|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, October 13, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Olympic boxer builds new image
Munich’s Black September
Athletes use energy-boosting substances
Olympic boxer builds new image
You can’t go far these days in Britain without being presented with the beaming smile of Audley Harrison. The nation’s undisputed Face of the Sydney Olympics has been effortlessly transformed into a face on billboards, on television quiz shows and even in newspaper business features.
His handsome image is invariably larger than life, even for a man who stands 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm) and weighs 260 lb (118 kg). But it’s certainly not the usual image of the novice professional boxer. He doesn’t quite fit the bill.
For a start, he’s a bit old. Turning 30 this year, he is 10 years older than the American Mike Tyson was when he won his first professional world title. He’s also a bit more educated than boxers usually are, boasting a Bachelor of Science with Honours degree from Brunel University in London. But more than all this, there’s the way he has approached the business of his new profession — business being the operative word. Audley was one of Britain’s most popular Olympic medallists — beaming, articulate, loveable, handsome, good and gracious: the acceptable face of British amateur sport.
Ever-conscious of his image, he retained the services of a leading public relations company before leaving for Sydney, just to make sure he got it right.
Afterwards, he set up his own company, A-Force. Former heavyweight boxer Jess Harding is doing the promotion, Harrison’s friend and former WBO (World Boxing Organisation) featherweight champion. Colin McMillan is taking on the management, while American trainer Thell Torrence is tackling the physical side. Harrison then signed a £ 1 million, 10 fight-deal with the British Broadcasting Corporation to maximise his exposure — thereby increasing his bargaining power with sponsors, advertisers and ultimately, rival television networks.
Clearly, there is a wise old head on those massive shoulders. He made his professional debut, amid much fanfare, on May 19. Heading a BBC televised bill at Wembley, London, Harrison was slated against American Mike Middleton, a 33-year-old private investigator whose professional boxing record showed eight wins and nine losses.
The problems with the bout began when McMillan neglected to delete a clause in the contract. Middleton, who was offered £4,000, clued into a regulation that allowed him to claim a 22.25 per cent share of the television revenues. Harrison ended up having to pay Middleton £40,000 — an expensive mistake, but one that he says serves as a lesson.
The other big problem with Harrison’s debut was that it was the bill header. Even Olympic champions are entitled to undemanding career launches, but usually this takes place somewhere near the bottom of the bill. Middleton simply wasn’t up to the task of heading a bill viewed by a crowd of 6,000 and a television audience of over six million. It wasn’t much of a fight: Harrison won it in 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
But for Harrison’s next outing, the public — or at least the press — will demand something tastier. Harrison has talked of winning the British title in five fights and the world title within five years. As he put it, "By the time I’m 34 I’ll be a fully fledged, experienced heavyweight and that’s the time I should be challenging for world honours." So what are his chances? His assets are impressive — size, natural athletic ability, impressive speed of hand and foot, a quick, accurate left cross, a southpaw stance that can be switched to orthodox, great balance, sharp reflexes and a proven ability to rise to the big occasion. But there are also several factors counting against him.
First, quite literally, he has not time to lose. Most great champions of the past have suffered setbacks, learnt from them and bounced back. Harrison has no such luxury.
Second, it is not clear that Harrison has the consistent dedication to go with his ambition. With his eye on the big picture he sometimes seems to forget the here and the now.
Third, there are gaps in his technique. He has yet to learn the art of infighting, he tends to throw single punches rather than combinations and does not use enough head movement.
Fourth, there’s his stamina. In several amateur fights he was blowing heavily by the end. "He will really have to work on his fitness," commented British and Commonwealth professional champion Danny Williams after several sparring sessions with Harrison. — GEMINI NEWS
September and terrorism seem to be closely related. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the USA have terrorised humanity. Nineteen fanatics believed to be followers of the powerful Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden have changed the face of America. Fear of the unknown has gripped the care-free Americans. The land of Abraham Lincoln may never be the same again.
