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<%on error resume next%> Tall order for Geethani today
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Tall order for Geethani today

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 13 - Sri Lanka’s promising long distance runner Niluka Geethani Rajasekara will make her Olympic debut when she competes in the women’s marathon of the Rio 2016 Games to be worked off at Sambodromo here Sunday (14) commencing at 9.30 am local time (6 pm SL time).

Rajasekara completed her final work out today under the watchful eyes of her coach Sajith Jayalal, who has been guiding the Lankan lass after the sudden death of Brigadier Parry Liyanage, who has coached many medal-winning Sri Lanka athletes.

“I know it is a tall order but I will not give up easily. I am ready to face the challenge and run my personal best timing. I will go all out for it. If I shatter the Sri Lanka women’s marathon record, I should be able to secure a good place,” she said on the eve of her big race. The 34-year-old who was previously labelled as a 5,000m and 10,000m runner has not run many international marathon races.

But she stormed into the marathon arena only in her second such race of her career. After winning the LSR Marathon in Colombo a couple of years ago, she came across the best achievement in her career when she won the 2015 Hong Kong marathon with a new Sri Lanka record of two hours, 40 minutes and seven seconds.

“That changed my career entirely and I decided to fully concentrate on marathon running. My performance in Hong Kong qualified me to compete in the 2015 IAAF World Championship and the current Olympic Games,” she said. Rajasekara who ran in the IAAF World Championship women’s marathon in Beijing last year and secured 49th place out of 68 competitors, said it was a big experience. “That race taught me a lot of things.

It was a big experience and the weather that prevailed in Beijing at that time was not favourable at all. It troubled all runners and slowed the race down. But with that experience, I am ready to compete in Rio and go for a better timing,” she said. Both the start and the finish of the women’s marathon will be at the famous Sambódromo and the course will take the world’s best runners past some of Rio’s most iconic sights.

The competitors are scheduled to race through the large green area of the Aterro do Flamengo, which includes Flamengo Park, one of the city’s most popular leisure areas, and down to Botafogo beach. They will turn at the beach, which has spectacular views of Sugarloaf Mountain, and run the second leg.

All three medallists at 2015 World Championship women’s marathon will be seen in action in Rio too. The woman to watch will be Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia who proved her credentials in winning the marathon gold medal at the IAAF World Championships Beijing, which had one of the closest marathons in history. Dibaba edged ahead of Kenyan Helah Kiprop and Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain to take gold.


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