Italy-based Sri Lankan sprinter Yupun Abeykoon and 3000m steeplechase athlete Nilani Ratnayake are very close to qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games, according to National Athletics Coach Y. K. Kulatatne.
Abeykoon who finished in fourth place at the recent Diamond League Meet in Rome has already reached the 50th position in the World Rankings and is a frontrunner for the Olympics.
Only seven Asian athletes are ahead of Abeykoon in the latest rankings and three of them are from Japan, three from China and one from Bahrain.
Abeykoon is the only South Asian sprinter close to Olympic qualification. The final qualification date is June 29.
Meanwhile, Nilani Ratnayake has already reached the 37th place in the rankings for the Olympic qualifying standards.
Bahrain athlete Winfred Yavi is the only Asian athlete who is ahead of Ratnayake in this ranking list. “Most of the European and US athletes have plenty of meets to compete before the June 29th deadline unlike the Sri Lankan athletes who are starved of international exposure,” Kulatatne told the Daily News yesterday. “The Sri Lankan athletes don’t have many international meets to compete and to collect the ranking points required for the Olympic qualification,” he lamented.
“Both meets are very important for the Sri Lankan athletes to reach their required standards,” he added. Five Sri Lankan athletes will compete at the Kazakhstan Intentional Meet from June 19 and 20 while 15 athletes will take part in the 66th National Inter-State Athletics Championship in India from June 25 to 29. Abeykoon’s name has been recommended by Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) for both these events but he has not yet confirmed his participation.
Meanwhile, US-based Sri Lankan high jumper Ushan Thiwanka, who is also in contention to reach the Olympic qualifying standards, has confirmed his participation for the Indian Meet.