By Naushad Amit in Kathmandu Nepal
Sri Lanka track and field athletes won six more gold medals on Saturday (7), along with two silvers and a bronze, on the final day of the athletics competition at the 13th South Asian Games at Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Sri Lanka's Dilshi Kumarasinghe produced a sensational run to help Sri Lanka win gold in the women's 4x400m event. (Picture courtesy Sameera Peiris)
That took Sri Lanka’s gold medal haul in track and field to 15, almost half of the 34 medals they won in those events.
It was an extraordinary effort from Sri Lanka’s athletes, who faced logistical issues upon arriving in Nepal last week.
The final day produced some excellent performances, notably in the Men’s and Women’s 4x400m relays and in the Women’s Marathon where Hiruni Wijayaratne became the first Sri Lankan to a gold medal in a marathon at a South Asian Games, completing the 42-km run in 2 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds, nine minutes ahead of Pushpa Bhandari of Nepal.
“It was a difficult run, because of the cold weather, the dust and the uphill runs, which usually we don’t get in a marathon. Adding to that the road where the marathon was not closed fully, there was oncoming traffic and that was a different experience altogether,” Wijayaratne stated.
“Compared to conditions in Doha, Qatar, it was totally different here in Kathmandu. Overall it was a good run. I’m glad that I could finish the run and I’m proud that I was able to win the gold medal for Sri Lanka,” the national record holder of marathon, added.
In two other exciting performances, the Men’s and Women’s 4x400m relay teams brought thrills where surging runs in the last lap of both events saw Sri Lanka make up ground and win gold.
In the Men’s event, Aruna Darshana gave Senira Gunaratne the baton with a healthy lead, but by the end of the lap, Gunaratne had conceded the lead to India and gave up another position to Pakistan after failing to hand the baton directly to Rajitha Rajakaruna. He juggled it at least thrice, before Rajakaruna dragged the baton and attempted to make up lost ground.
Rajakaruna then made a clean baton change to Lakmal Priyantha, who made a stunning run to overtake the leaders and win the event in a time of 3 minutes and 08.04 seconds.
The Women’s 400m relay was the last event in the athletics schedule for this edition of the games, and produced more thrills that what had taken place in the Men’s event.
Omaya Udayangi fell behind in the opening lap before handing off Gayanthika Abeyratne who managed to close in the gap on the top two – India and Pakistan.
Kaushalya Madushani, running the third lap, also failed to make much impact until Dilshi Kumarasinghe got the baton, and made what seemed impossible a reality.
Unlike the three other Lankan runners, Kumarasinghe paced herself brilliantly to ensure she had enough in the tank down the final stretch to surge past her two opponents to get to the finish line first with a time of 3 minutes and 41.10 seconds.
Indunil Herath and Dilshi Kumarasinghe won gold in the Men’s and Women’s 800m, while Nadeesha Lekamge also won in the Women’s Javelin Throw, where Sri Lanka also won silver courtesy Nadeeka Lakmali.
Abeyratne won Silver in the Women’s 800m.
Sumedha Ranasinghe won bronze in the Men’s Javelin Throw with his third attempt and the distance of 74.97 metres.