Saturday, 28 July 2012

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Sonali wants to enter 400m hurdles semis

Sri Lanka hurdler Sonali Christine Merril intends to make it to the semi finals of women's 400m hurdles at the 2012 Olympic Games here.

The US-based Lankan woman hurdler has been going great guns since she was spotted little over an year ago in a worldwide talent search by former AASL President Major Ganeral Palitha Fernando, who is due here to witness when the track and field competition of the 205-nation Games begins on August 3.

Merril has been going great guns since then, winning the Asian Championship bronze medal in Kobe, Japan last year and making it to the 2011 IAAF World Championship in Daegu, South Korea the same year.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily News today, the former UC San Diego track stand out said she wants to make it to the semi finals of her pet event at London Games. "My target here is to run an all out to make it to the semis. I know that it is not so easy but I will work hard to achieve that goal," one-time USA's NCAA National Champion and eight-time All-American for the Tritons from 2007-10 said.

Merril, agraduate of the University of California who is residing in San Diego, said she is in touch with her coach Joey Tosta, husband and coach of Beijing 2008 Olympics women's 400m hurdles silver medallist from USA Sheena Tosta. "He has given me workout schedules and I am working on them. I am in touch with my coach over the phone and he is monitoring my progress here, giving me necessary updates and instructions," the Lankan lass said.

"My lead up has been good. I have been working hard, putting on a lot of effort. I am in better shape now. However, I know that it is a touch task and that I have to work really hard to make it to the last 16," said Merril who turns 25 years next month.

Besides Merril, there six other competitors in the Sri Lanka contingent to 2012 Olympics who will be seen in action from Saturday.

Sri Lanka's Thilini Jayasinghe has been drawn in Group M, along with Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon and Portugal's Telma Santos for women's singles badminton competition.

Jayasinghe, who in 2008 became the first Sri Lankan woman shuttler to represent her country in Olympic history, will have back to back matches on Sunday and Monday. Jayasinghe will take on the17-year-old Thai lass on Sunday before taking on the 28-year-old from Lisbon on Monday.

"I am happy to make it to my second successive Olympic Games and that alone is an achievement. But I will make every endeavour to make it to the second round. I will do my best,"she said. Asked about heavy criticism over her selection back home by certain quarters, Jyasinghe said many think that she has got a wild card.

"I made it to the Olympics purely on merit, based on my world rankings both in 2008 as well as in 2012. When the sport is at professional level, we must target at tournaments that are world ranking level. I played in international rankings because I was keen on making it to the Olympics. Nobody gifted me this opportunity and I earned this through hard work, playing in many international tournaments as possible," former Sri Lanka national women's singles champion said.

Sri Lanka's overall captain Niluka Karunaratne will be seen in action on Monday (30) morning when he takes on Japan's Kenichi Tago in the first round of men's singles badminton competition. He will find it a tough task if he is to outplay much fancied Japanese and make it to the second round.

However, Sri Lanka's undisputed men's single champion for over a decade is equally determined to improve on his world rankings and make it the top ten men's shuttlers in the world within the next two years. "It is no easy task but I know I could make it if I really work hard," Karunaratne said.

Sri Lanka's sole shooter at London Olympics will be seen in action on Monday morning. He will fire in the qualification round of men's 10m air rifle event which has attracted a total of 54 competitors. "I am happy that I qualified to compete in Olympics. My target from here onwards to better my Sri Lanka record," Samarakoon said.

Thilini Jayasinghe will be the first Sri Lankan to be seen in action here when she takes on Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) in badminton women's singles first round at 9.44 am GMT on Sunday. On the same morning, swimmer Heshan Unamboowe will compete in men's 100m backstroke first round at 11 a.m. GMT.

Sri Lanka captain Niluka Karunarate takes on Kenichi Tago (Japan) in badminton men's singles first round at 9.07 a.m. GMT on Monday. On the same morning, shooter Mangala Samarakoon will fire in men's 10m air rifle qualifying round at 9 a.m. GMT. Jayasinghe will honour her second qualifier against Telma Santos (Portugal) in women's singles first round at 1.42 pm GMT on Monday.

Among the other Sri Lankans to be seen in action are Reshini Udugampola in swimming - women's 100m freestyle first round at 10 a.m.on August 1, Sonali Christine Merril in athletics - women's 100m hurdles first round at 7 p.m on August 5 and Anradha Indrajith Cooray in athletics - men's marathon at 11 a.m. On August 12.

It is nice to be a part of the Olympic family as a media personality, covering my fifth Olympic Games for the Daily News. The idea of covering Olympics was given to me by former Daily News sports journalist, the late R.L. Fernando, who unsuccessfully attempted to cover 1988 Seoul Olympics. Since then, yours truly has made it to four Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 before making it to London Games.

However, record for covering most number of Olympic Games from Sri Lanka goes to Asoka Goonetilleke of Divaina - six. London 2012 Games will be his sixth, following Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008. Besides Goonetillake, Sports Editor of Sunday Times, S.R. Pathiravithana is in town to make his Olympic debut as a media personality. Deputy Sports Editor of Dinamina Prince Gunasekera, Deputy Sports Editor of Ceylon Today Champika Fernando and Island Sports journalist Reemus Fernando too are heading for London to join the print media team.


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