SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

countdown to Olympics

India can make it to semis: IHF Secy
Chennai, August 8
The preparation of Dilip Tirkey-led team, which is to compete in the Athens Olympic Games later this month, is such that the prospects of winning a medal are “very very bright”, Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) Secretary K. Jyothikumaran said.

India record 3-2 victory
Cologne, August 8
The Athens-bound Indian hockey team put up a good show and edged past one of Germany’s strongest clubs 3-2 in their last practice match before leaving for the Olympic Games.

Can Paes-Bhupathi duo do it at Athens?
New Delhi, August 8
The breathtaking victory at the Canadian Masters in Toronto last week has pitch forked Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as major medal contenders in Olympics tennis events at Athens.

An Olympic volunteer watches the sunrise
An Olympic volunteer watches the sunrise out over an inlet on the Aegean Sea, near Marathon, north-east of Athens, on Sunday. Nearly four billion people will watch the Athens Olympics, the International Olympic Committee said on Saturday. The Games get underway on August 13. — Reuters


 

 

Amy Acuff competes in the women's high jump
Amy Acuff competes in the women's high jump at the Team Challenge event between Germany, France and the US in Munich on Sunday. Amy Acuff won the event with a jump of 2.0 metres. — Reuters

EARLIER STORIES
 

Doping case raises doubts over AAFI claims
Patiala, August 8
The Amateur Athletic Federation of India’s (AAFI) claims that Indian athletes are clean have become questionable with the New-Delhi based Sports Authority of India’s laboratory testing a top Indian woman thrower positive.

Cheema Sr ready to spend for Athens trip
Chandigarh, August 8
Mr Sukhchain Cheema, father-cum-coach of the Athens-bound wrestler Palwinder Cheema is a disheartened man because of the refusal by the government to him to accompany his son to Athens.

Belarus synchronised swimmers Nastassia Vlasenka and Khrystina Marovich (R) chat as Amanda Laird and Leonie Nichols of the Australian synchronised swimming duet perform Australian competitor Robin Bell trains on the kayak slalom course Chibum Kim of Korea rides during a training session
Belarus synchronised swimmers Nastassia Vlasenka (L) and Khrystina Marovich (R) chat as Amanda Laird and Leonie Nichols (B) of the Australian synchronised swimming duet perform during a training session in the Olympic swimming complex in Athens on Sunday. Australian competitor Robin Bell trains on the kayak slalom course at the Helliniko Olympic complex in Athens on Sunday.  Chibum Kim of Korea rides during a training session on the cycling track of the Olympic sports complex of Oaka in Athens on Sunday. Kim will compete in the men’s sprint event at the Olympics — Reuters photos

It’ll be a learning process: Mouma
New Delhi, August 8
She will be stuck in the same class again but paddler Mouma Das does not mind missing her class ten examination for a lifetime opportunity to represent the country at the Athens Olympic Games.

Easier first round for Popat, Kanetkar
New Delhi, August 8
The Indian badminton contingent had mixed luck in terms of draw for the Olympics as national women’s champion Aparna Popat and Nikhil Kanetkar find themselves pitted against relatively easier opponents in the opening round while Abhinn Shyam Gupta runs into a top-ranked player.

Greeks rush for tickets
ATHENS:
Thousands of Greeks were queueing for hours today to buy tickets for the Olympics after organisers called for a boost in sales which initially had lagged. With a record in daily sales broken every day in the past week, organisers were satisfied and surprised with the turnout.
An Italian horse trainer rides at the Olympic Modern Pentathlon equestrian course at the Goudi Olympic Complex in Athens An Italian horse trainer rides at the Olympic Modern Pentathlon equestrian course at the Goudi Olympic Complex in Athens on Sunday. — Reuters



South Africa salvage draw
Galle, August 8
Sri Lanka’s spin attack, led by Muttiah Muralitharan, was thwarted as South Africa put up a determined effort and salvaged a draw in the first cricket Test of a two-match series here today. Muralitharan’s haul of 82 wickets in 10 previous Tests at the venue stood for nothing as the off-spinner struggled to get the breakthroughs his team was looking for on a pitch that took slow turn. South Africa, set a target of 325 in a minimum of 93 overs, scored 203-3 at close of the final day’s play at the Galle International Stadium after starting the day at seven for no loss.

