Time To Cut Through SL Domination

Time to cut through SL domination

Dambulla, Aug. 19: For a while now, Sri Lanka have bern India’s bugbears. The combativeness, cohesion and confidence of the Islanders has stymied India more often than not, and given the knowledge of their conditions, it wasn’t surprising that the hosts scythed through the defences of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men on Monday.

For sure, one defeat does not mean all is lost for Indian cricket and this being a five-match series, there is enough scope for the Indians to come back and challenge the Lankans on their turf.

It isn’t going to be easy but what is hurting India is their inability to read Ajantha Mendis. He is still new on the cricketing horizon and it will be a while before the batsmen sort him out, but currently his bag of tricks are proving too much for this bunch, as Dhoni himself admitted the other day.

Having said that, it wasn’t Mendis who broke the proverbial back of the Indians in the first match; in fact Mahela Jayawardena didn’t even need to bring him on until the 20th over by which time the Indians were struggling at 73/4.

The six-batsmen, five-bowler theory backfired on Dhoni so much so that it won’t be surprising if they revert to a seven-four format for the second game on Wednesday. To change the composition of the squad following a solitary defeat is to hand over the advantage to the opposition but there are times when a certain amount of prudence is required.

It could mean that Subramaniam Badrinath, who replaced the injured Sachin Tendulkar, could find a place in the XI at the expense of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who was hardly used in the first match. The Hyderabad spinner bowled just three overs and given the fact that the turf had something in it for the seamers, it is very likely that Harbhajan Singh will be the only specialist spinner in the XI. Just in case there is something in it for the spinners, there is always Yuvraj Singh to do the fifth bowlers’ job.

This is where the Indians will miss Virender Sehwag. Let alone his avowed brutal batting ability, the all-rounder is capable of tanding a trick or two with his off-spinners as well. The ankle injury which saw Sehwag return to India without taking part in the one-day series has certainly hit India hard. Then again, that’s the way the cookie crumbles: Dhoni has been dealt his card and he has to pick from the 15 at hand.

There is a school of thought that suggests that Gautam Gambhir could open with Irfan Pathan, thereby taking the pressure off new lad Virat Kohli. But the problem with this combination is that the Indians will be left with Kohli and Badrinath, both still wet behind the ears in international cricket, to handle the middle-overs which translates into tackling the intimidating figure of Mendis.

If there is a collapse as in the first game, then the middle-order will stand thoroughly exposed. Alternately, if the team sticks to the six-five combo, then Praveen Kumar, overlooked for the first match, could come in for Ojha. That would mean four medium-pacers on the helpful Rangiri Dambulla Stadium wicket and the advantage of having Praveen is that he can also wield the willow decently.

Having let the Lankans draw first blood, India need to do all the running now; any further slip-ups will mean handing over the advantage to Jayawardena’s men. It isn’t in Dhoni’s nature to give up so easily: it’s time they cut through the Islanders’ domination.

In pursuit of a winning combo

Dambulla, Aug. 19: Having been cut to size in the opening game of the five-match series, the Indians are a bit shaken up. Though their confidence isn’t exactly shattered, it is evident that they are trying all possible ways to counter the Sri Lankans’ charge on their home turf.

Coming up short on a wicket that had a bit for the medium-pacers has cut through Indian pretensions; proof of the pudding lay in the optional net session on Tuesday.

The Lankans, despite winning the first match comfortably, also opted for a net session to give some of their batters like Chamara Silva and Tillakaratne Dilshan a chance to get into rhythm while the Indians went full tilt in afternoon practice.

Five of the 15 – Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel and Parthiv Patel – were allowed to rest while the remaining had a proper hit.

The focus, not surprisingly, was on medium-pace as the batsmen tried to get used to the conditions at the Rangiri Dambulla stadium.

Of course, the practice wickets are hugely different from the match turf but having gained some knowledge of the pitch on Monday, the Indians put it to good use.

The line-up of the Indians at the net session didn’t give anything away; it was as per their batting order. With Gambhir resting, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj formed the first group with even bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and fielding coach Robin Singh rolling their arm over.

In fact Prasad showed he had lost none of his skills as he repeatedly tested the batsmen when the second group of Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and S. Badrinath came in. At least on two occasions, the Indian skipper was Prasad’s bunny, edging behind to the delight of the bowling coach.

Going by what transpired at the nets, it wasn’t easy to deduce the Indians’ combination for the morrow but what made it more interesting was the fact that even Praveen Kumar had a lengthy batting session.

The Uttar Pradesh medium-pacer was quite effective, hitting some big shots and it suggested that the team management may be toying with the idea of bringing him for Pragyan Ojha and sticking to the five bowler theory.

Coach Gary Kirsten, who rejoined the team on Saturday after his return from South Africa where his mother passed away recently, marked out Raina for some special attention, giving the youngster some tips on batting.

It’s always a dilemma for teams: to go in with seven batsmen or six, but the point is if the first six don’t do the job, then what is the purpose in waiting for the seventh?

