The Sri Lanka athletic squad bound for the Asian Games suffered a major setback on Saturday when veteran sprinters Sugath Tillekeratne and Damayanthi Darsha pulled out from the 45-nation event due to injury.
The Asian Games will be held in Doha, Qatar, from December 1-15.
Both Tillekeratne and Darsha, who dominated the Asian track in men`s and women`s 400m during the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, were due to team up with the national squad later this month. However, they did not turn up for the final relay selection trial Saturday morning at the Sugathadasa Stadium.
`Sugath informed us through his coach while Darsha personally informed us of her decision to pull out,` said athletic chief Dervin Perera.
Darsha`s exit will leave Sri Lanka`s women`s shorter sprint relay, 4x100m, in deep trouble. Darsha and Jani Chathurangi (suspended over doping allegations) are being replaced with D.P.P. Priyadarshani and N.C.D. Priyadarshani.
`It`s a great loss. If we had both these sprinters, Darsha and Jani, we certainly had a chance of winning medal,` Perera lamented.
Darsha has been going through a bad patch throughout the year. A knee injury has forced her to pull out from all major events including the Commonwealth Games, South Asian Games and now the Asian Games.
`I am struggling right now with my injured knee. Any undue risk will further hamper my career. Taking time off is the best,` Darsha told the `The Island`.
`I am going to rest and will start next year to see the possibility of continuing my career. If not, I will make a decision,` she said hinting of a possible retirement from athletics sooner than expected.
We failed to contact Tillekeratne. This, however, might signal the end of the runner who has been struggling to regain his form over the last couple of years.
The new women`s relay team will comprise rejuvenated sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe, Sujani Buddika, D.P.P. Priyadarshani and N.C.D. Priyadarshani while P.H.D Padmakumari and P.A.S Lakmini will be stand-by.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka`s men`s 4x400 relay team will comprise of Rohan Pradeep Kumara, Prasanne Amarasekera, Rohith Pushpakumara and Asoka Jayasundara while M.D.S. Mudunegedara and T.H. Priyashantha will serve as reserves.
The women`s 4x400 team includes, Menaka Wickramsinghe, Chandrika Subashini, Lasanthi Deepika, P.H.D. Soysa, S.P. Kusumawathi and D.H.M. Priyadarshani.
The Sri Lankan athletic contingent is now reduced to 35 from the original 39-member squad after the yesterday`s trial.