Sri Lanka bagged six more gold medals, two silver and a bronze, to complete with a record gold medal haul as the track and field competitions of the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) ended at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday. By afternoon Sri Lanka is placed third in the medals tally with 30 [...]


Rain of gold in athletics

13th South Asian Games

Hiruni Wijayaratne created history by winning Sri Lanka's maiden women's marathon gold. Pix by Sameera Peiris in Kathmandu

Sri Lanka bagged six more gold medals, two silver and a bronze, to complete with a record gold medal haul as the track and field competitions of the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) ended at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday. By afternoon Sri Lanka is placed third in the medals tally with 30 gold, 50 silver and 77 bronze medals behind India and Nepal.

Sri Lanka’s gold tally of 15 medals in athletics goes down in history as the highest achieved in the history of SAG as they completed the five-day event with a total of 34 medals. The overall performance bares testimony to the commitment of the athletes, amid challenging conditions and facilities, and comes as a perfect response to the top officials of the Ministry of Sports and National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, who branded them as ‘headaches’ and challenged them to prove their abilities by winning medals.

On the final day of athletic events, Sri Lanka produced some sterling performances, notably by the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams and marathoner Hiruni Wijayaratne. Wijayaratne, competing despite being ill, was cleared to run after a medical test and became the first Sri Lankan woman to win a gold medal in marathon, clocking 2 hours and 42.24 minutes to finish nine minutes ahead of silver medallist Pushpa Bhandari of Nepal.

Wijayaratne, who celebrated her 29th birthday on Thursday, skipped the women’s 10,000m event to focus on the 42-kilometre race, which was held on a course around the SAG venues in Kathmandu. The race began at 7.00 a.m. from the main venue, the Dasarath Stadium, and went on the same route twice before reaching the end, where it was flagged off.

Indunil Herath leads the pack on his way to 800m gold

The USA-based long distance runner, who withdrew halfway from marathon of the IAAF World Championships in Qatar two months ago, called the run around Kathmandu as a tough one.

“It was a difficult run, because of the cold weather, the dust and the uphill runs, which usually we don’t get in a marathon. Adding to that the road was not closed fully, there was oncoming traffic and that was a different experience altogether,” Wijayaratne said.

She was five minutes slower than her best run, but braved the colder conditions to finish among the top finishers of the women’s marathon.

“Compared to conditions in Doha, Qatar, it was totally different here in Kathmandu. Overall it was a good run. I’m glad that I could finish the run and I’m proud that I was able to win the gold medal for Sri Lanka,” the national record holder of marathon, added.

In two of the exciting races, the Sri Lanka men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams provided the thrills that were missing throughout the athletic event. In the men’s relay, Sri Lanka got a flying start with Aruna Darshana giving Senira Gunaratne the baton with a healthy lead. But by the end of his lap, Gunaratne had conceded the lead to India, and cost another position to Pakistan after failing to hand the baton directly to Rajitha Rajakaruna. He juggled at least thrice, before Rajakaruna dragged the baton and dashed to close the gap on Pakistan and India runners.

Aruna Darshana-- the dazzling 400m sprinter

Rajakaruna then made a clean baton change to Lakmal Priyantha, who stunned an almost packed stadium by snatching the gold medal with a furious sprint during the final few metres for Sri Lanka to finish on top in 3 minutes and 08.04 seconds.

The women’s relay, the last event in athletics, added more thrills to what took place in the men’s relay. Omaya Udayangi could not make an impressive start, but Gayanthika Abeyratne managed to close the gap Sri Lanka had against India and Pakistan. Kaushalya Madushani too failed to make much of an impact until Dilshi Kumarasinghe got the baton, and made the impossible a reality. Unlike the other three Lankan runners, Kumarasinghe gradually increased the speed. By the final bend she was well set to overtake both the Indian and then the Pakistani runners to snatch a gold medal that was never there and finish the race in 3:41.10.

Three more gold medals came from Indunil Herath and Dilshi Kumarasinghe, both from the men’s and women’s 800m, and Nadeesha Lekamge, in the women’s javelin throw, where Sri Lanka also had a silver medal from Nadeeka Lakmali.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe came from behind to help Sri Lanka win the women's 4x400 relay gold

Herath had an exciting run to finish the men’s 800m in 1 minute and 50.52 seconds and finish ahead of India’s Mohammed Afzal and Nepal’s Som Bahadur. Gayanthika Abeyratne led the women’s 800m for most of the time, but she had to settle for the silver medal after Kumarasinghe took charge of the lead and completed the race in 2 minutes and 06.18 seconds.