Harika pockets Arjuna award

New Delhi, Aug. 19: India’s ODI cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will walk the red carpet when President Pratibha Patil confers the country’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for the year 2007 – on the National Sports Day on August 29.ῠ Chosen for his role in the T20 World Championship victory in South Africa, Dhoni will become the second cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar to be honoured with the Khel Ratna.

Harika who won the World Junior chess recently has been named for an Arjuna award. Chitra K. Soman (athletics), Anup Sridhar (badminton), Arjun Atwal (golf) and Prabhjot Singh (hockey) are some of the prominent names among the Arjuna awardees.ῠ Coaches Sanjeeva Kumar Singh (archery), Jagdish Singh (boxing), G.E. Sridharan (volleyball), Jagminder Singh (wrestling) have been chosen for the prestigious Dronacharya award.

Meanwhile, Abhinav Bindra, who won India’s first-ever individual gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, will be awarded Rs 50 lakh by the government during the ceremony.ῠ The prize money, under the scheme of special award to medal winners in international sports events, was increased by Rs 20 lakh after the Union sports minister M.S. Gill requested the finance minister and the Prime Minister to hike the sum in the wake of Bindra’s historic feat. The sum for silver and bronze medal winners has also been raised to Rs 30 lakh from Rs 18 lakh and Rs 20 lakh from Rs 2 lakh, respectively, the ministry said.

The selection committee for the Arjuna Awards was constituted under the chairmanship of legendary Milkha Singh. A separate selection committee met under the chairpersonship of Jyotirmoy Sikdar for the selection of Dronacharya Awards for the year 2007.

List of awardees

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for the year 2007:ῠ Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Cricket) Arjuna Awards for the year 2007: Chitra K. Soman (Athletics), Anup Sridhar (Badminton), Johnson Varghese (Boxing), Harika Dronavalli (Chess), Arjun Atwal (Golf), Prabhjot Singh (Hockey), Tombi Devi (Judo), Bajranglal Takhar (Rowing), Avneet Kaur Sidhu (Shooting), Alka Tomar (Wrestling), Farman Basha (Power Lifting Disabled category) Dhyan Chand Awards for the year 2008: Hakam Singh (Athletics), Mukhbain Singh (Hockey), Gian Singh (Wrestling). Dronacharya Awards for the year 2007: Sanjeeva Kumar Singh (Archery), Jagdish Singh (Boxing), G.E. Sridharan (Volley Ball), Jagminder Singh (Wrestling)

Paes steps down as captain

New Delhi,ῠAug. 19: After a lacklustre outing at the Beijing Olympic Games, Leander Paes has stepped down as captain of the Davis Cup team for the World Group playoff against Romania next month.ῠ The Atlanta Olympic bronze medallist, who paired with Mahesh Bhupathi at the Beijing Games, quit minutes after their quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer and Stanislas Warinka in the men’s doubles, the All India Tennis Association said in a statement on Tuesday.

Paes informed AITA executive vice-president and secretary-general Anil Khanna in a meeting held in Beijing that he wanted to step down as he wanted the best Davis Cup team to represent the nation. When contacted, Khanna refused comment on the issue. There has been trouble in the team for some time now, the latest episode coming four months ago when Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Vijay Amritraj refused to play under Paes in the Asia/Oceanic Zone Group I tie against Japan. The tie was scheduled for the second week of April at the RK Khanna Stadium here.

In an e-mail to the AITA, the members of the Davis Cup team had complained about Paes and his attitude towards the team members.ῠ The AITA, meanwhile, has decided to appoint Davis Cupper S.P. Misra and member of the Indian team that went into the Challenge Round in 1966, as the non-playing captain for the tie. Bopanna failed to make it to the team as the selection committee chose Paes, Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Amritraj to represent India for the forthcoming tie to be held on red clay in Bucuresti, Romania, from September 19 to 21.

Asked about the Bopanna’s omission from the team, Khanna said, “Amritraj and Devvarman are in better form and are ranked higher than him (Bopanna). No doubt Rohan is much more experienced but Devvarman is in great form. The selection was on the basis of recent performance.”ῠ Paes took over as captain of the Indian Davis Cup team after Ramesh Krishnan stepped down as non-playing captain. Paes holds the best win-loss record for India having won 83 Davis Cup matches and lost 31. In a career spanning over last 17 years he has played 44 Davis Cup ties.

Asif fails ‘B’ sample test too

Karachi, Aug. 19: Mohammad Asif on Tuesday found himself in deep trouble as the dope test of his ‘B’ sample has also tested positive for a contraband substance, leaving the Pakistan pacer facing the possibility of being banned for two years.ῠ “I can only confirm the B sample test has come positive but the results of both tests are different which is strange to us,” Asif’s lawyer Shahid Karim said from Geneva.

