The under-rated Sri Lankans sprung a few surprises on their fancied Indian rivals on the opening day of the swimming competitions of the 12th South Asian Games at the Dr. Zakir Hussain pool here on Saturday.
Of the eight gold medals decided during the final session, India finished with four. However, the confidence expressed by the home camp that it would win a lion’s share of the titles stood shattered as Colombo-based collegian Matthew Abeysinghe produced a fine display to finish on top of the podium thrice, each with a Games record to boot.
The bespectacled swimmer was on song in the men’s 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly before anchoring the relay quartet in the 4x100m freestyle event. Abeysinghe’s superiority was never in doubt as he won the 100m fly title beating Supriyo Mondal, who had to dig into his reserves to stop Cherantha de Silva from overtaking him for the silver.
In the 4x100m relay, the Indians tried their best to turn the tide in their favour but a final lap spurt by Abeysinghe gave Sri Lanka a memorable win.
The silver lining for the home team came through Sandeep Sejwal’s win in the 200m breast stroke in record time, the Indian stroking past Kiran Jaisinghe (Sri Lanka) and Md. Shariful Islam (Bangladesh) and touching the wall in 2:20.66.
Pushed to the hilt
The Indian women, too, were pushed to the hilt but managed to beat back the Sri Lankan challenge spearheaded by Hiruni Perera and Ishani Senanayake. They were denied a clean sweep as Harshitha Jayram and Kalyani Saxena were pushed out of the medal bracket by Catherine Swan (Pakistan), Hasanthi Nugawela (Sri Lanka) and Romana Akter (Bangladesh) in 200m breast stroke.