The world had the first glimpse of terrorism on September 5,1972, at Munich. The massacre of 11 Israeli athletes during the XXth Olympics by five Arabs, all members of the Black September organisation, had shaken the world. It marked the beginning of a dark chapter. Among the Indians who was an eye witness to the first major terrorist strike at Munich was Olympian Charles Cornelius, member of the Indian hockey team who won the bronze medal defeating the Dutch. Cornelius was in Chandigarh recently as coach of the Indian Hockey Federation Junior XI who participated in the 31st All-India Gurmit Memorial Hockey Tournament.
"It was shortly before dawn on September 5,1972, that five hooded Arab terrorists armed with machine guns and grenades climbed over the fence of the Olympic village which housed athletes from 120 countries," recalled Cornelius while talking to The Tribune.
"Having forced their way into the block housing the Israeli contingent, they shot dead two athletes in the dormitory while nine athletes were taken hostage. It was only in the morning that we came to know about the incident. Initially, I thought that shooting of an English movie was in progress as the masked men appeared in the window just above, threw out some leaflets and disappeared only to reappear after some time. They were demanding release of 200 Arab guerrillas held captive by the Israeli Government besides a safe passage for themselves along with the captured athletes."
"Fortunately, we did not have any match that day but the security ring thrown around us put us under great strain. The terrorists had set a noon deadline which was successively extended and they threatened to shoot one hostage every two hours in case their demands were not conceded. The Federal Chancellor, Mr Willy Brandt, Munich police chief Manfred Schreiber and other officials were locked in emergency confabulations while the Israeli Prime Minister, Mrs Golda Meir, pleaded that the Games should be immediately halted to deal with the situation. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Mr Avery Brundage, while condemning the barbaric act declared that a special mourning service would be held the following morning in memory of the two murdered athletes in the Olympic Stadium."
"The German police with armoured cars had surrounded the block where the Israeli athletes were held in captivity. All precautions were taken to prevent further attacks by Arabs. The 22-year-old American, Mark Spitz, who had won seven gold medals, was provided special protection and by the evening we learnt that the Egyptian contingent had quit the Games and had flown back home. Shortly before dinner, two helicopters landed in the Olympic village as demanded by the terrorists, who after blindfolding and tying the wrists of the hostages led them to a bus which had arrived to take them to the helicopter which they boarded en route to the military airfield at Furstenfeldbruck. A Lufthansa airliner was stationed there to fly them to an Arab country. On reaching Furstenfeldbruck, a gun battle broke out between German police and the terrorists at about midnight and all nine Israelis were shot by the terrorists, five of whom were also killed while three of them were captured."
"Back at the Olympic village, utter confusion prevailed giving way to fear. All of us huddled in groups remained glued to television. On September 6,over 80,000 people, including participating athletes, gathered at Olympic Stadium for a solemn memorial service. The remaining members of the Israeli contingent were also there. The Olympic flag as also the flags of participating countries were flying at half mast. However, in keeping with the Olympic spirit, the Games resumed after an interruption of 24 hours and IOC chief Avery Brundage said a handful of criminals could not be allowed to destroy the ideals of the Olympic movement. However, the surviving members of the Israeli contingent returned home with the bodies of their teammates."
"Despite the tragic happenings, we tried to give our best and won five matches while drawing against the Netherlands (1-1) and Poland (2-2). In the semifinals we lost to Pakistan 0-2 but finished third, beating the Netherlands 2-1. Incidentally hosts Germany were crowned champions."
"While on our way back our flight was diverted. On landing at Bombay, we were greatly relieved. A glance at a newspaper the next day which said "Indian team arrives safely" made us realise how concerned our countrymen were of our safety at Munich, which only hours ago was witness to one of the most gruesome tragedies."
Athletes use energy-boosting substances
When the Soviet Union broke up into smaller republics, one ‘commodity’ they had in abundance to export was sports medicine experts who had once guided the fortunes of the Soviet sportspersons into world champions with their "scientific" training methods.
But the reality of a fast-changing world sporting scenario confronted the Soviet experts squarely in their faces when they branched out on their own, to offer their services to the rest of the world. The Americans did not want them, and the Europeans would not accept them. So the only avenue left for the Soviet experts to explore the possibility of selling their "expertise" was the third world countries, and India became a sort of gold mine for them, to give actuality to their "expertise" when the country’s hunger for gold grew by the year due to all-round pressure.