Karim said that the ‘B’ test, which was conducted on Monday, had found 5.4 milligrams of nandrolone in Asif’s urine sample. Asif had asked for a ‘B’ sample test after he had tested positive for 6.2 mg of nandrolone during the inaugural Indian Premier League, during which he played for Delhi Daredevils.ῠ The 25-year-old is already suspended from all forms of cricket by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after the first test turned out to be positive.ῠ But Asif said that he was also surprised at the different test results and was thinking about appealing to the authorities.ῠ Asif, however, conceded he had taken some medicines for his elbow injury even before participating in the IPL.

Hurt Anju fouls, fails

Beijing, Aug. 19: It was the nightmare for Anju Bobby George that came at high noon here. Three Xs against her name on the electronic display board adjacent to the long jump pit meant no access into the finals. And for Anju this could well be the last Olympics.

With the automatic qualification set at 6.75 metres or the best 12 jumpers qualifying, it would have been a Herculean effort for the Kerala girl. She couldn’t have been anywhere near the best 12 on the day as the field had the likes of Lyudmila Blonska, Grace Upshaw, Carolina Kluft, Tatyana Kotova, Tatyana Lebadova and Brittney Reese.

So, on the day even a fully fit Anju would have struggled to make the grade. But the disappointing part was that she was at her erratic best.

For someone with so much of experience, Anju will be disappointed at bowing out the way she did her, particularly after recording her best of 6.83 at Athens four years ago.

Anju did feel upset and she said she had hurt her ankle during the warm-up. “I didn’t want to pull out since it is the Olympics,” she told reporters. However, insiders said that she had had steroid injections here on prescription – it is in the knowledge of the organisers – to curb the pain but it was unbearable. It was visible when she held her ankle soon after the first jump. She stepped over the board the first time and repeated it twice more to bow out of contention.

Earlier in the day, India’s best bet in wrestling, Yogeshwar Dutt, bit the dust without a whimper after giving some false hopes in the pre-quarterfinals.

Americans struggle as Jamaicans make merry

Beijing, Aug. 19: Two US favourites failed in the final metres of their quest for Olympic gold on Tuesday, allowing the footloose Jamaicans to continue their domination at the Bird’s Nest. Sanya Richards, premiering a fashionable track suit for her finest moment, could not produce her finishing kick, and lost a seemingly certain title to Christine Ohuruogu of Britain 30 metres from of the line in the 400 metres.

Shericka Williams also outran Richards in the closing stages, adding one more twist to the Jamaican domination of the Americans in the shorter races. LoLo Jones, another great US athlete with star appeal, had the 100m hurdles race clinched with two jumps left, but she smashed her spike into the hurdle and stumbled to the line, crossing with a scream of outrage before crumbling to the track in misery.

This time, it was another American profiting when Dawn Harper took over to win in a personal best 12.54 seconds. The disastrous finishes nowhere near compared with Usain Bolt’s breeze through the games.

China completes best gymnastics record in 20 years

Beijing, Aug. 19: China completed the most dominant Olympic gymnastics performance from any nation for 20 years here Tuesday after yet another judging controversy involving the home nation. China’s Zou Kai won the men’s high bar and Li Xiaopeng the men’s parallel bars to take the host nation’s gymnastics gold medal tally to nine out of 14, the most since the Soviet Union won 10 at the Seoul Games in 1988. The Chinese won seven of the nine men’s gold on offer and two of the women’s, including the prestigious team medals in both genders.

US gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin ensured the final night of gymnastics competition did not all go China’s way, snaring a one-two finish on the women’s balance beam. Zou won his second individual gold of the Games ahead of Jonathon Horton of the United States and reigning world champion Fabian Hambuechen of Germany.

Steiner is strongest man at the Games

Beijing, Aug. 19: An emotional Matthias Steiner of Germany won the men’s super-heavyweight weightlifting gold medal at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday, 13 months after his wife died in a car crash.

Austria-born Steiner carried a smiling picture of his wife Susann at the competition venue and used it as inspiration to lift 203kg in the snatch as well as a last-gasp 258kg in the clean and jerk for a total effort of 461kg.

“I didn’t want to go back into the cellar for nothing,” he told reporters later, referring to the area behind the stage where the lifters await their turn at raising the bar.

“I cannot describe the emotions that I was going through,” he said, as he leapt for joy on the stage, throwing his coach into the air for good measure.

He said his wife’s death in a car crash in Heidelberg in July 2007 had pushed him into despair, but he had resolved to continue his Olympic quest.

“It was a good motivation to fight here for the gold medal. I wanted to give her the gold medal,” he said, still clutching his wife’s small framed picture.

It was Germany’s first gold medal at the weightlifting competition, which ended on Tuesday with hosts China running away with eight of the 15 golds at stake. It also meant traditional lifting powerhouse Russia ended up without a title. Russia’s Evgeny Chigishev lost out to Steiner by one kilogram and settled for the silver medal, while world champion Viktors Scerbatihs of Latvia won the bronze medal with 448kg. Steiner was born in Austria and represented his country of birth at the Athens Olympics four years ago, placing seventh in the lower 105kg category, but then had a falling out with Austria’s weightlifting federation.

