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Pushpamali 'shoots' first for SL

Dinesh Weerawansa reporting from Greece

ATHENS, Sunday

Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Pushpamali Ramanayake will be the first Sri Lankan competitor to be seen in action at the forthcoming summer Olympic Games which starts at this historic city later this week.

With the much looked forward to athletic events due to commence only on August 18, experienced Ramanayake gets an opportunity of coming out for the first from the Sri Lanka contingent. She is due to fire at the women's air rifle qualifying round event to be worked off at Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre here on Saturday at 9 a.m. local time. Ramanayake, who bagged the gold medal of women's air rifle team event with Mali Wickremasinghe at the Commonwealth Games ten years back, is the most experienced campaigner in the Sri Lanka contingent.

Pushpamali Ramanayake

Having made her Olympic debut in Barcelona 1992, Ramanayake has been one of the most successful women shooters that Sri Lanka has ever produced and it will be interesting to see what surprise she has in store.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka contingent is due to arrive here on Monday evening to take part at the forthcoming Games. Captained by Susanthika Jayasinghe, the 14-member Sri Lanka team was due to leave Colombo in the early hours of Monday and would reach here via Dubai, where they would be on transit for four hours. The team comprises of eight competitors and six officials.

Joseph Kenny is the Chief de Mission of the Sri Lanka contingent with has Commodore Shemal Fernando as the athletic manager. Dr. Shiromi Pilapitiya of the Sports Medicine Unit of the Ministry of Sports will also accompany the team, which has three coaches - Sunil Gunawardena, Dhammika Nandakumara and national coach Lakshman de Alwis, who recently survived allegations connected to a young athlete attempting to get a banned steroid injected.

Asian Championship men's high jump winner, Manjula Kumara Wijesekera may not be able to come to the Greek capital along with the Sri Lanka contingent. Hence he made a late entry to the Olympic Games with a jump of 2.273m at the recent National championship, his name has been sent as a subsequent late entry. Hence, his official accreditation card has not come to Colombo with the original list.

However, there is no need to panic as his name is included in the official entry list of the men's high jump event and he only needs the official accreditation card for visa purposes.

In case he fails to leave Colombo with the team, he is due to reach here on Thursday (12) in the next available flight.

Jayasinghe will return to Athens with the sweet memories of her historic feat here at the 1997 IAAF World Championships. It was there that the 28-year-old sprint queen provided shocks with women's 200m silver medal, Sri Lanka's first at a world championship meet.

But the present Jayasinghe may not have the same form and speed. Despite winning the women's 200m bronze at the last Olympics in Sydney four years ago, Jayasinghe has even failed to qualify to run in her pet event at the Athens Olympics. Follow Sri Lankans in Athens:

Team

Susanthika Jayasinghe - women's 100m

Damayanthi Darsha - women's 400m

Rohan Pradeep Kumara - men's 400m

Manjula Kumara Wijesekera - men's high jump

Indrajith Cooray - men's marathon

Conrad Francis - men's 100m butterfly

Menaka de Silva - women's 50m freestyle

Pushpamali Ramanayake - women's air rifle

Team officials:

Joseph Kenny (Chef de Mission),

Commodore Shemal Fernando (Athletic Manager),

Shiromi Pilapitiya (Doctor)

Coaches:

Lakshman de Alwis, Sunil Gunawardena, Dhammika Nandakumara

NOC officials:

Hemasiri Fernando (President),

Commodore H.U. Silva (Secretary General)

Ministry officials:

R. Ranugge (Secretary),

Ms. Kodikara (Ad. Secretary).

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