Sri Lanka had a second one-two finish in the women’s javelin as Lekamge’s last throw of 55.02 metres sealed the gold medal while Lakmali threw 54.51 metres in her final attempt to claim the silver.

Sumedha Ranasinghe won the bronze medal in the men’s javelin event with his third attempt of 74.97 metres, failing in all his remaining throws. He could not match Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, who set a new meet record with a throw of 86.29 metres, which helped him qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sri Lanka’s Pradeep Dhammika (2:28.31) finished fifth while Sisira Kumara (2:29.32) finished sixth in the men’s 42km marathon in which Nepal’s Kiran Singh won the gold medal (2:21.17). India’s Rashpal Singh (2:21.57) and Shre Singh (2:22.07) claimed the silver and bronze medals respectively.

Weightlifters win gold and silver at SAG
Sri Lanka weightlifters added another gold and silver to the medals tally at Matepani in Pokhara yesterday. Thimali Haputhenna bagged the gold medal in the women’s 87kg weight category with a gross lift of 180kg. She lifted 80kgs in snatch and 100kgs in clean and jerk to come on top against Ashmita Rai of Nepal and Feroza Parvin of Bangladesh.B.C. Priyanthi won a silver medal in the women’s 76kg category with a total lift of 184kg. She lifted 83kgs in snatch and 101kg in clean and jerk and fell short 2kg against gold medal winner Mabia Aktar of Bangladesh. Meanwhile Bhutan beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in the men’s football match played at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu. Sri Lanka have so far lost two games, against Bangladesh (0-1), and yesterday’s match and drew against Nepal (1-1) and Maldives (0-0).

Dilshi Kumarasinghe (C) and Gayanthika Abeyratne (R) proudly displaying their 800m gold and silver medals.

Nadeesha Lekamge (C) and Nadeeka Lakmali (L) after winning gold and silver in women's Javelin Throw.

The champion men's 4x400 relay team.

The champion women's 4x400 relay team.

  •  Women’s 42km marathon:

Gold: Hiruni Wijayaratne (SL) 2:41.24
Silver: Pushpa Bhandari (Nepal) 2:50.11
Bronze: Jyoti Gawate (Ind) 2:52.44

  •  Men’s 800m:

Gold: Indunil Herath (SL) 1:50.52
Silver: Mohammed Afzal (Ind) 1:51.25
Bronze: Som Bahadur (Nep) 1:51.44
* Sri Lanka’s Rusiru Chathuranga finished fourth 1:51.51

  •  Women’s 800m:

Gold: Dilshi Kumarasinghe (SL) 2:06.18
Silver: Gayanthika Abeyratne (SL) 2:08.52
Bronze: Lily Das (Ind) 2:08.97

  •  Women’s Javelin Throw:

Gold: Nadeesha Lekamge (SL) 55.02m
Silver: Nadeeka Lakmali (SL) 54.41m
Bronze: Kumari Sharmila (Ind) 53.63m

  •  Men’s 4x400m:

Gold: Sri Lanka (Aruna Darshana, Senira Gunaratne, Rajitha Rajakaruna, Lakmal Priyantha) 3:08.04
Silver: India (Jeevan Karekopp, Santhosh Kumar, Angrej Singh, Jabir Madari) 3:08.21
Bronze: Pakistan (Umar Sadat, Mehboob Ali, Abdul Mueed, Nokar Hussain) 3:08.24

  • Women’s 4x400m:

Gold: Sri Lanka (Omaya Udayangani, Gayanthika Abeyratne, Kaushalya Madushani, Dilshi Kumarasinghe) 3:41.10
Silver: Pakistan (Sahib E. Asra, Aneela Gulzab, Rajiha Ashiq, Najma Parveen) 3:41.74
Bronze: India (Priya Habbathan, Vijayakumari, Manisha Kushwaji, Nancy) 3:41.81

  • Men’s Javelin Throw:

Gold: Arshad Nadeem (Pak) 86.29m (NMR)
Silver: Shivpal Singh (Ind) 84.16m
Bronze: Sumedha Ranasinghe (SL) 74.97m





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