Sri Lanka gears for heavy sports schedule in 2021 | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka gears for heavy sports schedule in 2021

27 December, 2020
Kimiko Raheem-Matthew Abeysinghe-Indika Dissanayake-Dinesh Priyantha
Kimiko Raheem-Matthew Abeysinghe-Indika Dissanayake-Dinesh Priyantha

The Olympic Games in Tokyo and the T20 World Cup in India will be the two of the main events among a heavy schedule for Sri Lankan sportsmen and women in the year 2021.

The Olympics will have 50 disciplines with 206 nations contesting the 32nd edition from July 23 to August 8.

It will also mark the second time the Olympic Games is held in Japan after the country hosted its first in 1964 which marked the first time an Asian city hosted the event.

Sri Lanka first participated in the Olympic Games in 1948 and has sent a contingent to every Summer Olympic Games since then, although only two Sri Lankans, Duncan White (400m hurdles silver medal in 1948) and Susanthika Jayasinghe (200m silver 2000 Sydney Olympics) have won medals.

The main focus is already on Nilani Ratnayake who takes part in the 3000m steeple chase event and is close to the qualifying standard while the US based marathon runner Hiruni Wijayaratne and Sumedha Ranasinghe in the javelin throw are also closes to qualification. Rifle shooting, swimming, weight lifting, boxing and badminton are the other sports vying for places while gymnastics and wrestling are also in line for qualification.

Meanwhile Sri Lankan athletes have also set their sights on several international events before the Olympics in 2021 with one of them being the Asian Relay Championship 2021 which is the newest addition to the Asian Athletics Calendar.

The Competition schedule includes the Asian Marathon Championship, Asian Cross Country Championship, Asian Athletics Championship, Asian Relay Championship and Asian Indoor Championship all before the Olympic qualification deadline of June 29 ,2021.

Netball World Cup

Another sport that Sri Lanka looks to compete at international and World Cup level is netball and the new year will be a challenging one for the players.

The Youth Netball team (U-21) in particular will have to compete in two major international tournaments and hope to offer stiff challenges to their opponents according to Lakshmi Victoria the president of the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka (NFSL).

The 12th Asian Youth Netball Championship (South Korea) in August and the ninth Youth Netball World Championship (Fiji) in December are the two major international competitions for the U-21 team and with this in mind the NFSL hopes to begin National Pool training in January.

“Being the leading netball nation in Asia we are confident Sri Lanka could assert its supremacy at the Asian Youth Netball Championship. Sri Lanka’s goal is to defeat two strong sides in the first round and advance to the second round in the global event,” said Victoria.

Sri Lanka have emerged champions in the Asian Youth Netball tournaments in 1998 and 2015.

There are 57 players in the youth pool including 15 national players and the NFSL hopes to identify talented players from the district leagues with the assistance of the district associations.

Sri Lanka is also elated that netball is included in the sixth Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in May in Bangkok, Thailand while the NFSL plans to conduct a tri-nations tournament in Colombo with teams from New Zealand and Singapore.

Athletics

The athletics calendar for 2021 will feature the cross country championships in Hong Kong in February, the Asian Marathon in Thailand, the Youth Asian Championships in Kuwait in March, the Asian Race Walking Championships also in March in Japan, the Asian Relays in Thailand in April, the Asian Athletics Championships in May in China, the Asian Indoor also in May in Thailand and the Asian Youth Games in November in China after the Tokyo Olympics.

Rugby revival for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) will have much to crow about when the Sri Lankan Sevens, a franchise tournament is revived along with being the host of the third leg of the Asian Sevens for both men and women in 2021.

The new administration of SLR under the guidance of its president Rizly Illyas and secretary Jude Pillai are expected to leave no stone unturned to take the sport to a higher level especially in international Sevens where Sri Lanka’s potential lies.

The Sri Lanka rugby calendar for 2021 has the Asian Championships in May, the Olympic Games in July/August, the Sri Lankan Super Sevens with foreign players in August and the three Asian Sevens legs from August to September with Colombo hosting the final event.

Several Asian Youth tournaments that includes the Asiad are also lined up.

Heavy schedule for cricket

Sri Lanka’s cricketers will have a busy schedule in 2021 due to several tours that could not be worked off in 2020 beginning with the ICC two-Test ranking championship series against England in January in Galle.

In addition Sri Lanka will tour the West Indies for two Tests, three ODIs and three T20s in February and March and then play host to Bangladesh for a three-Test series in March-April followed by the hosting of the Asia Cup in June.

Another outgoing tour for Sri Lanka will be a three-match ODI series in England in June which is part of the Word Cup Super League

Sri Lanka will begin their ICC Super League series against England on June 29 and move to the historic Kia Oval in London which will host the second ODI between the two countries on July 1 followed by the third and final ODI on July 4 at the Bristol County Ground.

Sri Lanka is also set to host India for a three-match ODI series and five T20 Internationals in July/August soon after the 2021 Indian Premier League as well as host Afghanistan for three T20s and three ODIs in July-August

Sri Lanka will also tour Australia for three T20s in October before the T20 World Cup in India in October/November.

Also on the cards is a two-Test tour of Bangladesh in December.

Weight lifting

Sri Lankan weightlifters were always in the forefront with medals at recent International events and are currently aiming for Olympic qualification. The Weightlifting Federation of Sri Lanka (WFSL) is planning to hold selection trials in February or March next year in preparation for four international events conducted by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and Asian Weightlifting Federation (AWF). The Elite and National pools are currently training in Kandy (8), Kurunegala (2), Colombo (2) and Polonnaruwa (1).

Indika Dissanayake the Commonwealth Games Silver medalist and Tilanka Palagasinghe are frontline lifters for Olympic standard

According to the IWF and AWF calendar, there are two Asian competitions scheduled to be held in March and November. They are in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in March and the Asian Championships in November, the venue of which has not been finalized.

In addition the Commonwealth Senior, Junior and Youth competitions are scheduled to be held in October and November while the IWF World Weightlifting Championship is to be held in December.

The Elite pool for the four international competitions is made up of Chinthana Vithanage (81kg), Dilanka Isurukumara (55kg), Sudesh Peiris (73kg), Saman Abeywickrema (102kg), Thilanka Viraj Palagasinghe (61kg), Chathuranga Lakmal (67kg), Indika Dissanayake (73kg), Chanaka Petersz (102kg), Charuka Ushan (109kg), Hansani Gomes (49kg), Chathurika Priyanthi (81kg), Chamari Warnakulasuriya (55kg) and TN Haputhenna (87kg). All 13 members of the Elite pool have won medals at international level.

Para athletics

Sri Lankan Para athletes who won several medals including two Paralympic medals are preparing for the next Paralympic Games which is set to be held soon after the Tokyo Olympics.

Dinesh Priyantha the Paralympics bronze medalist is expected to take Gold at the Tokyo Games in his pet event the Men’s F 46 Javelin Throw. He narrowly missed the gold at the last World Para Athletics championships in Dubai.

At the last Asian Para Games, Sri Lankan athletes won 14 medals and are gearing for more.

Nilani Ratnayake-Hiruni Wijayaratne

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