He applied for German citizenship in 2005 and got married, but his career was shelved as he could not compete without a passport.

This he finally obtained last January, when he went to his wife’s grave to tell her the good news, saying at the time: “She should be the first to know”.

He then bulked up to compete in the super-heavyweight class, for lifters weighing more than 105kg. The 1.83-metre German tipped the scales at 145.93kg at the weigh-in.

“During the competition I did not think so much about her, because I had to stay in the competition. But afterwards, of course, I missed her a lot. If she could be here, that would be very satisfying for me.”

Things appeared to have gone badly however after Steiner missed his last snatch attempt, putting him in interim fourth place, seven kilograms less than Chigishev who had hoisted 210kg.

It seemed to get worse as the German again failed to convert his first clean and jerk effort of 246kg.

Chigishev piled on the pressure with a final clean and jerk lift of 250kg, which meant the German had to lift 10kg more than his only converted clean and jerk effort of 248kg. But in the end he delivered. 

Big four into to hockey semis

Beijing, Aug. 19: Defending champions Australia ensured field hockey’s big four contested the Olympic men’s semifinals for the second time in a row after playing a 3-3 draw against Britain on Tuesday. Eddie Ockenden scored the equaliser for the Kookaburras two minutes before the final whistle of a dramatic game in which the spirited British team kept the favourites on their toes.

Bevan George and Jamie Dwyer were the other scorers for Australia, who needed a draw to qualify. Barry Middleton, Richard Mantell and Rob Moore got the goals for Britain. In Thursday’s semifinals, world number one Australia clash with fourth-ranked Spain, while third-placed the Netherlands take on number two Germany.

The semifinal line-up is identical to the one at Athens four years ago where Australia won their maiden title by beating the Dutch in the final. Spain topped pool A with 12 points, one ahead of Germany. The Netherlands finished first in pool B with 13 points, two more than Australia.

Versatile striker Santiago Freixa slammed two goals as Spain, often regarded as the best team never to have won the Olympic gold, outplayed South Korea 2-1 in a match they only had to draw to qualify.

“We are getting there, but we will take it one match at a time,” said Spanish coach Maurits Hendriks. “There is a lot of good hockey still to be played in this tournament.” Earlier, the Germans fought off New Zealand 3-1 to end the preliminary league with three wins and two draws. The Dutch, gold medallists in Atlanta and Sydney before taking silver in Athens, overcame a sluggish start to beat rejuvinated Pakistan 4-2 in their last match. Three-time champions Pakistan played their best hockey of the competition in the first half, but could not hold on to a 1-0 lead through Muhammad Imran’s penalty corner.

Trampoline gold for China’s Lu

Beijing, Aug. 19: Lu Chunlong won the men’s trampoline on Tuesday, giving China a gold-medal sweep in the event. Teammate He Wenna won the women’s event on Monday. Lu, who led after qualifying, scored a 41.00 to edge Canada’s Jason Burnett, who got the silver with a 40.70.

“Since the women had already won the gold medal, we didn’t want to fall behind,” Lu said. “When I was doing my first and second movement, I was scared. After I got through both of them, I told myself I wouldn’t make any mistakes.”

Burnett’s difficulty score of 16.8 beat Lu’s 16.2, but Lu got higher marks for his execution. Burnett impressed Chinese coach Hu Xinggang. “He went all out because he usually doesn’t do that level of difficulty,” Hu said. “He did a good job and nailed his routine. In the past he wasn’t too stable, but this time he did well.” China also got the bronze with Dong Dong coming in third.

“I want to share this joy with my good friend and teammate Dong Dong,” Lu said. “We worked together and without my teammates I could not perform so well.” Lu competed last in the event just as he had a night before, and his flawless flips had the home crowd on its feet.

UK wins cycling golds

Beijing, Aug. 19: Chris Hoy of Britain took his third gold medal on the final day of Olympic track cycling on Tuesday. There was also gold for Victoria Pendleton, bringing Britain’s tally on the track to seven. Argentina won their first gold of the Olympic Games, taking the madison and dealing the only blow to Britain’s dominance on the track.

“I didn’t think about three gold medals. Even today I just thought about the sprint itself,” said Hoy, after defeating his compatriot Jason Kenny in the final of the men’s sprint. Mickael Bourgain of France took the bronze. World champion Hoy needed only two of the three-race series to defeat Kenny. The British coaches had told both men that they were on their own in the final and would not get any help with tactics. “They came and said they didn’t want to have any favouritism. It was the fairest way to do it,” Hoy said.

Kenny, 20, in his first Olympic Games, also has two medals. He took gold in the men’s team sprint alongside Hoy on the first day of the track competition. In the women’s race, world champion Pendleton easily defeated Anna Meares of Australia, the Athens bronze medalist. “Watching all week on television back in the Olympic Village has been very emotional for me,” said Pendleton.

