Lankans make merry

Thailand's Trecia Roberts (right) winning the women's 100 m hurdles from Sriyani Kulawansa (centre) and Soma Biswas (left). — Pic. AFP.-Thailand's Trecia Roberts (right) winning the women's 100 m hurdles from Sriyani Kulawansa (centre) and Soma Biswas (left). — Pic. AFP.

NORMALLY, it should have been pouring cats and dogs all over the Pearl Island at this time of the year. Fortunately, there was not even a single dark cloud on the horizon over the Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo, which was brightly lit. And the home athletes did shine too in the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix athletics series.

NORMALLY, it should have been pouring cats and dogs all over the Pearl Island at this time of the year. Fortunately, there was not even a single dark cloud on the horizon over the Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo, which was brightly lit. And the home athletes did shine too in the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix athletics series.

Of course, measured in terms of the known performances of many of the winners themselves, the 15-event card hardly had anything to write about. But then, given the fact that the meet by itself was just the second affair of a new season, the show that was witnessed could never be dismissed as mediocre. And what more, the brilliant show by the Sri Lankans was just enough reason for those in the Asian Amateur Athletic Association to celebrate the inclusion of Colombo as a venue of the fledgling series.

The last series, in its inaugural year, had just three stops — Hyderabad, Bangkok and Manila. And it was just a tribute to the consistency shown by the Sri Lankans over the last few years that Colombo was included this year though one was given to understand that there were many other claimants to host this new leg. Anyway, the Sri Lankans never disappointed as the day progressed and the crowd had their fill as the home team athletes made good use of the familiar conditions to win five gold, seven silver and six bronze medals for a tally of 18.

Consequently, there was little thought given to the absence of Asian sporting giant, China, which had pulled out of the series due to the outbreak of SARS. But then, to that extent, the same could not be said about the Indians who failed miserably to gain even a single gold for a second time in-a-row. In the end, the Indians after being outclassed managed only two silver and three bronze medals in the men's section and two bronze medals in the women's. Even the comparatively thin field in most events never came to their rescue.

In the men's section, the Sri Lankans had a clean sweep in two events, the 400m and 3000m. But more than the triumph registered by J.M.S. Jayaweera and his team-mates in the 3000m, what stood out was the win that Rohan Pradeep Kumara, the Asian championship double gold-medallist, eked out over his compatriots Sugath Tilakeratne and Prasanna Amarasekera. Also impressive was the manner in which Gennadiy Chernovol strode over the straight to collar the 100m gold for a second consecutive time.

Mohammed Al-Salhi's repeat win in the 800m indeed did mark that his victory over Asian champion Mikhail Kolganov (Kazakhstan) was by no means a flash in the pan. The other repeat gold-medallists from Hyderabad included Narongdech Janjai (110 hurdles), Mohammed Al-Khuwaildi (long jump), Abbas Samimi (discus) and Sergey Voynov (javelin), each emerging an easy winner.

It was another creditable performance by Olympic medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe as she dashed to an effortless win in the women's 100m. The Lankan girl who suffered from dehydration and gastro-enteritis on her return home from Hyderabad was rushed to a local hospital straight from the airport, less than 48 hours before the meet.

But a determined Jayasinghe showed no signs of fatigue as she pushed Uzbekistan's Guzel Khubbieva and Orranuch Klomdee (Thailand) to the second and third spots with a fine effort of 11.53s. ``I am happy to win at home. Though I would have preferred to post a better time. But for my illness, I am sure I would have done better.''

Damayanthi Darsha, shocked by Kazakhstan's Svetlana Bodirtskaya in Hyderabad over the 400m, had her revenge as she left the Kazakh and compatriot D.H.M. Priyadharshani for the gold in the one-lapper. The Asian Games champion was clearly in control of the race and with her rhythmic striding took only 52.74s to reach the wire whereas Bodirtskaya faded away after an initial spurt. The Kazakh was timed at 53.23s while Priyadharshani came in at 55.51s.

The rest of the four individual events saw Tatyana Roslanova and Yelena Kascheyeva (Kazakhstan), Trecia Roberts (Thailand), Du Xianhui (Singapore) continuing their supremacy in the 800m, long jump, 100m hurdles and shot put respectively. Surprisingly, none of them could match their own Hyderabad performances and still could win comfortably. Maybe the presence of a better prepared Indian team could have made a difference.

The results:

Men: 100m: 1. Gennadiy Chernovol (Kaz), 10.60s, 2. S.P.N. Hemantha (SL), 10.84s, 3. Sanjay Ghosh (Ind), 10.86s. 400m: 1. Rohan Pradeepa Kumara Fernando (SL), 46.31s, 2. Sugath Tilakaratne (SL), 46.48s, 3. Prasanna Amarasekhara, 46.81s. 800m: 1. Mohammed Al-Salhi (KSA), 1:47.98, 2. Mikhail Kolganov (Kaz), 1:46.16, 3. P.W.G.M. Pushpakumara (SL), 1:48.31. 3000m: 1. J.M.S. Jayaweera (SL), 8:18.38, 2. K. Chandradasa (SL), 8:22.54, 3. G.S.P. Mendis (SL), 8:25.89. 110m hurdles: 1. Narongdech Janjai (Tha), 14.35s, 2. Mohammed Faiz Mohammed (Mas), 14.43s, 3. Indika Kumara de Silva (SL), 14.45s. Long jump: 1. Mohammed Al-Khuwaildi (KSA), 7.96m, 2. Maha Singh (Ind), 7.50m, 3. Ahmed Al-Dossary (KSA), 7.36m. Discus: 1. Abbas Samimi (Irn), 61.41m, 2. Sultan Al-Dawodi (KSA), 59.66m, 3. Anil Kumar (Ind), 57.96m. Javelin: 1. Sergey Voynov (Uzb), 79.06m, 2. A.B.P. Nishantha (SL), 74.27m, 3. Harminder Singh (Ind), 65.84m. 4 x 100m relay: 1. Sri Lanka, 40.77s, 2. India, 41.41s, 3. Sri Lanka ` A', 42.07s.

Women: 100m: 1. Susanthika Jayasinghe (SL), 11.53s, 2. Guzel Khubbieva (Uzb), 11.70s, 3. Oranuch Klomdee (Tha), 11.82s. 400m: 1. Damayanthi Darsha (SL), 52.74s, 2. Svetlana Bodritskaya (Kaz), 53.23s, 3. D. H. M Priyadharshani (SL), 55.15s. 800m: 1. Tatyana Roslanova (Kaz), 2:03.80, 2. Tatyana Borisova (Kgz), 2:04.28, 3. Zamira Amirova (Uzb), 2:06.63. 100m hurdles: 1. Trecia Roberts (Tha), 13.42s, 2. Sriyani Kulawansa (SL), 13.59s, 3. Soma Biswas (Ind), 14.68s. Long jump: 1. Yelena Kashvheyeva (Kaz), 6.36m, 2. Lerma Elmira Gabito (Phi), 6.31m, 3. Elena Bobrovskaya (Kgz), 6.12m. Shot put: 1. Du Xianhui (Sin), 18.07m, 2. Zhang Guirong (Sin), 17.47m, 3. Juthaporn Krasaeyan (Tha), 16.27m. 4 x 100m relay: 1. Thailand, 44.71s, 2. Sri Lanka, 46.12s, 3. India, 47.36s.