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
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
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.