China into semifinals

Beijing, Aug. 19: Captain Miao Lijie scored 28 points as China beat Belarus 77-62 to reach the Olympic Games women’s basketball semifinals on Tuesday where they will tackle Australia. China never trailed in the match and led by a comfortable 22 points midway through the third quarter, although Belarus made rebounds with a 41-22 advantage.

‘Bolt’s best yet to come’

Beijing, Aug. 19: More than 24 hours had passed since Usain Bolt’s redefining of the 100 metres, and Ato Boldon, the voluble Trinidadian who used to run the 100 for a good living, was still trying to comprehend what he had seen. “It’s amazing, and I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my mind around it yet,” said Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist turned television commentator.

Bolt, for his part, did not appear to be asking himself too many questions on Monday, comfortably negotiating the first two rounds of his next challenge: the 200 metres.

Some, including Michael Johnson, are increasingly warning that Johnson’s ethereal 12-year-old record of 19.32 seconds from the Atlanta Olympics is on borrowed time. But for now, the only world record that the aptly named Bolt, of Jamaica, holds is the 100, which he ran in 9.69 seconds on Saturday in the Bird’s Nest despite slowing to celebrate in the final quarter of the race.

He ran 9.69 with no measurable wind, which is highly unusual for an outdoor race. Those are not ideal conditions for a sprinter. Ideal conditions are closer to what Bolt had in New York in June, when he had a following wind of 1.7 metres per second while setting the record in 9.72 seconds.

The consensus is that every metre per second of following wind subtracts approximately five one-hundredths of a second from a sprinter’s time. “You put the wind he had in New York behind the 9.69 here, and O.K., now we could be down in the 9.5s except that he shut down with 20 metres to go,” Boldon said. “So now, I’m like, O.K., is that in the 9.4s? It’s mind-boggling.”

Or is it? Considering the chequered doping records of too many former 100-metre world-record holders, it is best to keep the superlatives under rein. In the last decade alone, Americans Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin have been suspended and stripped of the record.

But Jean-Fran‧ois Toussaint, director of the Paris-based Institute of Biomedical Research and Epidemiology in Sports, recently told the French sports daily L’Equipe that according to statistical models, 75 percent of the existing track and field world records are essentially out of reach but that the men’s 100 is among the 25 percent still in play.

Bolt, who has never failed a drug test, has arguments in his favour.

He is not a suspiciously late bloomer. Instead, he is a precocious talent (the youngest male world junior champion in the 200 at age 15) who has only recently started running the 100 seriously and who, at 21, is the youngest man to break the 100 record.

More intriguing from a technical standpoint, there is the new paradigm theory, linked to Bolt’s unusual 6-foot-5 stature – three inches taller than Carl Lewis and two inches taller than Tommie Smith, the sprinters to whom he is most often compared. Though Bolt is the tallest man to hold the record, he is not the first sprinter of his height to succeed in this era.

Francis Obikwelu, the Nigerian-born runner who now represents Portugal, is also 6-5 and won the silver medal in the 100 at the 2004 Olympics.

But Bolt has now run 0.17 seconds faster than the 30-year-old Obikwelu has ever run with significantly less refined technique.

So how did he manage a 9.69 with no wind on Saturday?

First, he had a fine opening phase of the race by his standards, even though he had the seventh-slowest reaction time in the eight-man field.

“It takes a while when you’re that tall to actually get into the groove when you’re coming from sitting down basically,” said Donovan Bailey, the 1996 Olympic champion in the 100 and a former world-record holder. “I actually thought after 30 metres that Asafa Powell or even Walter Dix would be leading, but they weren’t. I called it all week. What’s going to end up happening if he jumps on them before 30 metres? Good night.”

Boldon thinks early pressure applied by eventual silver medallist Richard Thompson in an adjacent lane helped Bolt push himself further. “An excellent start for him next to guys six, seven, eight inches shorter is not going to look great on tape,” Boldon said.

Boldon and Bailey see ample room for improvement in Bolt’s early phase. “He’s 21 years old and been really running 100 metres for four months,” Bailey said. “He’s raw.”

Boldon thrust his head forward and then jerked his chin upward. “His neck is arched coming out of the blocks like this,” Boldon said. “That’s a big no-no for somebody that tall.”

But both Boldon and Bailey marveled at the baseline speed Bolt displayed on Saturday from 30 to 70 metres, which is when a 100-metre runner hits his stride. “I don’t know how it’s possible to get faster in his middle 40 but he’s going to,” Bailey said laughing.

Bolt has a high knee lift for a sprinter, which Boldon said helps him generate force. But despite the physics involved, Bolt has a quicker turnover rate than would be expected of someone of his height, which means that he can finish one stride and begin another in a surprising hurry.

“A big wheel is going to turn over slower than a small wheel, and it used to be thought that was a disadvantage except now when you see this guy who has the turnover of somebody six feet,” Boldon said. “Add that to the fact that he’s probably covering three or four more inches with every stride and that he’s only taking 40 to 41 strides to finish a 100, and you cannot argue with the math.”

Boldon said he and the former 100-metre record-holder Maurice Greene, who are both 5-9, used to finish their races in 45 or 46 strides. Tyson Gay and Powell, Bolt’s top current competition, are at about 45. Lewis required between 43 and 44 at his fastest.

By arrangement with International Herald Tribune

Lights out for Spain

Beijing, Aug. 19: Spain’s synchronised swimmers have been banned from wearing a swimsuit with embedded waterproof lights which they had hoped would give an extra sparkle to their Olympic routine.

“It got very sophisticated because obviously the battery doesn’t last long and then we had to look at circuits and interrupters, so we have been working on it around two months with a crack team,” swimmer Andrea Fuentes said. “It looks a bit like Christmas lights,” added the Spaniard, one half of the team that won silver at the last world championships and are favourites for a medal in Beijing. Swimming’s world governing body, which sets swimsuit rules for a sport where sequins are almost obligatory, said the lights were an accessory but Fuentes still hoped they might back down. “This is a very conservative sport … their excuse that is you cannot have accessories on your swimsuit, but they are sewn in.”

Athlete’s ‘golden’ fate decided by zodiac sign

Beijing, Aug. 19: Something fishy is happening at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Put it all down to the stars. Forget training, dedication and determination. An athlete’s star sign could be the secret to Olympic gold.

After comparing the birthdates of every Olympic winner since the modern Games began in 1896, British statistician Kenneth Mitchell discovered gold medals really are written in the stars. He found athletes born in certain months were more likely to thrive in particular events. Mitchell dubbed the phenomenon “The Pisces Effect” after finding that athletes born under the sign received around 30 percent more medals than any other star sign in events like swimming and water polo.

In the history of the Games, the big winners in the overall medals haul were born under the signs of Capricorn, Aquarius and Aries. They boasted a significantly higher number of golds. Checking out the birthdates among the Beijing winners produces some intriguing results.

For fencers looking to deliver a sting in the tail and make it to the podium, Scorpio is the right sign. Two of the three Beijing medallists in the men’s individual sabre event were Scorpio, he said. For pole vaulters charging down the track, it is better to be born under Taurus, the sign of the bull.

Any Olympic hopefuls unsure which event to pick can now turn to olympicstarsign.com, check out their birthdate and find which sport would be the perfect astrological fit.

Ice Breaker excels

Bengaluru, Aug. 19: Ice Breaker, Chinab and Succeeding Star impressed most in the workouts when the following horses were exercised on the trial track here on Tuesday.

The over night heavy rain, which had dampened the track, had rendered the going sloppy.

Inner sand:

800 metres: Nearco Master (S. Rajesh), Alexander The Great (P. Mani) 52.5, 600/40, neck and neck. Psychic Strength (S. Marshall) 52.5, 600/39.5, note. Chinab (Zia. A), Just In Time (L. Marshall) 52.5, 600/39.5, former showed out. Powerful Dreams (Appu) 52.5, 600/39.5, moved nicely. Sunny Land (Gautamraj Urs) 51, 600/38, retains form. Greens (C. Krishnan) 57, 600/44, fluently. Lester (C. Krishnan) 56.5, 600/43.5, freely. Kalyan (C. Krishnan) 56.5, 600/43.5, easy. Super Sonic (C. Krishnan) 56, 600/43. Reflection Of Gold (Appu), Strong Minded (rb) 51, 600/39, former trounced. Zaios (rb) 55, 600/37.5, retains form. Sun Zone (C. Krishnan) 54.5, 600/41.5.

1000 metres: Fantastic Quest (B. Prakash) 1-7, 800/52, 600/39.5, improved.

1200 metres: Spark Of Elegance (rb) 1-27.5, 800/54.5, 600/43. Flower (C. Krishnan) 1-28, 800/56.5, 600/43.5. Southerner (Appu) 1-26.5, 1000/1-10, 800/53.5, 600/40.5, moved well. Sangini (rb) 1-25, 800/56.5, 600/42.5. Ice Breaker (Appu) 1-21, 1000/1-6.5, 800/50.5, 600/38, impressed. Succeeding Star (S. Marshall) 1-20.5, 800/52.5, 600/39.5, in good nick.

1400 metres: Milford (Mohd. Ghous) 1-40, first 800/53.5, eased. Arabian Knight (L. Marshall) 1-44, first 800/56.5, did pace work. Slavic (Selvaraj), Manthara (Vinod Shinde) 1-39, 1200/1-25.5, 1000/1-11, 800/56.5, 600/42.5, almost level.

