderabad where she timed 11.30 secs far away from her record of 11.15 secs, she has to be excused due to underfoot conditions.

Rohana Pradeep Kumara who had a timing of 45.95 secs will make all effort to retain the 400m from record holder Sugath Thilakaratne who played second fiddle with a timing of 46.28. This event will no doubt be the best event for the day and is sure to go to the wire as there is no one to give a fight to the Sri Lankan duo. Damayanthi Dharsha who holds the Asian Record for the 400m metres women's with a timing of 51.05 secs was unfortunate to be placed second at Hyderabad but she is capable of performing better and would have learnt her shortcomings.

Another hopeful gold medalist Sriyani Kulawansa too had to play second fiddle in the 100m women's hurdles but with the clapping of the local supporters she is definitely going to go one better. But the surprise of the locals was newcomer Kumara de Silva who came a creditable second in the 110m men's hurdles event which would give him the much needed confidence to perform in future international events. Neverthelss national coach Derwin Perera would have been satisfied with the performance of the local athletes at Hyderabad and would have planned the strategy for this event.

The people of Lanka will come in thousands to greet their favourites and see them win and according to a spokesman of the AA all 25,000 tickets have been sold. But those who were disappointed don’t have to grumble as the grand event will be shown live on Channel Eye from 4.00 p.m. onwards. Unfortunately the athletes from Japan and China have not been able make this event.

As mentioned earlier by the Minister of Sports all athletes and all sportsmans in general are to be rewarded for their feats at a annual sports nite to be held at the BMICH on a later date. This is being done to encourage and take sports to higher standards. The schedule events for today’s Asian Grand Prix -

All finals:
5.30 p.m. Long Jump (Men), Javelin Throw (Men), Shot Putt (Women), 110m Hurdles (Men). 5.45 p.m. 100m Hurdles (Women). 6.00 p.m. 800m (Men). 6.15 p.m. 800m (Women). 6.25 p.m. 100m (Men). 6.35 p.m. 100m (Women). 6.45 p.m. Long Jump (Women), Discuss Throw (Men). 7.00 p.m. 3000m (Men). 7.15 p.m. 400m (Women).400m (Men) 7.45 p.m. 4 x 100m Relay (Men). 8.00 p.m. 4 x 100m (Women).

Three more drivers for Team Mitsubishi
The sponsors of ace motor car race driver Dinesh Deheragoda, United Motors, have taken into their fold three more drivers in Nishan Weerasooriya, Riyaz Farook and Gamini Nelson who will now team up as members of Team Mitsubishi. The four drivers will participate in all the racing meets that are to be held in Sri Lanka. Dinesh who is the reigning SLARDAR drivers champion will race in his new Mitsubishi Evolution VIII this year. The Evo VIII is due to make its debut on the Sri Lanka racing track on June 8 2003 at Pannala.

With this new vehicle Dinesh will be hoping to continue his string of success and retain the champion title this year too. Racing enthusiasts will have the opportunity of seeing the Mistubishi Evo VIII when it parades the streets of Colombo today (June 1).
The parade will commence at 9.00 a.m. starting from the UMLL head office at Hyde Park and will proceed to the UML workshop complex at Orugodawatte via Town Hall, Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, Wellawatte, Dehiwala, Kalubowila, Nawala, Rajagiriya, Jayawardenapura and Borella. -MSA

Kiwis played professional cricket
By Bernie Wijesekera
The young New Zealand team without some senior players led by Stephen Fleming did reasonably well on this rain-ruined cricket tour of Sri Lanka. Playing under varying conditions, the Kiwis adjusted themselves admirably to get the better of the seasoned Sri Lanka cricket team to lead on the first innings in the drawn two-Test series. In batting Fleming was the showpiece - hitting a career best 274 n.o., in the first Test at the SSC.

Mild-mannered Stephen was groomed by former Aussie wicket-keeper Steve Rixon, who coached the Kiwis. Steve spotted Steve's talent to be a successful leader for the future. Rixon wanted him to be the captain for the future.

He was assigned to take over the mantle from Le Germon with a vision for a long term. He took over the leadership. of the Black Caps in 1996. Under his leadership they won 2-0 in New Zealand. The Lankan team was led by 'Captain Cool' Arjuna Ranatunga. Arjuna was the first captain to win a Test in New Zealand in the 1994-95 series. Fleming burning with flame won a series in the Caribbean too. Everyone contributed for their success. Scott Styris played a decisive role in the deciding Test, with a Test debut 100. Since then Styris has been performing well as an useful all-rounder.

The Black Caps signed off the Lankan tour winning the Tri-nation series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. In the final they defeated Pakistan by four wickets despite trying conditions prevailing at the Rangiri Dambulu Stadium. It speaks well for their professional approach.

