for El Guerrouj
IN THE NEWS
of our making
in India’s way
Victory over Pakistan in the league phase is the key for India to keep their campaign alive in the ICC Champions Trophy in England from September 10. Under Bob Woolmer Pakistan, after India's successful and historic tour of that country, have defeated India in Sri Lanka and Holland. India will have to embark on a well-chalked out plan to reverse the trend. Any complacency against Pakistan could spell disaster.
Pakistan are dangerous opponents. On a good day they have the talent to unsettle the best team. However, their ability to gel as a team and produce results consistently is debatable.
To cross the first hurdle, India would have to rein in Shoaib Malik for the all-rounder has made it a habit of reserving his best for India. As if his batting is not enough, Malik can make life difficult for the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up with his off-spin. Along with Shahid Afridi, he hastened the Indian collapse in the three-nation Videocon Cup match in Holland.
India could do better with a flexible approach and change the batting order of Yuvraj Singh, who has shown vulnerability against the turning slow ball, if the necessity arises. India cause will suffer a major reverse if Sachin Tendulkar fails to get fit. His sheer presence can lift the morale of the team and the nation.
They must make use of Bruce Reid's experience. Reid had made the Indian seam attack look much better in their tour of Australia. If Reid can make seamers stick to basics, India's cause would be well served.
There are four groups of three teams each. Top team from each group qualifies for the semifinals. India must beat arch-rivals Pakistan and also Kenya, the third team in the group.
If they top the group, India would have a semifinal clash with the topper of group B. South Africa and the West Indies are not going through the best of times, the former having slumped to 0-5 defeat in the just-concluded ODI series against Sri Lanka. Bangladesh are the third team in group B.
Group D looks formidable with England and in-form Sri Lanka. England, with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and pace sensation Steve Harmison, are in the midst of a purple patch. They have won seven Tests in a row and if they display the same form in one-dayers they would be hard to beat at home. Even a depleted Sri Lanka are enjoying a dream run. Zimbabwe, the third team in the group, are in a disarray in the absence of key players.
Australia are favourites to top group A, which has New Zealand and the USA as the other two teams. If India top their group and win the semifinal they can set up another meeting with mighty Australia, who certainly look to be in the final.
So, if India emerge from the first hurdle (win against Pakistan) unscathed, they would be up against the next (match against Australia) in the final.
Cross both the hurdles and the trophy would be India's.
When marathon runner Frank Shorter entered the Olympic Stadium in Munich, 1972, way ahead of the other competitors, he expected cheers and applause from the crowd. Much to his bewilderment, he heard whistles and booing.
Only after winning the race did he come to know that he had not been the target of those catcalls. It was a hoaxer named Norbert Sudhous, who had appeared on the track a few minutes before Shorter and run a full lap before being dragged away by guards.
Hoax runner, surprise winner, popular loser — all these are in the dramatis personae of the Olympic theatre of the absurd, the marathon. Two such larger-than-life characters, both poles apart, emerged at Athens 2004 — Cornelius Horan and Vanderlei de Lima. Horan, a defrocked Catholic priest, lunged at the latter when he was leading the race and pushed him into the crowd. A shocked but still determined De Lima rejoined the race and managed to win the bronze medal, proving himself to be a hero.
While De Lima probably lost the gold medal due to an eccentric’s stunt, Dorando Pietri missed out thanks to the help provided by sympathetic officials. At the 1908 London Olympics, Pietri entered the stadium first, terribly exhausted, and fell on the track. Seeing him raise himself and then stumble several times, British race officials came forward and helped him cross the finish line. However, the assistance he got led to his disqualification. John Hayes of the USA won the gold medal, but it was Pietri who stole the limelight.
The marathon at the 1904 St Louis games was even more bizarre. The USA’s Fred Lorz, the first to complete it, was about to be awarded the gold when it was found that he had stopped running after 15 km, hitched a ride in a car for about 18 km, and then started running again. The actual winner was another American, Thomas Hicks, who carried on till the end courtesy the several doses of strychnine and brandy that were administered to him on the way.
As if that was not enough, one runner was chased off the course into a cornfield by two dogs, while another, Cuba’s Felix Carvajal, stopped several times to chat with bystanders yet finished fourth.
Unheralded Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany, described by his country’s football goalie Jurgen Croy as the "living example of mediocrity", won in Montreal (1976), beating defending champion Frank Shorter. Four years later he retained his title in Moscow.
