It took 18yearold Shehan Abeypitiyage of Sri Lanka a good 10 minutes and a hint from an IAAF official to understand that he had just written a page of his country’s athletics history, albeit its World Junior history.
Indeed, Sri Lanka has had its share of medals at Olympic Games and World Championships but never had a representative of this Asian island managed to qualify for a final at the IAAF World Junior Championships.
With his semi final run of 10.59, Abeypitiyage grabbed the last qualifying place for tomorrow’s 100m final, a feat which has made him, his mother and his country very proud.
Is it true?
“Really? I’m in the final? You’re not telling me a lie?” was Abeypitiyage’s first reaction when told that his fourth place would be good enough to get through to the next round. “Let me wait for the official results on the screen just to be sure,” the Colombo-native said cautiously.
A quarter finalist at last year’s World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Abeypitiyage improved the national record to 10.51 when he finished second at the Asian Junior Championships back in June. And his aim in tomorrow’s final is to improve on that time and break 10.50 seconds.
A student at the language university in Colombo, Abeypitiyage took up athletics and specifically the 100, 200 and 400 at the age of 13 inspired by his mother Sriyani Abeypitiya, herself a 100 and 200 sprinter.
“I am sure my mother and my country will be very proud of my qualification to the final,” he said of today’s performance.
Running on a river!
Abeypitiyage had previously shown great potential as he took a 10.68 easy win in the morning’s first round heat, his race one that was contested during the torrential downpour.
“It didn’t bother me that much but it was like running on a river!”
Abeypitiyage will have a hard task ahead when he lines up in lane 2 at 20:10 tomorrow night alongside World Youth champion Dexter Lee, US champion Terrell Wilks and Jamaican record holder Yohan Blake but he hopes he has already made an impact on the world scene.
Fairly small and lightly built, Abeypitiyage seems to have room for improvement.
“I train 6 times a week and I would like to become a professional athlete. But for that you need to run 9 seconds and I don’t know if I can do that!”
“I would love it if a school in the US or in England would offer me a scholarship. I would accept it straight away!”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF