Chandigarh, Tuesday, September 1, 1998
Kerala girls rowing to fame
A needless controversy
Aiming for gold in
rowing to fame
HECTIC preparations are on everywhere for the next Asian Games to be held in Bangkok in December. Will any one from India be able to hoist the flag of victory there, as P.T. Usha and Shiny Wilson did in the past? The answer is yes. But may be in an event not many are so familiar with kayaking.
If one watches the training going on in the Punnamada Lake in Alleppey district in Kerala and the performance of some of the rowers there, one gets the impression that victory is assured in the Asian Games. Among those who practice there, Jessimol Devassia and Minimol K. girls aged 25, are the best bet. The Indian team pins its hope on these girls who have the required guts and ideal physique.
A team led by Jessimol and Minimol bagged all gold in the senior girls category in the Canoeing-Kayaking National Championship held in Bhopal early this year. While Jessimol won gold in 200m K1, K2, K4 and 500m, K3, K4 events kayaking, Minimol bagged gold in 500m K1, K2, K4, and 200m K2, K4 events. Similarly, Bindu K.N. Bindu A.K. and Marykutty also bagged one gold each in the senior girls category for Kerala.
Canoeing and kayaking, which were the monopoly of Andaman and Nicobar islands, reached Kerala only recently. In kayaking, the rower sits or one side of a boat weighing less than 10 kg and rows forward. The kayak (boat) has a bar and two plates on either side and has a rudder system in the middle which could be operated with legs.
The canoe is also the size of the boat and looks the same but the rudder system is controlled with the hands. But instead of sitting, the rower has to be his knee while rowing. If the rower stands on his left knee he should row from the right side of the boat and vice versa. But only men are allowed to participate in the event. Rajesh Kurian from Kerala is a national star in the event.
The classification K1, K2, K4 is based on the number of rowers in a boat. While in K1 there is only one rower, in K2 and K4 there are two and four respectively. K stands for kayaking. The size of the boat will change proportionately with the number of rowers. In the Bhopal championship, Rajesh Kurian won silver in the 1000m and bronze in 1000m canoeing events.
The name of Jessimol and Minimol were among those who won the highest number of golds in the Bangalore National games. While Jessimol retained her glory by winning gold in 200m K1, K2 and K4 events and 500m K2 and K4 events. Minimol also rose to the occasion by bagging individual gold in the 500m K1 event and becoming participant in all other events which fetched gold.
These girls retained the championship in the senior girls category for five consecutive years since 1992. Minimol concentrates in 500m category and Jessimol in 200m. They lament that since the rule permits the participation of only one person from a state in an event, they are losing silver in the 200m and 500m singles events. Bindu A.K. and Beena S. are the partners of Minimol and Jessimol.
The duo who participated in the Asian Canoeing-Kayaking Championship held in Japan in 1994 reached fourth place in the K2 and K4 events. Their first international appearance was at the Hiroshima Asian Games held prior to the Asian Championship. In the Asian Championship held in China in 1995, Minimol bagged silver in the 500m K1 event and both of them together gained silver in the K2 event as well.
At that time 200m event was not included in the competition. By the time of the Asian Championship of 1997 held in South Korea, these girls emerged as the top stars of Asian kayaking. While Jessimol won gold in the 1000m singles event, which was introduced for the first time, Minimol bagged silver in the 1000m and 500m single events.
Jessimol is one of the three daughters of Champakkulam Kandankari Devassia of Alleppey district, who died last year, and Brijeethamma. Jessimol is working at present in the office of the Allepey District Educational Director as lower division clerk (LDC).
Minimol is the daughter of Avanisseril Ezharayil Kuttappan, a coolie who died when Minimol was only five years old. And Chellamma her mother and her brother work as coolies to eke out a living. Minimol, who could study only upto Class VIII, now works as a peon in the agriculture office in Alleppy.
As a result of the special interest shown by well-known Malayalam daily Malayala Manorama, the world famous coach from Kazaksthan, Vladimir Obrestsov, is currently in Alleppey along with his wife Valanthina, to train the girls.
The training would last one year. One-year period is not sufficient to mould a good team. It requires at least four years. But the rich water sources here give me confidence. Nowhere in the world one could find such an ideal place for training, says Obrestsove, who served as the coach of the Soviet Union in many Olympic Games and also as the trainer of Kazaksthan team in the Atlanta Olympics and the Hiroshima Asian Games.