Sri Lankan wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana appeals against South African batsman Martin van Jaarsveld on the fifth day of the first Test in Galle on Sunday. — Reuters photo
Sri Lankan wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana appeals against South African batsman Martin van Jaarsveld on the fifth day of the first Test in Galle

Asian Cup had plenty of spark
Beijing, August 8
With 17 sending offs the Asian Cup was a bad-tempered affair, but it also showcased the giant strides the continent is making to match the top teams of the world. While lacking the star power of Euro 2004, Asia’s premier football tournament had plenty of spark. Coaches were sacked, fans got ugly, players brawled and politics were dragged into the mix.


Chinese soccer fans tear up a Japanese national flag after the Asian Cup soccer final between China and Japan in Beijing on Saturday. Hundreds of Chinese soccer fans confronted the riot police for several hours outside a Beijing stadium on Saturday night, throwing bottles and shouting obscenities after Japan won the politically-charged Asia Cup 3-1. — Reuters photo
Chinese soccer fans tear up a Japanese national flag after the Asian Cup soccer final

Railways win boxing trophy
Hisar, August 8
The Railways team won the overall trophy with 49 points on the final day of the 51st National Senior Men’s Boxing Championship which concluded at Mahabir Stadium here today.

Dingko accuses referees of bias
Hisar, August 8
Asian gold medallist, Arjuna awardee and Olympian boxer N.G. Dingko Singh has alleged that he was unfairly declared the loser during the National Senior Men’s Boxing Championship. Dingko lost to Sonu Chahal of Haryana in the light weight category 11-12 on August 5.

Anastasia Myskina of Russia reacts after losing a point against compatriot Elena Likhovtseva
Anastasia Myskina of Russia reacts after losing a point against compatriot Elena Likhovtseva at the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Saturday. Lykhovtseva defeated Myskina 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. — Reuters

Indian eves 2nd in Asian wrestling meet
Chandigarh, August 8
Indian girls finished overall second in the Asian Cadet Wrestling Championship, which concluded in Bisheek (Kyrgystan) today. The Indian girls won two gold, two silver and one bronze medals at the championship which had begun on August 5, Wrestling Federation of India president R.S. Malik informed in a statement here.

GND varsity steps in to help disabled boxer
Amritsar, August 8
Guru Nanak Dev University has written to the Sports Ministry, the Association of Indian Universities and the Punjab Government to help create a special post for its boxer Shiv Sharma, who sustained serious injuries during a brawl at Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry at Nauni, near Solan, on March 26.

Women footballers honoured
Ludhiana, August 8
Four international women football players of Punjab who have brought laurels to the state were felicitated by the Punjab Women’s Football Association (PWFA) at a function in Phagwara yesterday. The players honoured were Paramjit Kaur, Sharanjit Kaur Shampy, Gurmeet Kaur and Simranjeet Kaur.

Andre Agassi returns a volley to Andy Roddick

Agassi in final

Cincinnati (Ohio), August 8
Andre Agassi will play for his first title in over a year at the $ 2.4 million Masters Series here, thanks to a classic 7-5, 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/2) victory over defending champion Andy Roddick in the semifinal yesterday. “This is as good of a match as you ever play,” Agassi said of the 2 hr-6 min thriller yesterday. — AFP




Andre Agassi returns a volley to Andy Roddick during their semifinal round match of the 2004 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters Tennis tournament in Cincinnati on Saturday. — Reuters photo

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India can make it to semis: IHF Secy

Chennai, August 8
The preparation of Dilip Tirkey-led team, which is to compete in the Athens Olympic Games later this month, is such that the prospects of winning a medal are “very very bright”, Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) Secretary K. Jyothikumaran said.

Talking to UNI, Mr Jyothikumaran, who is also the treasurer of India’s Athens Games contingent, said two German coaches and Dutch goal-keeping coach were “working out the right strategy for the team.”

“The players are also adapting to this and committed to giving their best,” he said.

Noting that the team was a mixture of youth and experience, he said “the selection itself was difficult as the squad for Olympic Games cannot have more than 16 players. It was difficult to choose between one player and another as the difference in talent was narrow.”

But the members of the Selection Committee comprising B.P. Govinda, Gurbux Singh and Aslam Sher Khan, were unanimous in their choice, he added.

