80-strong Sri Lankan competitor contingent for 17th Asian Games in Incheon

Monday, 15 September 2014 00:47 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shamseer Jaleel The 17th Asian Games 2014 will be staged in Incheon, South Korea, starting from 19 September, with participation by 45 Asian countries. This is the third time South Korea will be hosting this mega event, with the first being held in Korea in Seoul (1986) and then in Busan (2002). This time around Sri Lanka will be sending a strong 80 competitors to compete in athletics, boxing, cricket T20 men and women, beach volleyball, hockey, rugby sevens, sailing, wrestling and weightlifting, along with 31 officials. South Korea is only the second country to host most number of Asian Games (three) behind Thailand, which had hosted Asian Games in 1966, 1970, 1978 and 1998. Weightlifting champion Chinthana Vidanage will be the overall captain of this event for the Sri Lankan outfit. Rear Admiral Shemal Fernando will be the Chief de Mission (CDM) for the Lankan contingent. Sri Lanka will be aiming for Gold in cricket T20 men and also a medal for the Women’s T20. Rugby sevens under Fazil Marija is also a likely to win a medal if Sri Lankan sevens players can show a good pair of legs after their remarkable performances in Hong Kong and Malaysia in the Asian Sevens series. They will need to come out with an excellent performance and knock one of the Asian heavy weights in sevens rugby Hong Kong, South Korea or Japan in order to grab a medal for the very first time in the Asian Games. For Sri Lanka Damayanthi Darsha (women’s 400m)and Susanthika Jayasinghe (women’s 100m) have won Gold at the Busan 2002 Asian Games when South Korea last hosted the Asian version of the Olympics. But Sri Lanka had a gray patch at the last two Asian Games in Doha (Qatar) 2006 and Guangzhou (China) 2010. Sri Lanka has secured 10 Gold, 10 Silver and 22 Bronze medals from the last 16 games. All 10 Gold medals have come from athletics. Legendary Nagalingam Ethirweerasingham was the first Sri Lankan to win Gold for the country in Tokyo in 1958 clearing a height of 2.03m in high jump, followed by S.L.B. Rosa in the 5,000m and 10,000m at Bangkok 1970, W. Wimaladasa in 400m and Sri Lankan 4x400m relay team comprising A. Premachandra, Kosala Sahabandu, Sunil Gunawardena and W. Wimaladasa in Teheran 1974, Sugath Thilakaratne in 400m and Damayanthi Darsha in 200m and 400m in Bangkok 1998. The last Gold medals won were at Busan 2002 by Susanthika Jayasinghe in the 100m and Damayanthi Darsha in the 400m. Boxing, tennis, cycling, yachting, golf and karate are the other sports in which Sri Lanka has won Asian Games medals in the past. There are 31 officials in this year’s contingent, including Dian Gomes (boxing), Jayantha Seneviratne, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Champaka Ramanayaka (cricket – men), Roshan Iddemalgoda (cricket – women), Dervin Perera (athletics), Rohan Chinthaka (rugby), Mahen Obeysekera (weightlifting), Rohan Pathirage (beach volleyball), Sarath Dissanayake (hockey) and Senaka Senevirathne (sailing).