Murali tamed
On this tour they were able to tame the wiles of spin-wizard 'Murali'. They had the technique to counter him. In the Test match at the SSC 'Murali' took 58 overs to capture the first wicket - that of Robbie Hart. They did well against the "Rawalpindi Express" Shoaib Akthar, as well. It was achieved against two frontline teams in the last World Cup. Both teams produced quality cricket, ultimately the Black Caps won by four wickets against Pakistan.

Fleming, who was adjudged the Man of the Match, while Younis Khan the accomplished World Class batsman - the best batsman and the Pakistani youth player, Shoaib Malik - the Man of the Series. Of course the 'plum' the 'Most Valuable Player' went to amiable Daniel Vittori - the prized scalp - the Mitsubishi Lancer Car amid rounds of applause. After receiving the key he drove the car around chased by the young rural fans, who were there in their numbers to watch this final in blazing sunshine.

It augurs well for the future of the game, if more matches are played at this picturesque venue. In the end, it silenced the arm-chair critics. If not for this ground the entire one-day series could have been abandoned, because of miry conditions prevailing (S.W. monsoons).

Fleming in an interview praised the venue - with its panoramic surroundings. The pitch was reasonably good compared to the earlier matches. He was full of praise for the young Pakistani team. A special word for Shoaib Malik and fast bowler M. Sami. The Pakistanis gave nothing away and played for the right reasons.

Daniel Vittori - the bespectacled little orthodox left-spinner excelled as an all-rounder. He has come of age. He made his debut against England in 1996-'97 series in Wellington. The 24-year-old spinner, one of the best in the trade today has been playing under Fleming since then. He could bat in any position even to salvage the batting when the chips are down.

This is something the Sri Lankan lower order lacks - nine, ten and jack, who could hardly make an impact for the team's cause. Apparently not been afforded with a batting stint even at the nets. A senior selector in the present panel agreed to this effect. Vittori was nursing an injury to one of his ankles. He said, it was a pleasant surprise for being adjudged the 'Most Valuable Player.' I gave my best to the team's cause. I am still learning.

This tour gave me more courage and experience to bowl and bat in varying conditions. It was a fine team effort where everyone contributed and enjoyed to the hilt, Daniel said. The Black Caps were very keen to have watched a rugby match here which is a very popular sport here, said Jeff Crowe, the manager of the team.

Cricket Masters Card launched
The Hatton National Bank launched the Cricket Masters International Affinity Card with Ragama Cricket Club which is the first ever at the head office HNB Towers last Wednesday. Managing Director of HNB Rienzie Wijetileke handed over the first card to Roshan Abeysinghe the President of the Ragama CC.

The card holder is entitled to various discounts at hotels cricket shops anywhere in the world. The President of the Ragama CC said that this is something historic as we have been honoured to launch the affinity card instead of the better known clubs. Speaking about the past of his club he said that we started the club in 1989 with just 11 players and entered the Division Three tournament in 1991.

We went on to become champions in this division and I am also proud to mention that we hold a world record of scoring 452 for 8 in 50 overs which has been ratified by the Wisden which many of our countrymen is not aware of it. He thanked the HNB managing director for giving them the opportunity to be involved with the first launching. -MSA

Red Shirts should have it easy
By Shamseer Jaleel
The Ceylon Rugby Football Club (CR&FC) under the watchful eye of the veteran in the rugby field, Tony Amith will be all out to massacre a hapless Kurunegala RFU today in their Caltex 'A' division match at Longden Place. CR &FC under former Pathana and Sri Lanka's Flanker Shamly Nawaz are enjoying one of the best season. They have won all their matches upto now.

They opened the season by outclassing the Youth side from Kandy by 86 points to 6. They continued their good form by beating the Old Zahirians by a century mark, against the Sri Lankan Air Force they came back in the 2nd half to beat them by 32 points to 9. Last weekend though stiff competition was expected from the Sailors they beat them convincingly by 39 points 8.

While Kurunegala RFC lost all their matches and they are let down badly as there is no news about the arrival of the foreign player up to date. They started the season by playing against the star studded Kandy SC and losing to them by a huge 172 points to nil. In their second outing they lost to the Havies at home by 11 points to 62. They played against CH in Colombo and lost by another huge cricket score by 3 points to 93. Their fourth match was against the Cops in Kurunegala.

This too they lost by 11 points to 40. So far the outstation club has conceded 504 points in 5 outings. Much will be expected from CR&FC skipper Shamly Nawaz, Haren Kaluarachchi, Sumedha Jayasinghe, Mohamed Mushtaq and Asanga Rodrigo. According to the performance this season and playing in the home backyard the question is whether CR can score a century. Kick off at 5.00 p.m.

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