In the 1912 Stockholm games, 21-year-old Portuguese runner Francisco Lazaro collapsed from sunstroke and heart trouble towards the end of the race and was taken to hospital, where he died. His end was similar to that of Pheidippides, the legendary messenger who is said to have died of exhaustion after running from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to convey the news of the Greek victory over the Persians.
for El Guerrouj
At the spiritual home of the games, the Olympic gods smiled, and smiled full time, on the genial Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj. After eight years of feasting it was time for deluge. He ended the jinx and misery to finally feel the thrill of an Olympic gold around his neck, not once but twice.
With the 1500-5,000m double he confirmed his place in the pantheon of athletics legends.
Till now the Olympic title had eluded El Guerrouj, one of the greatest middle distance runners of all times. Finally the chase and eight years of heartbreak were consigned to the past in a space of five magical days as El Guerrouj ran to perfection. He stamped his greatness on the games after failing dramatically at Atlanta and Sydney.
"This is incredible on the one hand but on the other I always believed in myself," said the 1,500m record-holder after the historic double.
"After all that went in Atlanta and Sydney this is a deserved reward but also unbelievable that I can win two Olympic gold medals in five days."
The Moroccan emulated the Flying Finn Paavo Nurmi as he won the 5,000m in one of the greatest head-to-heads of the Athens games.
He timed 13 minutes 14.39 seconds to relegate Ethiopia’s new sensation Kenenisa Bekele to silver. Bekele, who had won the 10,000m, had been hoping to complete a historic double of his own.
It was a further vindication for El Guerrouj, the multiple world champion, who had failed in two previous heartbreaking Olympic bids for the 1500m.
At the Atlanta Olympics, El Guerrouj saw his dreams go up in smoke when he tripped and fell at the ring of the bell in the final. Four years at Sydney there was more heartache. He was pipped to the post by Kenyan Noah Ngenyi.
With the two gold safely around his neck, El Guerrouj can finally tear up the photograph of him tripping at the 1996 final and rejoice in the feeling of being a double Olympic champion.
110 per cent champion
China made steady inroads in disciplines not considered their strongholds and Liu Xiang became the first man from China to win an athletics gold for the hosts of the next Olympics.
Xiang, not only won the top spot in 110 metres hurdles but also equalled the world record. Eleven years ago the great Colin Jackson took 12.91 seconds at the World Athletics Championships at Stuttgart to put his name on the record.
The 21-year-old Shanghai student with smooth strides and great technique blasted out of the tracks to take gold in a scorching run.
Future king of the ring
Amir Khan came to the Athens Olympics as a virtually unknown entity and left it with the world at his feet. Bidding to become the youngest boxer to win the gold medal since Floyd Patterson in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Khan's fairytale run finally came to an end at the hands of the Cuban champion, Mario Kindelan.
Young Khan had to settle for silver as he came up short against the master lightweight, who started fighting even before Amir Khan came into this world.
Kindelan (33) will retire with the honour of being the three-time champion while many titles and a bright future beckon the young Briton, who at 17 is almost half the master's age.
Khan showed great pluck and determination to reach so far and he has already set his sights on Beijing 2008. — RG
Debacles of our making
It was wonderful to watch human bodies perform at Athens. The level of competition demands one’s optimal best. But the print media admonished and berated our players. My wife, while holding the morning newspaper, also commented wryly about our sportspersons. My reply was: What are we doing about it? Are we, too, not responsible? Have we trained our sons to represent even their schools? The realisation soon dawned that we were also among those who did not go for result-oriented action but just uttered words of criticism against those who put in their best despite an unfavourable system.
Certain persons, who were sent to the Olympics for bringing laurels, have brought disrepute. From the outbrusts of Pratima and the sequence of events, it seems there is a scam in the sports hierarchy of the country. Going by the events, it seems everyone is a party to it . Drugs are recommended by the controlling officials to achieve qualifing standards. Once these standards are achieved, the players, coaches and officials claim sponsorship for the Olympics and other international events and enjoy the fun. They are not worried about the prestige of the nation. To avoid such scams, the government should act tough and initiate criminal proceedings against the defaulters.
Catch them young
From an early stage, parents should take keen interest in a child's physical development and nourishment. Later, they should create an urge in the child to become a great player. In every big village or town, there is a need of stadium. Inter-village competitions should be held annually with incentives. Parents should also admit their wards in those schools and colleges which have spacious grounds and expert coaches. Moreover, chairmen and members of sports federations should be honest, impartial and considerate in selection of coaches, players and athletes.
Gurpargat S. Aulakh