Jessimol and Minimol are undergoing rigorous training twice a day from 6 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Canoeing and kayaking stars have always been ignored. It was only recently that people came to know at least something about it. Even if one does exceptionally well at international level, government departments, including the Railways, would not offer job. After three of us were given jobs nobody was offered a job. Then how can you expect more youth to come forward? ask the girls.
A needless controversy
The controversy between the Indian Olympic Association and the Board of Control for Cricket in India over the norms governing the cricket competition in the Commonwealth Games has exposed the fragile nature of the administrative machinery controlling the two national sports structures. In their bid to assert their authority if also independence, the men in power in the two apex sports bodies appear to have overlooked the obvious flaws in their arguments.
The IOA appears to be so consumed by its importance in the present crisis that it has ignored some of the more pertinent issues involved in the present conflict. One of them relates to the basic issue of cricket as part of a multi-discipline sports extravaganza such as the Commonwealth Games.
Cricket has no place in any multi-discipline event. Given the media-hype it enjoys its inclusion in such extravaganzas would amount to snatching the due limelight from athletics, swimming, shooting and other more traditional disciplines. Cricket has absorbed the media attention in totality having an ambience of its own. It has a very rich literature and makes for interesting statistical pyrotechnics.
More importantly, it requires more space and much more manpower and in addition consumes much more time, a commodity very precious in such shows. Cricket in fact can never be a part of any other event. It has to be strictly independent to survive.
It is rather strange that few people seem to have taken notice of its inclusion in the Commonwealth Games this year and fewer still paid any heed or importance till the last two months before the beginning of the Games. From the Indian point of view the whole episode from the time cricket was included in the Games to the selection and other identity crisis at the final stage of completing the formalities, has been one long exercise in futile exchange of words between officials of two apex bodies more intent on establishing their authority rather than attempt to view the issue in proper perspective.
The Indian Olympic Association obviously has very little say in international meetings. And it says even less after the decisions are conveyed to it. In this case, however, the IOA should have been more energetic, a bit vocal requested the decision makers to clear all the possible queries that could be raised.
The apex body only woke up a month before the last date of entries and began engaging the Cricket Board in hectic and crucial parleys. In fact, it woke up much after the Board in India had got entangled with the Malaysian authorities on the question of the composition of the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games.
The Indian Board had to clear the air by announcing that it would be sending an A team for the Games. The IOA should have reacted then and demanded some explanation. No such thing was done. It appeared to play the waiting game in what was to become a hotly disputed issue.
The Board of course seem to be more concerned with the manner of the IOAs approach rather than getting the matter sorted out. First and foremost it should have reacted the minute it was known that cricket was to be included in the Commonwealth Games. It could have followed the example of England and told the IOA that it was not interested in participating in a multi-discipline sports mela.
The matter, one would think, would have ended there and then. The IOA then would never have made all the noise it went on to make as the time came for completing the Indian contingent. Unfortunately the Board agreed to send a team.
Once that was done then the IOA took a stranglehold on the issue. Participation meant a full strength team, the best team. The Board took objection to this insistence on the composition of the team and resorted to all sorts of excuses and subterfuges. And in the end the Board ended up looking quite squeamish, having had to concede practically all the demands of the IOA except the last date for sending the entry.
The question here is one of principles. Both the IOA and the Board seen to be deficient in this very important aspect, the Indian Olympic Association more than the Board. Entrusted to guard the Olympic spirit of amateur sports with participation being more important than winning medals, the IOA, evolved its own standards.
It accepted the stand of the Amateur Athletics Federation of India on the non-participation of athletes in the Commonwealth Games but in sharp contradiction went on to harp on the certainty of medal in cricket and demanded that the Board select the best team for the Games. Suddenly the newly introduced game, entirely unsuited in such an extravaganza, became very important to the IOA. All because of the possibility of a medal. The IOAs medal craving will take a severe beating if put to test.
Athletics is a basic discipline and if the Olympic spirit to be observed than it is mandatory for every participating country to enter a minimum number in this sport. Then only can a country enter teams for other sports. While the Commonwealth Games come under the Olympic Charter this question of a must entry in the basic discipline is not adhered to.