The Soviet experts were welcomed with open arms, though at enormous cost to the exchequer, but then what was a few dollars extra here and there if it could bring in some much needed medals for the medal-starved India — of any hue — from international competitions, not realising the fact that the methods employed by these so called experts would not stand scrutiny in the world sporting arena, where testing for banned substances had become far too stringent. The recent cases of Indian sportspersons testing positive for dope was bound to surface, sooner or later, and people in the know were not surprised when young thrower Seema Antil’s name also joined the list of those who have been tested for banned substances.
Seema Antil, who had won a discus gold in the World Junior Athletic Championship at Santiago, Chile in October last year, had tested for a banned substance, and she has been stripped off her gold, and handed out a stiff "warning" by the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AIFF).
The question paramount is why was a promising and talented athlete like Seema Antil was not briefed properly about the do’s and dont’s concerning banned substances in the coaching camps, and on the eve of the competition?
Sources said when the whole business of "going for gold" under "expert" guidance is done with the knowledge of people in authority, who would own up the blame?
"Very few of the Indian doctors were aware of what’s going on in national coaching camps", observed a top sports medicine expert. He said the health and medical system in India is so fragile that the "world’s largest number of medical quacks are in Delhi".
Interestingly, the disciplines in which a number of Indian sportspersons have been tested positive for banned substances—athletics and weightlifting—are being handled by foreign experts. Some of the banned substances for which Indian sportspersons have been tested positive are so highly priced that no ordinary sportsman or woman would be able to buy them on their own from the market, and consume them. Therefore, the obvious inference is that they were given these substances in the coaching camps with or without their knowledge, but by whom?
Obviously, the federations and the top brass in sports administration have been under tremendous pressure to produce results, and had to justify their roles. And in the process, the sportspersons were made the guinea pigs. The experiments started with the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, and the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games, with the advent of the foreign experts in India’s coaching programmes. Some of the Indian doctors were perhaps, wittingly or unwittingly, party to the procurement of the "supplements" ordered by the foreign experts for national campers. A sports medicine expert said many of the Indian sportspersons were not at all familiar with the "food supplements" forced upon them, including a top athlete of the stature of P.T. Usha.
Drug abuse cause of concern
It is shocking to know that young Indian athletes are taking banned drugs to enhance their performance and to do well at the national level without the slightest fear of dope tests. When they compete in international meets outside they fall flat. They fail to understand that drugs are crutches which can take them no far but can certainly bring their budding career to an end before it fully blooms. The three disciplines — athletics, weightlifting and body-building — are the worst afflicted and unless something concrete is done to prohibit drug abuse, it can spread to other disciplines too. Milkha Singh, the Flying Sikh, has often expressed his fears that today’s Indian athletes are dependent on drugs. But his apprehensions have been brushed aside and discussed only in a hush-hush manner. Now that the Ministry of Sports has confirmed the prevalent drug abuse among the Indian athletes, the legendary athlete’s contention stands vindicated. It is a cause of concern, anxiety and shame that all this is happening at the prestigious NIS Patiala. The connivance of the authorities at the NIS cannot be ruled out. The Ministry of Sports should take drastic measures to control the malaise before it is too late.
TARSEM S BUMRAH
On September 23 we witnessed the first ever wheelchair tennis match in Chandigarh at the Total Tennis Academy, YMCA. Watching the disabled play a tennis match was a very learning experience. It gave us great encouragement. In all it was an incredible experience. It is requested that such events should be publicised in advance so that people get to know more about them.
Kudos to Hewitt
Fourth seeded Hewitt of Australia deserves heartiest congratulations for winning the US Open title after defeating Pete Sampras, a strong contender for the title, by 6-1, 6-1. In fact Hewitt made the game one-sided. Sampras could not reply to his services. His game was superb. It was Sampras’ desire to win the title that remained unfulfilled. Well done Hewitt ! Keep it up.
SUBHASH C TANEJA