Yupun Abeykoon creates history for Sri Lanka winning a bronze medal in the Men’s 100m, becoming the first Sri Lankan ever to win a Commonwealth Games medal in the most coveted sprint event of all. Yupun came into the final as the slowest qualifier but was drawn opposite Ferdinand Omanyala who was the pre-race favourite and this proved to be a blessing in disguise.
As the gun went off, Yupun got off to a fast start and was head to head with Omanyala going into the second half of the race. From then onwards, Omanyala sprinted off into the distance while Yupun kept up his blistering pace keeping Eseme of Cameroon at bay in the lane opposite him. The defending champion Akani Simbine of South Africa showed his class to put on the afterburners in the final part of the race but as the sprinters came to the line it was clear to all who were witnessing it that Yupun had run himself into a historical bronze medal and with a time of 10.14 seconds. South Asia’s fastest man had just created history and put the name of Sri Lanka back on the sprinting map. This was Sri Lanka’s fourth medal in athletics in Commonwealth Games history after Duncan White, Sugath Thilakaratne and Sriyani Kulawansa and more was to follow soon!
Earlier in the semifinals Yupun lined up in semi-final 3 and was one of the favourites to make it to the finals. As in the heats he got off to a steady start but unlike the heats he did not seem to be able to reach the same acceleration. Nonetheless, he was in the mix going into the final few metres and dipped together at the line with Benjamin Azamati. Both Yupun and every Sri Lankan watching faced a nervous wait until the times came up and it was a collective sigh of relief to see that Yupun had just made it into the final with a time of 10.20 seconds. Just to imagine this was just a prelude to what was to come in the finals.
To add the icing on the cake, Palitha Bandara was on hand to create further history for Sri Lanka with a silver medal in the Men’s F42-44/61-64 Discus Throw. Breaking his Personal Best throw 3 times in the process of one night, Bandara was seemingly buoyed by the atmosphere in the stadium and put his best on show on the biggest stage of all. This was Sri Lanka’s first parasports medal at the Commonwealth Games and Sri Lanka’s third medal in the 2022 edition. After being in fifth place after three throws of the competition, Bandara would elevate himself into silver with a throw of 43.13m before further extending his lead with 44.20m. Both these throws count higher according to the Raza scoring system than throws by other athletes with a slightly different disability due to Palitha’s disability being deemed more debilitating.
On what was a historical night for Sri Lanka at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, maybe the most poignant moment was when the two medallists shared a warm embrace on the track showing the true spirit of comradery that embodies the Commonwealth Games.
Rahul Jeyanthan | MoraSpirit