Seven Athletes makeup Lanka team to London Olympics
The Olympics which takes place every four years is no doubt the biggest sporting event and sees the best athletes in the world vying for a medal in order to bring glory and honour to their country. This year, the Sri Lankan contingent will see seven athletes participating . Here's a look at our team for London 2012…
Anuradha Indrajith Cooray
Cooray was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and is currently living and training in Aylsebury in the United Kingdom. He schooled in Mallawagedara and in Divulapitiya.
Cooray was a member of the Sri Lanka Army and initially competed in the 10,000 metre event. He participated in several Asian Championships which saw him being runnerup and being ranked in the top four.
In 2001, at the age of 23, he switched to Marathon running. In 2004 Cooray was the South Asian Games Marathon Champion and the Champion of the Asian Marathon Championships. His Olympic debut was in Athens, Greece where he was placed 30th out of 113 participants.
Cooray continued to compete in Marathon and HalfMarathon events but retired soon after. Upon moving to the UK, he met his current coach Nick Taylor and re-engaged in the sport with the Vale of Aylesbury Athletic Club. In 2012 he participated in the Virgin London Marathon and was the first Sri Lankan to compete in this event. At this race he achieved the Olympic qualification standards (the B-Standard Qualification Time) and remains the only athlete in Sri Lanka to have ever qualified to the Olympic Games in the Marathon Event.
Christine Sonali Merrill
Merrill was born and raised in San Diego, California, USA where she attended Bakersfield Christian High School where she was part of the athletics team. She graduated as the Valedictorian and later went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, San Diego.
Merrill currently trains in the US under Joey Tosta. In 2009 she was the NCAA Division II National Champion. In 2010 and 2011 she was the champion at the Sri Lankan National Athletic Championships and remains the current national record holder in the Women’s 400 metre hurdles event.
She won bronze at the 2011 Asian Championships in Kobe, Japan and participated in the 2011 IAAF World Championships.
Qualification in Athletics for the Olympics requires achievement of the Qualification Standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federation while National Olympic Committees are entitled to one unqualified entry per gender in Athletics. Due to Merrill’s top ranking in Sri Lanka, she was selected as the female to represent the country in Athletics in the Women’s 400m Hurdles event in London.
Karunaratne is the Captain of Sri Lankan team at this year’s Olympic Games. He hails from Ambalangoda where he attended both elementary and high school.
He started playing badminton at the tender age of eight and in 2001 at the age of 16 he won the Senior National Singles title, making him the youngest national champion. He has won 10 consecutive National Men’s Singles Championships since – an island-wide record. Karunaratne is also a fourtime National Champion in the Men’s Doubles event, and a three-time Mixed Doubles Champion.
In 2006,Karunaratne was a Quarter Finalist at the Commonwealth Games making him the only Sri Lankan athlete to have reached this stage. During this period he was also the holder of an Olympic Scholarship awarded by the National Olympic Committee. In 2011 he was the Champion at the Puerto Rico International Challenge, the Miami International Series, and the Welsh International Series. While in 2012 he has won the Uganda International Series and the Iran International Challenge.
Karunaratne is ranked 47th in the world, the highest ranking a Sri Lankan player has ever achieved and is currently in the 30th position of the 38 allocated places in the Olympic qualifying rankings of the Men’s Singles Badminton Event.
Thilini Sudhara Jayasinghe
Jayasinghe originates from Kandy where she attended Mahamaya College and was named Best Sports Woman in 2004. She took up badminton at the age of ten and has a great deal of competition experience.
Jayasinghe has competed at the Asian Championships in 2002 to 2003, 2005 and 2007 to 2011 with her best rank as a quarter finalist. She also competed at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games as well as the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games where she was also a quarter finalist. She won a silver medal at the 2006 South Asian Games and was the captain of the Sri Lankan team for the World Mixed Team Championship held in China.
She was the first woman shuttler to have represented Sri Lanka at the Olympic Games when she competed in Beijing 2008 after a one-month international training stint in India. Jayasinghe will join Anuradha Cooray as an Olympic veteran on the team.
A last minute withdrawal of a women’s singles player from South Africa opened up a quota place in the event which was re-allocated to Jayasinghe due to her world ranking of 109th place. She is the only female representation from Sri Lanka in Badminton in London.
Samarakoon was born in Nuwara Eliya and currently resides in Badulla. He will be the only double starter of the Sri Lanka Olympic Team, competing in both the 50m Rifle Prone, and 10m Air Rifle events. Mangala has been a member of the Sri Lanka Army since 2000 and originally competed in Athletics; however, during military training, his talent for shooting was identified and he made the switch to the new sport in 2001. He is currently serving as a Non-Commission Officer and undergoing training at the Panagoda Army Camp. In 2006, Samarakoon was the Champion at the South Asian Games with a record score. He competed in the 10 metre, 50 metre and the 3×40 metre events at both the 2010 Asian Games and 2010 Commonwealth Games where he was ranked fifth and seventh respectively. At the 2010 Asian Games in the same year, in Guangzhou, China, he scored 592 points and was ranked 4th overall, achieving the minimum MQS score of 587 for the Olympic Games. As per every sport, there is a quota, or maximum allocation of athletes for each event in the Olympics. In the cases that quota places are not fully filled or used, they can be re-allocated, and this is how Mangala snagged a spot to compete at the world’s foremost sporting event.
Heshan Bandara Unamboowa
Unamboowe was born and raised in Kandy. He schooled at Dharmaraja College and later at Trinity College. In 2006 while at Trinity College he was the awarded as the Best All-round Student.
He took up swimming on his doctor’s advice at the age of four as he was an asthmatic. And the rest as they say, is history.
Unamboowe has held an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, awarded by the National Olympic Committee since 2010. Through the scholarship he underwent training at the Nunawading Swimming Club in Melbourne, Australia, which has contributed a great deal towards his success.
He currently holds national records in the 50 metre Freestyle (long course), the 50, 100 and 200 metre Backstroke, and the 100, 200 and 400 metre Individual Medley (short course).
He has won one silver and four bronze medals at the 2006 South Asian Games and at the same event in 2010 he won gold in the 100 metre Backstroke establishing a new record, in addition to two silver and two bronze medals. He has won medals at the 2005, 2007, and 2009 Asian Age Group Swimming Championships. Unamboowe has competed at the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and captained the Youth Olympic Games to Singapore in 2010 and participated in three FINA World Championships. It was at the 2011 FINA World Championships that he qualified for the Olympic Games. His performance at the 2011 World Championship and his ranking on the FINA Point Table landed him an opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games on a universality place. Unamboowe hopes to continue swimming when he heads to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in the USA.
Reshika Amali Udugampola
Udugampola was born in Colombo where she continues to reside. She schooled at Southlands College, Galle and Gateway College, Colombo. In 2009 and 2010 she was the Swimming Captain at Gateway College. She is currently following a Business Management degree at the American National College in Colombo.
She began swimming in 2003 and in 2010 won her first National Championship and was placed fourth at the South Asian Games. In 2011 she won the Under 19 Pentathlon Women’s Swimming Championship, and set national records in the 50 meter Butterfly, Short Course 50m Butterfly, and 200m Freestyle. She competed at the 14th FINA World Championship in 2011 and gained a universality berth to compete at the 2012 Olympics. Udugampola has undergone training at the Nunawading Aquatic Club in Melbourne, Australia which has contributed to her success.