By Susil Premalal
Sri Lankan athletes Kalinga Kumarage (400m men), Aruna Dharshana (400m men) and Nadeesha Ramanayake (400m women) are scheduled to compete today (September 29) in round one of the 19th Asian Games.
Track and field events will be held from September 29 to October 5 at Olympics Sports Park Main Stadium in Hangzhou, China.
The trio's personal best times are Kumarage (45.64 seconds), Aruna Dharshana (45.49) and Nadeesha Ramanayake (52.61)..
Sri Lanka Athletic (SLA) had named a strong team of 16 athletes for the Hangzhou Asian Games but Yupun Abeykoon (100m, 200m men) and Ushan Tiwanka (High Jump men) withdrew at the last moment.
In Asian Game history Sri Lanka has won 27 medals comprising 10 gold, 6 silver and 11 bronze in athletics from 1951 (Delhi) to 2018 (Jakarta).
Sri Lanka first athletic medal was won by MA Akbar who won the Javelin Throw silver medal in 1951.
The last time Sri Lanka won an Asian Games athletic medal was 17 years ago at the 2006 Doha Games when Susanthika Jayasinghe (100m women silver and 200m bronze) and 4x400m men's relay team (Rohan Pradeep Perera, Rohitha Pushpakumara , Prasanna Amarasekara and Asoka Jajasundhara) won a bronze.
Although the SLA predicted that Sri Lanka will win five athletic medals this year, it has been reduced to three following the withdrawal of Yupun and Ushan. Their medal hopes Aruna Dharshana (400m men), Nadeesha Ramanayake (400m women), Gayanthika Abeyrathna (800m -1500m women), Tharushi Karunarathna (800m women), 4x400m men and 4x400m Mixed Relay.
Meanwhile, 718 athletes from 41 countries in the Asian region are ready to compete for the athletic event that starts today. Among them, India (68) has the most number of participants followed by hosts China (66).
Among the South Asian countries, India (68), Pakistan (19), Sri Lanka (14), Nepal (8), Afghanistan (2), Bangladesh and Bhutan (1) are participating.
Sri Lanka athletic team: Men: Kalinga Kumarage (400m 4x400, Mixed Relay), Aruna Dharshana(400m 4x400m, Mixed Relay), Pabasara Niku (4x400m Mixed Relay), Rajitha Rajakaruna, (4x400m Mixed Relay), Dinuka Deshan (4x400m Mixed Relay), Pasindu Kodikara (4x400m Mixed Relay). Women: Rumeshika Rathnayaka (200m), Nadeesha Ramanayake (400m, 4x400m, Mixed Relay) Tharushi Karunarathna (800m, 4x400m, Mixed Relay), Gayanthika Abeyrathna (800m, 1500m), Sarangi Silva (Long Jump), Dilhani Lekamge (Javelin Throw), Sayuri Mendis (4x400m, Mixed Relay), MJHUththara (4x400m, Mixed Relay).