1600 metres: Talk Of The Devil (Appu) 1-50.5, 1400/1-34.5, 1200/1-21.5, 1000/1-7.5, 800/53.5, 600/39.5, a good display. Mother’s Pride (S. Marshall), Inspiring Trust (R. Marshall) 1-52, 1400/1-34.5, 800/53, 600/40.5, former a length ahead.

Gate practice, inner sand, 1400 metres: Different Opinion (D. Gnaneshwer) 1-36, first 800/53, fit. Ecuador (rb) 1-44, first 800/57.5, eased. Angel Field (Mohd. Shoaib), Voice Of India (S. Chandrashekar) 1-34.5, first 800/51.5, a fit pair.

Flaming Ruby, Orochi impress

Hyderabad, Aug. 19: Flaming Ruby, Orochi Beat Hollow, Citi Storm, Dorabella and Dancing Touch worked attractively when the following horses were exercised here on Tuesday.

Sand track:

800 metres: Gold Speed (Mukesh), Enforcement (rb) 58, 600/43, they moved neck and neck. Citi Storm (Laxman), Dancing Touch (Suraj) 56, 600/43, former was one length better. Dorabella (N.M. Sequeira) 1-3, 600/47m easy. Navija (Ravinder Singh) 59, 600/44, retains form. Bakersfield (rb), Essence (rb) 58, 600/44, they finished level. Avon Gorge (Mukesh), Helenaa (rb) 1-1, 600/46, latter ended two lengths in front. Benazir (Ravinder Singh) 59, impressed. Adelaide (M.F. Ali Khan) 1-4, 600/49, pressed. Stylish Lady (rb) 1200-400/1-2, eased. Floral Tribute (rb), Regent’s Park (Mukesh) 57, 600/43, they moved neck and neck, freely. Fly By Wire (rb) 1200-400/58, a fine display, Note. Spy Mate (rb), Vinaleo (rb) 1-1, 600/46, they moved impressively. Birdie (trainer) 58, moved freely. Jazz Man (rb) 1200-400/1-3, moved well. Cannon Lad (M. Krishna) 1-2, easy.

1000 metres: Flaming Ruby (Suraj), Beat Hollow (rb) 1-14, 800/59, 600/43, former showed out. Bella Coola (Suraj), Speed Hunter (Laxman) 1-13, a fit pair. Champion Star (Ravinder Singh) 1-14, improved.

1400 metres: Khaleels Pride (rb), Friendly Fire (Mukesh) 1-47, 1200/1-32, 1000/1-15, 800/1-1, 600/48, latter started five lengths behind and finished level, maintains Bengaluru form.

1600 metres: Orochi (Suraj) 1-55, 1400/1-44, 1200/1-29, 1000/1-12, 800/57, 600/40, moved attractively.

Robin puts Air India atop

Bengaluru, Aug. 19: Local boy Robin Uthappa’s blitzkrieg of 123 from 96 balls put Air India on top against Hyderabad CA in the KSCA All India invitational cricket tournament at M. Chinnaswamy stadium here on Tuesday. When the day ended Air India was 211 for two in 40 overs with Hrishikesh Kanitkar at the crease with 22 runs. Uthappa, who was in demolition mode, hit 19 fours and 2 sixes in his fiery ton.

In another match, Bhavik Thakkar scored 77 and Sunny Patel made 54 as Gujarat Cricket Association scored 225 for six in 79 overs against KSCA XI.

Brief scores:

Gujarat CA 225/6 in 79 overs (Bhavik Thakar 77, Sunny Patel 54, Prathamesh Parmar 45, Timil Patel 35 n.o., Monish Parmar 3 n.o., R. Vinay Kumar 2/54, B. Akhil 2/28, Sunil N. Raju 2/43) vs KSCA XI

Air India 211/2 in 40 overs (Robin Uthappa 123, N Ojha 47, H. Kanitkar 22 batting) vs Hyderabad CA

Dr. D.Y. Patil CA 114/3 in 41.1 overs (Anand Singh 56, Shoiab Shaik 34 n.o., Piyush Chowla 2/31) vs Uttar Pradesh CA.

Saina targets London Games

New Delhi, Aug. 19: Her Beijing Olympic quarterfinal loss has not dampened her spirit. Instead, promising shuttler Saina Nehwal says she has now set her eyes on nothing less than gold in the 2012 London Games.

“I am a bit disappointed that I missed the semifinal berth by a whisker but I am more experienced now. I have lost many such matches so the defeat won’t really haunt me,” Saina said.

“It was my first Olympics and I never even dreamt that I will come this far. Reaching quarterfinals was most overwhelming. I know I am playing well and I have learnt how to sustain and maintain myself by seeing the international players in the Beijing Olympics village.”

“I hope I will be able to get gold in the next Olympics, which is my main aim now,” said the Hyderabadi player, who is the first Indian to reach the quaterfinals in Olympics.

Saina, who was invited by the Union sports minister M.S. Gill on her return from Olympics, did not offer any excuse for running out of steam in the crucial match and admitted that it was just her mistake.

