Sri Lanka running sans two of its proven old horses will have to beat odds to achieve the Olympic qualifying standards in the men s 4x400 meter relay when the country s team runs at the forth coming Asian Grand Prix which commences in Thailand in late June.
Sri Lanka will not have both Rohan Pradeep Kumara and Sugath Thilakaratne in the men s event and will have to heavily depend on the experience of Prasanna Amarasinghe to reach Olympic standards.
The Asian Grand Prix is offering Olympic hopefuls a chance to get qualified for the Beijing event, but Sri Lanka will be handicapped due to the absence of its top athletes including Susanthika Jayasinghe, Manjula Kumara and Rohan Pradeep Kumara.
While Susanthika Jaysinghe is already a candidate for the Beijing Olympics, Sri Lanka s chances of fielding a 4x400meter men s relay team depends on its Asian Grand Prix quartet s performances. According to Sunil Gunawardena, the Manager of the Sri Lankan contingent, Sri Lanka has to beat odds to achieve the standard.
`Absence of Rohan Pradeep Kumara is a disadvantage. We had a better chance of earning Olympic qualifying standard if Pradeep Kumara was available. But still we have a chance. We will rely on Prasanna, Rohitha Pushpakumara and Asoka Jayasundara to play a big role. Our problem was the unavailability of an athlete to fill the shoes of Pradeep Kumara. We are keeping faith in Shivantha Weerasuriya to combine well with the team,` said Gunawardena.
Shivantha whose pet event is 200 meters will fill the vacancy created by Rohan Pradeep Kumara who is not available due to injury and Gunawardena believed that he would fit fell into the team with the on going training.
Although Shivantha s pet event is 200 meters he has been a part of Sri Lanka 4x400 meter relays on quite a number of occasions including the Asian Athletic Championships and Commonwealth Games where Sri Lankan team has impressed.
`We have no doubts of winning Gold. Despite the absence of Pradeep Kumara we are capable of winning medals. Our concern is on achieving Olympic Standards.`
With the 400 meter and the 4x400 meter events taking place on the same day achieving qualifying standards in the relay become a serious concern.
`Prasanna Amarasekara and Rohitha Pushpakumara are both taking parting in the 400 meter individual events. They have to compete in the relay after taking part in individual events which is a big disadvantage. However they will be conscious of this fact and will have to give their maximum to bid for Olympic standard,` Gunawardena explained.
Asian Grand Prix 2008 series is scheduled to start in Thailand on June 23. The second leg of the series also will be held in the same country on the 27th and the third leg will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam on the 30th of June.
While Sri Lanka has high gold medal hopes on its 4x400 meter men s relay team and 400 meter men s event, Menaka Wickramasinghe in the 400 meters and Premila Priyadarshani in the short distance races are the probable medal prospects in the women s category.
The Sri Lankan team for the Asian Grand Prix: Menaka Wickramasinghe, Premila Priyadarshani, Priyangika Madumathi, Prasanna Amarasekera, Umanga Surendra, Prabath Mendis, Rohitha Pushpakumara, Dulan Priyashantha, Asoka Jayasundara, Shiwantha Mudalige