By Shehan Daniel reporting from Tokyo, Japan
Nimali Liyanarachchi will take part in the Women’s 800m heats tomorrow, the first day of track and field competition at Tokyo 2020.Liyanarachchi will take part in the fourth heat, scheduled to take place at 7:19 a.m. Sri Lanka time, and will run in a competitive field alongside Raevyn Rogers of the United States, ranked fourth in the world in the event, and Keely Hodgkinson of the Unites States, ranked 11th.
Her personal best time of 2:02.58 secs is the slowest out of the eight athletes in her heat, and she will have her work cut out in her bid to qualify for the next round, with only the three top finishers in each of the six heats moving onto the next round along with the next six fastest athletes.
Liyanarachchi has been preparing under the watchful eye of her coach Sujith Abeysekera since reaching Tokyo last week, although she opted out of training today in lieu of her event tomorrow.
Qualifying for the Olympics was a decade-long dream come true for the Hambantota-born athlete.“I didn’t expect to qualify, so I feel lucky to have got this opportunity to represent my country,” Liyanarachchi told the Daily Mirror in the lead up to the games.“It’s a 10-year dream that I have realised, and I am very happy about that.”She was not in the original list of athletes for the Olympics, but after Steeplechase athlete Nilani Rathnayake fell out of the required ranking range, Liyanarchchi was given a Universality Place since there were no women’s track and field athletes from Sri Lanka.
But despite being a late addition and her preparations hampered by the lockdowns and travel restrictions in the country as a result of Covid-19, Liyanarachchi hopes to make the most of her debut as an Olympian.“I couldn’t train the way I used to, but I am still hoping to achieve a personal best at the Olympics,” she said.The first session of the athletics schedule tomorrow will also include the Preliminary Round and the Round 1 heats of the Women’s 100m. The second session, starting at 3:30 p.m. Sri Lankan time, will include the heats of the Women’s 5000m, the qualification round of the Women’s Triple Jump and the Shot Put and the finals of the Men’s 10000m.