That is why India is able skip athletics and enter in selective disciplines of its own, medals being the main purpose. And that is also the reason why participation of a cricket team, the best available one at that, becomes so important to the IOA. Winning a medal is the main reason. The easier way to get a medal is to shop for it in the market!
From the beginning the IOA and the Board have mishandled the issue of participation in the Commonwealth Games. The resulting acrimony could have been avoided if both of them had sat across the table and thrashed it out. but unfortunately they failed not only to gauge each others intentions but also to understand the compulsions governing their positions.
The fault in
the main has been the IOAs. It should never have
allowed the introduction of crickets without a protest.
And having allowed it, it should have treated it as
lightly as most of the participating countries are doing
so. Since quite a few of the teams will be from countries
outside the gambit of the International Cricket Council,
the matches in the Commonwealth Games would be without
the competitive edge.
NEGLECTED for decades, the Asian golf has at long last been recognised. Firmly planted with many Asians making waves on the arduous British and US circuits, the Asian Professional Golfers Association (APGA) has been admitted by the PGA Tours International Federation. This should provide much needed shot in the arm of Asian players, particularly Indians who, with more determined efforts and mental sharpness than shown so far, are capable of winning many laurels.
The APGA is the sixth member of the PGATIF. This all-important decision was taken on the eve of the 127th Open Championship. Welcoming the Asian body, Ken Schofield (Executive Director PGA European Tours) and Tim Finchem (US PGA Tour Commissioner), they said at Royal Birdale that, in accordance with the rules, they were initially admitting the APGA as associate member.
We will accord full membership status to the APGA as soon as it completes five years of operation and schedule, said officials, adding: The Omega Tour is well into its fourth year and well-placed to become a full member in the year 2,000.
Formed in March 1996, the PGATIF has five full members. They are the USA, Australia, Japan, Europe and Southern Africa. This is a historic day for us, announced APGA executive director Ramlan Harun. The Tour will now be part of the global body, said APGA officials, adding: We are now on our way to establish ourselves.
The PGATIF has many ambitious plans. The foremost among them is to conduct the World Golf Championship, events in which top golfers will be competing against each other in variety of competitive formats. The APGA will endeavour to hold one of the events at the earliest opportunity.
Since the APGA is on the take-off so should be the Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI). The first and the foremost the PGAI has to do is to hold elections at the scheduled time and induct professionals like Gaurav Ghei, Chiranjeev Milkha Singh, Vivek Bhandari and others in the body as office-bearers of committee members. Nobody contests Rohtas Singhs contribution but the PGAI must see beyond him. The PGAI should prove that it is a body catering to the needs of golf in the country instead of degenerating as other sports bodies like the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) or Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) or Amateur Football Federation of India (AFFI).
The Hero Honda Master, a part of the Omega Tour, will be staged in Delhi Golf Club on November 5-8. The organisers should make an effort to prevail upon Vijay Singh (Fiji) to take part in the competition although it does not carry sufficient prize money. But Vijay is one of the celebrities and his participation will help Indian golf gain in popularity.
Like Jeev, Indias Simi Mehra has been playing superbly on the international circuit. She is a golfer of stern material and she should be able to secure more laurels than she has so far. A tough girl, her concentration and application are her strong points. She is the only Indian woman who is a professional. It will be great if she is co-opted on the PGAI in one capacity or the other. Why not? She has been playing all over and her experience may help PGAI get some useful ideas. What is need of the hour is that the PGAI should be able to see beyond a few office-bearers who continue to hold on.
It is learnt that one or two committee
members are opposed to awarding membership to Ajitpal
Singh. The DGC is far more democratic institution than
many other clubs in the country and it should not be
guided by a few petty minded officials, who refuse to see
beyond themselves. In fact, it will be worthwhile if
members serving on the committee for three years or about
are given a break for one or two years before they are
re-elected on the committee.
Aiming for gold in billiards,
Billiards, snooker and carom billiards will see the best of players in the world, including Ashok Shandilya, a genius player, during the 13th Asian Games to be held in Bangkok from December 6 to 20 this year. What are Indias chances of winning medals on the green baize in Bangkok? Internationally-known billiards and snooker player Ashok Shandilya provides the answer in an interview. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Q: What motivated you to take up billiards as a schoolboy.