The uniqueness about this squad was that it had two players in Dhanraj Pillai and Baljit Singh Dhillon, who were part of the team which won the gold after 32 years in the 1998 Asian Games and seven players who were members of the 2001 Junior World Cup-winning team and those from the team which had won the Junior Asian Cup defeating Pakistan in Karachi, Mr Jyothikumaran pointed out.

Stating that the performance of any team in a major competition depended on how well it was prepared, he said: “Thanks to support from the government, the IHF could arrange for the probables to train in Arizona in the USA for a three-week physical conditioning for the first time and then barring the bad performance in the four-nation tournament, the squad did well in other competitions in the run up to the Games.”

Mr Jyothikumaran said in an event like the Olympics all the teams in fray were strong but India had been placed in a relatively easier pool with the Netherlands, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa.

“Definitely we can make it to the semifinals. But from there we must not commit any errors as in earlier competitions especially the 2000 Sydney Games,” he said.

Asked about the opinion among a few former players that Indian defenders, especially in the 25-yard area, were not resorting to man-to-man marking of the opponents which had been proving a costly error, Mr Jyothikumaran said, “now in this Olympic Games it will be different under the German coaches.”

On frequent chopping and changing of coaches by the IHF, including the latest “dismissal” of Rajinder Singh, he said it was not so. “We have been appointing a coach according to the requirements of a competition.”

Mr Jyothikumaran denied Rajinder Singh was sacked. “The German coaches were brought in only after consulting Rajinder also. Only the media has been creating a negative impression,” he claimed.

He also turned down the suggestion that a coach, foreign or Indian, must be given a long rope with fixed target and appointed on a contract system. “Contract system does not work out here. Besides, coaches like Cedric D’Souza, V Bhaskaran or even Rajinder Singh were given a fairly long stint,” he said.

On the post-Olympic programme for the senior team, Mr Jyothikumaran said: “Depending on our Athens performance and qualifying, we have to prepare for the 2005 Champions Trophy to be held in Chennai. Before that we have the Test series against Pakistan.” — UNI

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India record 3-2 victory

Cologne, August 8
The Athens-bound Indian hockey team put up a good show and edged past one of Germany’s strongest clubs 3-2 in their last practice match before leaving for the Olympic Games.

Inspired by a large number of Indian fans, gathered from different part of Germany, the Dilip Tirkey lead side took an early lead through veteran Baljit Singh Dhillon who converted a penalty corner.

After the hosts came back into the game and managed to equalise, India pressed in as many as five forwards and mounted pressure on the rival bastion.

Dhanraj Pillay, set to play his fourth Olympics, displayed the kind of skill he is known for and eventually sounded the board after being fed by Gagan Ajit Singh.

With the German side equalising again through a field goal, the Indians converted their sixth penalty corner.

Deepak Thakur’s accurate push was stopped by Gagan Ajit and Baljit’s full-blooded shot was thwarted only to find an unmark Pillay who did not miss the chance and pushed it home.

After the match, India’s German coach Gerard Rach seemed happy with the outcome. “My players were very cautious about injuries and did not take any risk,’’ he said. —UNI

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Can Paes-Bhupathi duo do it at Athens?

New Delhi, August 8
The breathtaking victory at the Canadian Masters in Toronto last week has pitch forked Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as major medal contenders in Olympics tennis events at Athens.

True, the Indian Express, teaming up after a gap of 27 months on the ATP Tour, did not enjoy a similar dream run at the Cincinnati Masters this week and bowed out in the quarterfinals.

But, it is really amazing how, in sports, one success can undo months of barrenness and make the winner an instant champion, the player or the team to beat in the coming events.

To say that the Hesh-Paes’ victory at Toronto has stunned the tennis world would be an understatement. In one stroke, it has quashed aside the more than two years of estrangement between the two and made them not only India’s strongest medal hope at the Athens but the most feared opponents at the quadrennial event.

Yet, that is exactly the question that will be asked and which Paes and Bhupathi must answer in the next fortnight or so: Is the Toronto win good enough an indicator of what is store for the Indians at Athens? Or, more precisely, is the two-week preparation ample enough to fine-tune the pair for the intensity and pressures of competition at sports highest stage?

“Leave the preparation to us,” was Bhupathi’s strong response after lifting the title last week.

