VALE runner Anuradha Cooray dramatically qualified for the London Olympics on Sunday when he ran 10 seconds inside the required time at the London Marathon.
Taking nothing away from the brilliant efforts of all the other runners from Aylesbury who were in action on the 26.2 mile course, the story of the day was undoubtedly Cooray as he strode to brilliant time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 50 seconds – 10 seconds inside that all-important Olympic target.
The well liked and respected Sri Lankan athlete, who trains at Vale of Aylesbury Athletics Club under the guidance of Nick Taylor, will now realise his dream of competing at the Games this summer.
Having run at the Athens Olympics, Cooray was desperate for the opportunity to compete at that level again, and he and coach Taylor have been working towards London 2012.
Unfortunately the Greggs bakery worker receives no sponsorship and so has to juggle work with intense training and his young family.
The Bucks Herald Sports Personality award winner has been focusing on hitting the Olympic time ever since missing out by 42 seconds when he ran in the Puna Marathon in December.
But he did not look a man under pressure as he lined up on the front row with the elite athletes on Sunday wearing a bright yellow top and the number 27.
His run was covered extensively on TV and his delight was clear to see as he crossed the line with his trademark finger point celebration.
Speaking after the race, the star said he was pleased but insisted he can get even better.
“I am so happy and very relieved. There was a chance I could run without the qualifying time, but it was only a chance.
“I have done it and I just feel like a weight is off my shoulders.
“I know I can run a better time than this, I started off too fast, but I will make sure I pace myself much better in August. I am just pleased that I can concentrate on the race itself now.”
Amidst the popping champagne corks, proud coach Taylor said it was a memorable day.
“It is great for Anuradha and the club.
“He has worked so hard for this, I am very relieved and pleased for him.
“He made me sweat though with just 10 seconds to spare!
“This also opens doors for him. Not only will he run in London this summer, he will also now have a place at the World Championships in Moscow next year.”
Cooray is the first ever Sri Lankan to compete in the London Marathon. He finished 23rd overall.