A: In school, I started with cricket, table tennis and badminton. One day, I casually walked into the billiards room in my school, Don Bosco, in Matunga, Bombay, picked up a cue and enjoyed the game very much; so much so that I developed a fascination for it. We had two billiards tables in our school and there was no problem of getting a game or two almost every day. I started playing billiards regularly, overlooking my interest in cricket, table tennis and badminton. Today I am a professional player and have played against the best in the world with a considerable degree of success.
Q: Which was your first match and how you came up as a junior or rookie.
A: I started playing competitive billiards in 1983 and with each encounter, I gained experience as well as confidence. I was determined to win the junior national title and in 1987 I was unfortunate to lose the title by a whisker. I played in the final and was runner-up. Immediately thereafter, I took up a job with the Railways through my father who was a senior mechanical engineer. He encouraged me a lot to play billiards which boosted my morale very much. Presently, I am a sports supervisor in the Central Railways. As a junior, I went to England to play competitive matches. That gave me enough confidence to match the best players in the world, including Mike Russell and Geet Sethi.
Q: Which has been your best and most memorable match in billiards.
A: It was in the UK Open Professional Billiards in Wign, England, in 1995. I defeated the worlds greatest player Mike Russell by about 100 points, but lost to Peter Gilchrist in the semis. Geet Sethi lost to Subhas Aggarwal who eventually won the title. I was elated after beating Mike Russell who is a complete player and has mastered the game with scientific precision. But Russell is not a very disciplined player and takes the game not as seriously as the other professionals. He drinks a lot which affects his game to some extent, otherwise he is a genius player without any doubt.
Q: Like Geet Sethi, Subhash Aggarwal, Michael Ferriera and a host of other international players, you brought laurels to the country on many occasions. Are you satisfied with what you have got in return to your services to the nation as a billiards and snooker player.
A: Not at all. I have got a job with the Railways and that is almost all. For the last nine years I have been expecting the Arjuna Award. Till date, I am struggling to get it and I do not know when it will come to me. I think I have a legitimate claim on the Arjuna Award after I defeated the world No. 1 player (Mike Russell) in the U.K. Open Professional Billiards.
In other countries, players get quick recognition and are looked after so well. In our country too, the players should be looked after on par with other countries when they bring laurels to the nation in high class competitive matches in order to raise the morale of the national players in every recognised sports discipline. I command respect, by the grace of God, almost all over the world.
In Pakistan, I was offered everything, including citizenship, to play for Pakistan, but I turned down the offer since I love my country and have no desire to represent another country. I am wanting to meet our beloved sports minister, Ms Uma Bharti, who is a dynamic person and believes in quick action. I am very hopeful that she will provide me the assistance I require to bring greater laurels for the country.
Q: Is it true that top sportspersons in the country from various sports disciplines are contemplating on forming a Players Association to ensure the welfare of sportspersons of high calibre in the country.
A: Yes, the Players Association may come up soon. We all have to sit down together to work out the modalities, lay down the rules and frame the constitution before it is launched. There is positively a need for such an association. Many renowned sportspersons have shown keenness to form the association and we will set the ball rolling soon. The welfare of our national players has to be looked after in a much bigger way. The central and state governments are doing their best to provide the best of facilities besides cash incentives; still, a lot more is required to raise the status of the players who bring laurels to the country in international competitions at home and overseas.
Q: Is the national billiards camp in Bangalore for the Bangkok Asian Games running well.
A: Billiards, snooker and carom billiards have been introduced in the Asian Games for the first time. Hopefully, we will win the gold medals both in billiards and snooker, but I cannot say much about carom billiards because we have not played the game and know little about it. There are 16 probables in the camp with Michael Ferriera and Arvind Savur as coaches. Both coaches are excellent. I have learnt a lot from Michael Ferriera. We have the next camp in Bangalore in September.
Q: Do you undergo any physical conditioning programme to keep yourself physically fit.
A: Yes, very much. The SAI athletics coach, Mr Beedu, gives me the schedule (unofficially) and I follow it religiously as it helps me a lot. Today I am more fit than ever and am confident that I can perform better.
Q: How many times you won the national billiards title.