The introvert Bhupathi has always been blunt in his replies. His sharpest verbal volley came in response to the legendary Ramanathan Krishnan’s suggestion that Bhupathi and Paes might not enjoy the same domination over the rivals they did two years ago since they were ageing.

“I respect the man and his tennis. But it’s very unfair of him to be sitting at home and ruling out our chances... I think it’s time he wakes up and smells the coffee. He obliviously does not know what he is talking about. Both Leander and I believe we have a chance, and it does not matter what anyone else thinks,” Bhupathi reportedly said.

The Bangalorean maintains the special chemistry between him and Paes that made them world beating pair in 1999 — when they won the French Open and Wimbledon titles besides reaching the finals of the other two Grand Slams — is still there.

In Bhupathi’s own opinion the two players need just to play a few tournaments to revive their old magic and the natural bonding between them would do the rest. In modern tennis, which is an 11-month grind, there is really no need to slug it out the whole to regain the old rhythm.

But how many weeks is too many or too less? Again, it is only fair that the fans and critics leave it to the players to decide the right balance. To be fair to Bhupathi and Paes, the turn of things this season might have prevented the two from coming together earlier.

First, there was the Paes’ hospitalisation in September last year and the six-month recovery period that could have come in the way of an elaborate tour schedule.

Second, the ATP Tour points system makes the player or the teams keep playing more and winning more to preserve their annual and career rankings, on which depends their entry and seedings in all tournaments, including the Grand Slams and Olympics.

The early loss in the French Open put both Bhupathi and Paes in a precarious position with regard to being seeded at the Olympics. While Bhupathi’s Number 5 world doubles ranking was to ensure them a direct entry, Paes had to make up for about 900 points in the next two months to stay in the top-30 and thus earn a better seeding.

That in essence might have been the reason for the two sticking to their relevant partners.

Now, how good are the Toronto and Cincinnati as preparatory events for the Olympics? Being Super 9 tournaments, or Tennis Masters Series as they have been rechristened, both the events are next only to the Grand Slams and as such offer the best in competition.

For instance, Paes and Bhupathi had to overcome three top-10 teams in the Doubles Race on their way to victory in Toronto. And although they lost in Cincinnati after playing only two matches, it should toughen them up for the D-Day.

On the other side, the two have not played any of the dark horse teams, players who are not regular pairs but are coming together like the Indians themselves for the sake of Olympics.

The Indian Express will have to watch out for potential landmines that could derail their medal hopes in teams like Roger Federer-Yves Allegro of Switzerland, Martin Rodriguez-Gaston Etlis of Argentina, etc. The latter, in fact, have often been the bogeymen for both Paes and Bhupathi on the ATP circuit.

While this may suggest that they might have left it too close for a pucca preparation, it also gives them the advantage of being a surprise packet. In modern sport, where one’s strengths and weaknesses are broken down to bare details by sci-fi coaches, the element of ‘unknown’ would sure be the Indians’ strong point. — PTI

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Doping case raises doubts over AAFI claims
Ravi Dhaliwal

Patiala, August 8
The Amateur Athletic Federation of India’s (AAFI) claims that Indian athletes are clean have become questionable with the New-Delhi based Sports Authority of India’s laboratory testing a top Indian woman thrower positive.

The SAI laboratory authorities have confirmed that national hammer throw champion Hardeep Kaur has tested positive for a steroid she used during the all-India inter-state championship held in Chennai early this year. Incidentally, Hardeep is not a member of the Athens-bound contingent.

At the 2002 Busan Asiad, Hardeep missed the hammer throw medal by a whisker and had to settle for the fourth place.

Earlier this week, when an accusing finger was pointed at long jumper Amritpal Singh of the Punjab Police, the IOA and the AAFI denied the doping allegation. Now with Hardeep’s doping result coming just as the athletes are ready to leave for Athens, both the IOA and the AAFI have been made to eat a humble pie.

Hardeep, like Amritpal, is from Punjab, which has put the Punjab Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAA) bosses in an embarrassing situation.

Meanwhile, the SAI has asked the AAFI to ensure that all athletes are tested at either the dope cell at New Delhi or at any accredited laboratory abroad.

This is posing a problem for the athletes as nearly all of them, barring Anju Bobby George and discos thrower Anil Kumar, are training in Ukraine. The laboratory in Ukraine is not accredited to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which means that tests done there are not valid.

