Lankan contingent leaves for Rio | Daily News

Lankan contingent leaves for Rio

Sri Lanka’s ten-member contingent for the XXX1st summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro was scheduled to leave for Brazil in the early hours of today (1) with veteran marathon runner Anuradha Indrajith Cooray as the overall captain.

The 38-year-old long distance specialist, who erased Asian Games gold medallist S.L.B.Rosa’s 40-year-old Sri Lanka marathon record earlier this year, came to Colombo last week after a month-long stint in Kenya. Cooray, who will be competing in his third Olympic Games after 2004 Athens and 2012 London, is confident that he could better his Sri Lanka mark.

“My target is to finish the race in two hours and 12 to 13 seconds, if everything goes fine.

If I could achieve that target, I should be able to finish within the first ten runners,” the UK-based Lankan athlete said.

“I think we have a strong contingent and all of them should be able to make their presence felt and at least renew their respective Sri Lanka records. Four of our members have achieved qualifying standards and they could improve further in Rio,” he said. The Lankan contingent is scheduled to travel to the latest Olympic city of Rio de Janeiro via Dubai and Sao Paulo. After their arrival in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Guarulhos–Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport, popularly known locally as Cumbica Airport, they will take an-hour long domestic flight to Rio de Janeiro.

The Lankan Olympians are taking a long 36-hour journey with two transit points, but will get ample time to settle down before the 206-nation Games begin on Friday with a spectacular opening ceremony. But the first event for a Lankans will be on Sunday (7) when five-time South Asian Games gold medallist Kimiko Raheem competes in women’s 100m backstroke qualifying round heats.

However, winning an Olympic medal will be a distant goal for Sri Lanka which has won only two medals in the 120-year-old Olympic Games’ history – a silver each by Duncan White in London 1948 and Susanthiya Jayasinghe in Sydney 2000. Nevertheless, they will make every endeavour to make it at least to semi-finals or finals of their respective disciplines.

From Sri Lanka’s point of view, they have two notable achievements even before the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. For the first time in the 12-decade long Games’ history, a Sri Lankan swimmer has achieved qualifying standards to compete in Rio (Mattew Abeysinghe) while Chamila Nuwan Darmawardana will become the first ever Lankan judoka to compete in Olympic Games.

All athletic events, other than the men’s and women’s marathon at which Sri Lanka will be fielding Cooray and Niluka Geethani Rajasekara, will be worked off at the Rio Olympic Stadium, originally built for the 2007 Pan American Games. Seating capacity has been temporarily expanded for the mega event but its track has been completely relayed. Unlike at most other Olympic Games, the opening and closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Games will not be staged at the official athletic venue.

Instead, the two ceremonies scheduled for August 5 and 21 respectively will take place at legendary Maracana Stadium, the iconic venue which was modernised when Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Maracana Stadium will also host certain key matches of the Olympic men’s and women’s football tournaments, including semi-finals and the two finals.

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