Inspiration can come from anywhere and Sri Lanka’s Yupun Abeeykoon just proved this. The Sri Lankan athlete took inspiration from India’s Neeraj Chopra and breached the 10-second mark in 100m on Sunday and got himself included in an elusive list of athletes. Yupun Abeykoon became the first South Asian to breach the mark.
Yupun Abeykoon reached the finish line in 9.96 seconds, 0.03 seconds ahead of Renyier Mena of Cuba at the Resisprint international meet. A few days ago, the Sri Lankan had said that he wants kids to be inspired by him like kids in India are inspired by Neeraj Chopra. “When Neeraj won the Olympic medal, he became a role model in India. I want kids to be inspired by me as well,” Abeykoon had said.
Notably, only 169 men in the history of the sport have ever breached the 10-second mark. Athletes from just 32 countries have got their names listed in this exclusive club. And even among them, athletes of African origin dominate. Until Sunday, in that list of sub 100m runners, there were just nine athletes not of African descent.
Nonetheless, Yupun Abeykoon has tinkered with the ratio a bit. But it was not an easy journey for the Sri Lankan. He found motivation in Susanthika Jayasinghe’s performances. “I started my career in 2004 when my teachers picked me to compete at a school meet. At that time, there was a lot of demand for athletics because we had won medals at the world level. As a result, it gave me good motivation to run,” he says.
It took me seven years to improve my best: Yupun Abeykoon
Although Yupun Abeykoon switched from triple jump to sprints, he did not have much success. He clocked a time of 10.83 seconds to take sixth place in his first Sri Lankan championships. Abeykoon then decided to move to Italy and it was then he started getting results.
“When I first came to Italy, my personal best was 10.83 seconds. It took me seven years to improve my best and get to where I am. I changed my coach in 2020. It was only then that I started breaking the results,” he says. Notably, the 27-year-old Sri Lankan trains with Italian and former 400m Olympian Claudio Licciardello at the GS Fiamme Gialle Sports Centre.