A similar problem was faced by Indian women weightlifters selected for the Olympics. They had undergone tests at Minsk (Belarus) where all four lifters were undergoing training. However, since the lab at Minsk is not accredited to WADA, the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) thought it prudent to re-test the lifters at the Doping Control Centre at New Delhi.

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Cheema Sr ready to spend for Athens trip
Our Sports Reporter

Chandigarh, August 8
Mr Sukhchain Cheema, father-cum-coach of the Athens-bound wrestler Palwinder Cheema is a disheartened man because of the refusal by the government to him to accompany his son to Athens.

Palwinder, who is a Commonwealth Games-2002 gold medalist and Busan Asian Games bronze medalist, has a chance to bring medal for the country, he said adding that his son would have been more comfortable in his company as he had been his coach from childhood.

Mr Sukhchain Cheema said he would meet Rana Gurmit Sodhi, Chief Parliamentary Secretary holding charge of Sports in Punjab and also request the Union Sports Minister, Mr Sunil Dutt, to clear his name for Athens.

He said he was willing to spend from his pocket but needed the formal accreditation to stay in the Olympics village so that he could guide his son Palwinder technically, psychologically and mentally.

When contacted, Rana Sodhi said that he would take up the matter with the authorities concerned.

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It’ll be a learning process: Mouma

New Delhi, August 8
She will be stuck in the same class again but paddler Mouma Das does not mind missing her class ten examination for a lifetime opportunity to represent the country at the Athens Olympic Games.

Talking to UNI before flying to Athens, the diminutive player said: “I was a bit upset for missing the madhyamik examination for the second time. But Olympic is too big a phenomenon to be ignored and I think this is the little price I have to pay.”

A senior national champion in 1999 and 2001, she finished among the top eight in the Qatar Open in 2002. Mouma has also won three gold medals in the SAF Games in Islamabad early this year. In the Commonwealth Games, she bagged two bronze medals, one in doubles and another in the team event.

“Athens for me will be a learning experience. I know the Chinese and Korean paddlers will come up with brilliant shows and others have hardly any chance. All I can say about myself is that if the draw favours me, I would make it to the knockout stage and any win there will be an achievement in itself,” said Mouma. — UNI

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Easier first round for Popat, Kanetkar

New Delhi, August 8
The Indian badminton contingent had mixed luck in terms of draw for the Olympics as national women’s champion Aparna Popat and Nikhil Kanetkar find themselves pitted against relatively easier opponents in the opening round while Abhinn Shyam Gupta runs into a top-ranked player.

According to the draw released by the International Badminton Federation today, world number 27 Popat will take on African champion and 64th ranked Michelle Edwards of South Africa in the first round of the women’s singles event.

In the men’s singles, Kanetkar will play top Spanish shuttler Sergio Llopis while Gupta will have to face world No 16 Tae Sang Park of Korea in the opening round.

Though Llopis, ranked 44th in the World, is four places above Kanetkar in the rankings, the Indian is considered to be the favourite to move into the second round as he had comfortably won the only encounter between the two at the Mauritius Open last year.

The south-paw dominated the Spaniard throughout to take the quarterfinal tie 15-6 15-12 before going on to win the runners-up title in the championship.

However, advancing to the second round will mean a likely face-off with former world champion Peter Gade of Denmark, who is all prepared to make the most of what is his last Olympics.

But it would not be an easy outing for Gupta who will have to take on the in-form Park in the opening round at the Gaudi Olympic Stadium.

But crossing the first hurdle is not going to relieve the pressure on Gupta by any means as fourth seed Bao Chunlai of China will be his most likely opponent in the second round.

In the women’s event, the only trouble for Popat in the first round could be her unfamiliarity of the opponent.

Popat has never faced Edwards before and even though it might appear an easy outing for her, she would surely have to guard against any surprises.

Popat, who had lost in the first round in the Sydney Olympics against Kelly Morgan of Wales, will then most probably face fourth seed Mia Audina of Nederlands. — PTI

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Greeks rush for tickets

ATHENS: Thousands of Greeks were queueing for hours today to buy tickets for the Olympics after organisers called for a boost in sales which initially had lagged. With a record in daily sales broken every day in the past week, organisers were satisfied and surprised with the turnout.

