Duncan White, Susanthika – only medallists in
Seven Sri Lankans at London 2012 Olympic Games
OLYMPICS: Seven Sri Lanka sportsmen and women will be seen in action
at the forthcoming Olympic Games in London.
Anuradha Indrajith Cooray
Sonali Christine Merril
Four of them - marathon runner Anuradha Indrajith Cooray, shooter
Mangala Samarakoon, shuttlers Niluka Karunaratne and Thilini Jayasinghe
have made direct qualification on merit while three others, including
two swimmers, have made it to the 2012 London Olympics through
universality placing, formally known as wild card system.
Long distance runner Cooray is the most senior member of the Sri
Lanka contingent, having competed at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens,
The only other member of the Sri Lanka contingent with previous
Olympic experience is former national champion and three-time South
Asian Games silver medallist Jayasinghe, who in 2008 became the first
ever Sri Lanka woman shuttler to compete at Olympic Games.
Sri Lanka contingent will have the luxury of several overseas based
players, including swimmers Heshan Unamboowe and swimmer Reshika
Udugampola who have been training in Australia.
Backstroke specialist Unamboowe , a recipient of an Olympic
Solidarity Scholarship awarded by the National Olympic Committee of Sri
Lanka, has been training at the Nunawading Swimming Club in Melbourne.
His performances at the 14th FINA World Championships led them to an
invite by FINA to compete at the Olympic Games on universality places.
Former women’s 100m freestyle national champion Udugampola too has
been training in Melbourne and is determined to better her personal best
in London. The world swimming
governing body FINA considered her
performance at the 14th FINA World Championships in allocating her a
slot for the London Games under its universal placing system.
Cooray – age no barrier
Veteran marathon runner Cooray has proved that age is no barrier for
his endurance in long distance running in making a direct qualification
for London Olympics after clocking 2:17.50 at the London Marathon three
Making his is Olympic debut in Athens eight years ago, Cooray clocked
two hours, 19 minutes and 24 second to finish 30th out of 113
competitors at the 2004 Athens Games. He has also won the South Asian
Games marathon gold medal in Pakistan 2004.
Coo ray’s recently to Olympic marathon brings back memories of the
late K.A. Karunaratne, who represented Sri Lanka at the 1992 Olympic
Games in Barcelona. He has been residing in Buckinghamshire, UK on a
training and competition stint with the Vale of Aylesbury Athletic Club.
Karunaratne – first to qualify
Undisputed men’s singles badminton champion Karunaratne was among the
first to qualify for the London Olympics, to emulate the feats of
Niroshan Wijekoon who competed at the 1992 Olympics. Karunaratne is
currently ranked 30th out of 38 in the men’s category which assured him
of a place in the men’s singles at the London Games.
Besides Karunaratne, Jayasinghe and Cooray, the only other Sri Lanka
to make direct qualification to 2012 London Olympics is Samarakoon of
the Sri Lanka Army in men’s rifle shooting. South Asian Shooting
Championship gold medallist Samarakoon has also won a gold medal at the
2006 South Asian Games in men’s 50m prone event with a record score. He
narrowly missed a medal at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou 2010, where
he finished fourth in his pet event.
Though athletes had taken a major portion of Sri Lanka contingents
for previous Olympic Games, there are only two Lankan athletes who will
be seen in action at the London Games. Besides Cooray, woman sprinter
Sonali Christine Merril has been granted a wild card entry to run in
women’s 400m hurdles.
The 23-year-old US-based Lankan hurdler has shown impressive form in
recent times. She made her Sri Lanka debut at the 2011 IAAF World
Championships in Daegu, South Korea. She was introduced to Sri Lanka
athletics by former AASL President Major General Palitha Fernando in a
worldwide talent search of Sri Lankan migrants.
She came to limelight early last year when she established a new Sri
Lanka national record in women’s 400m hurdles at the 53rd annual Mount
Sac Championship at the Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut, California.
In July last year, she bagged the bronze medal in the women’s 400m
hurdles at the Asian Athletic Championship in Kobe, Japan, clocking
In the 116-year old history of Olympic Games, only two Sri Lankans
have won medals – both silver medals. Men’s 440 yards runner Duncan
White accounted for Sri Lanka’s first ever medal at Olympic Games when
he finished second at the 1948 London Games.
Celebrated woman sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe ended Sri Lanka’s
52-year-old lean run without a single Olympic medal when she finished
third in women’s 200m at the Sydney 2000 Games in Australia. When the
eventual gold medallist Marion Jones of the USA was stripped off her
medal after being positive for banned steroids, Jayasinghe’s bronze was
subsequently elevated to a silver medal to equal the feat of White.