“I can’t blame coaching or anything for that matter. I was hasty during the match. If I had played like I played in pre-quarterfinals I would have definitely reached the semis. It was my mistake,” she said.

“I was confident after my pre-quarterfinal and I badly wanted to win the next match. But it didn’t work well that day. I didn’t keep patience,” she added.

The 18-year-old shuttler, who had upset World number five Wang Chen in the Olympic pre-quarters, said that she was never under pressure to win a medal and was satisfied with her performance on her Olympic debut.


Monika seeks officials scalp

Imphal, Aug. 19: Weightlifter Monika Devi, who was forced to give the Beijing Olypics a miss due to bungled dope test, has threatened not to take part in any national or international event until the officials who “wrongly accused” her of failing the test were punished.

Monika, a 69kg category lifter, said she was a victim of politics in sports.

“I could not take part in the Olympic games as a result of politics in Indian sports. All those who are responsible for framing false charges against me must be pulled up and given befitting punishment,” she demanded.

An emotional Monika who arrived here from New Delhi on Monday, said she never knew politics in Indian sports would be “so dirty to the extent that an innocent player who had worked hard would be dropped at the last minute from participating in the Olympic games by framing false charges.”

At a function organised in her honour, she welcomed the support given by the people of her state who called a bandh on Tuesday in protest against her exclusion from the Olympic squad.

“The stand taken by the people of my state for a victimised player like me is simply overwhelming,” she said with tears in her eyes while seeking the continued support of the people in finding out the truth and punishment to the guilty.

Earlier, the Manipur Olympic Association (MOA) had dcided not to participate in any national championship and the coming National games if Monika Devi was not sent to Beijing.

Monika was prevented from boarding the Beijing flight at the last minute on August 6 after testing positive for a banned anabolic salt. Backed by the Indian Weightlifting Federation, Monika claimed innocence as she had cleared four dope tests in the last two months and alleged that she was being victimised by some members of the Sports Authority of India.

Monika, who was selected ahead of Andhra weightlifter Shailaja Pujari in the trials last month, claimed some people in the SAI were trying to make case for Shailaja due to regionalism. However, three days later on August 9, she was cleared by the SAI of any wrongdoing but the relief came too late for her to participate in the Olympics.

Verdasco pips Sela with ease

New Haven (Connecticut), Aug. 19: Top-seeded Fernando Verdasco scored a 6-4, 6-4 win over Dudi Sela of Israel to move into the third round of the $708,000 New Haven ATP hard-court tournament.

The 24-year-old Spanish southpaw, ranked No. 13 in the world, took command of the proceedings early and never looked back.

Verdasco, a winner in Umag this past July, is now slated to meet the winner of the match between Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic and Eduardo Schwank of Argentina.

Americans went three for five on Monday. Robby Ginepri, Wayne Odesnik and big-serving John Isner all advanced to the second round while Alex Bogomolov and US veteran Vincent Spadea were sent packing. The 34-year-old Spadea was forced to retire due to a lower back strain after trailing 7-5, 5-0 to Belgium’s Steve Darcy.

Isner, who received a wild-card here, humbled Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-4 to set up a much anticipated second-round clash with second see Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in a battle of the giants.

The 6-foot-9 American and the 6-foot-10 Croat are the tallest players on the men’s professional circuit.

Young teenage standout Juan Martin del Potro pulled out of the tournament due to exhaustion.

The 19-year-old Argentine, ranked No. 19 in the world, capped a remarkable summer, clinching four straight ATP titles and winning his last 19 matches. He was replaced in the draw by American lucky-loser Jesse Levine. “It was a difficult decision but I want to recover in time for the US Open,” said the Argentine who remains upbeat about his chances at the last Grand Slam event of the year which starts next Monday in Flushing Meadows.

On the women’s side, seventh-seeded Frenchwoman Alizee Cornet clipped Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (10-8) in the marquee contest of the evening, Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder, the No. 5 seed, downed American Jill Craybas 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark broke down the resistance of eight-seeded Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova who retired after dropping the first set 7-6 (9-7) due to heat illness.

Aussie No 1 Casey Dellacqua advanced as well, blasting past Virginie Razzano of France 6-3, 6-1.


‘I want to play that match again’

New Delhi, Aug. 19: Unfazed she might be at missing out on a dream Olympic medal in Beijing by a whisker but Saina Nehwal on said she would still want to go in rewind mode and reverse her quarterfinal loss.

“I wanted to play the match again,” Saina said referring to her defeat against Indonesian Maria Kristin Yulianti.

“I had expected to reach the third round at the most. I was overwhelmed after reaching the quarterfinals. But I was in haste in the quarterfinals and could not play my strokes well. I lost my patience and committed a lot of mistakes and lost. I will see that I don’t repeat my mistakes,” she said.

Saina lost to Yulianti in an error-strewn quarterfinal match of the women’s singles event where she squandered an 11-3 lead in the deciding game.

Deccan Chronicle


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