“We certainly did not expect this. The response is just magnificent,” a senior Games official told Reuters today. “We are optimistic but we have to wait for the end of this coming week.”

Until early last week organisers had sold less than half of the 5.2 million tickets for the August 13 to 29 Games, but with over 150,000 sold in three days, they were confident they would meet their target of 3.4 million before the Olympics start.

Central Athens ticket-stands were crowded with Greeks notorious for their last minute-buying habits and organisers pledged to open four more selling points tomorrow. Thousands more tickets are booked online and via the Games official bank. — Reuters

Pope’s greetings

Castelgandolfo: Pope John Paul II said on Sunday he hoped the Olympic Games in Athens would be free of tension and help promote peace and understanding between people.

Speaking to pilgrims attending the traditional Angelus prayer at his summer residence outside Rome, the Pope sent his greetings to the thousands of athletes and officials participating in the 28th edition of the games, which start on Friday.

“In a world which today is so often shaken and disrupted by so many forms of hatred and violence, it is my heartfelt hope that the games will be an occasion for a serene encounter and help promote peace and understanding between people.” — AFP

Boycott averted

ATHENS: A possible Olympic boycott by women tennis players has been averted.

WTA Tour players were unhappy that Anca Barna and Marlene Weingaertner had not been included in the German team despite meeting International Tennis Federation qualifying standards.

With the top 56 ranked players earning automatic entry into the Olympics, Barna and Weingaertner, ranked 46 and 52, qualified quite comfortably.

But the German Olympic Committee insisted on much stiffer criteria of reaching a semi-final of a grand slam or the final of a tier-one event, which neither player has met.

The WTA had considered withdrawing world rankings points from the Olympic competition due to begin next Sunday — a move which many suspect would have prompted a players’ boycott.

But the row was defused late on Saturday when WTA chief Larry Scott said they had opted not to withdraw the points.

But he warned they would not renew their Olympic agreement unless there was a 100 per cent guarantee that in future all eligible WTA Tour players based on ranking would qualify. — Reuters

Humble ambitions

ISLAMABAD: The only woman in Pakistan’s Olympic track and field team for Athens has ruled out targeting a medal and has instead set herself the humble ambition of not finishing last.

“I know the star-studded line-up in the 1,500 meters leaves me nowhere in the medal race but for me the main thing is that I don’t come last,” Sumera Zahoor told AFP.

Pakistan’s 45-member contingent for the Athens Games beginning next week includes two female athletes with 16-year-old Rubab Reza set to become the country’s first female swimmer to jump into an Olympic pool.

Pakistan’s conservative society allows restricted participation of females in sporting events.

Before Sumera, Shabana Akhtar became the first-ever female athlete to represent Pakistan in an Olympics when she competed at Atlanta 1996. Shazia Hidayat featured in the Sydney Olympics four years later. — AFP

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South Africa salvage draw

Galle, August 8
Sri Lanka’s spin attack, led by Muttiah Muralitharan, was thwarted as South Africa put up a determined effort and salvaged a draw in the first cricket Test of a two-match series here today.

Muralitharan’s haul of 82 wickets in 10 previous Tests at the venue stood for nothing as the off-spinner struggled to get the breakthroughs his team was looking for on a pitch that took slow turn. South Africa, set a target of 325 in a minimum of 93 overs, scored 203-3 at close of the final day’s play at the Galle International Stadium after starting the day at seven for no loss.

Jacques Kallis (52) and Jacques Rudolph (27) were the not-out batsmen as Sri Lanka’s quest to take 10 wickets on the final day ended in a damp squib.

The home side had declared their second innings at 214-9 yesterday after taking a 110-run lead.

Sri Lanka, who had won six of their previous 10 Tests at the venue and lost just two, thus failed to go one-up in a bid to win their first Test series against South Africa.

The only satisfaction for Muralitharan, who took 4-130 in an unimpressive first innings effort, was that he left Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne behind in their race for Test wickets.

The two spinners shared the world record of 527 before this match but Muralitharan went to 532 after his five scalps in Galle, toiling hard for his one scalp in the second innings.

Muralitharan, who cannot bowl his away-going ‘doosra’ delivery as per directions from the International Cricket Council, proved ineffective as first Graeme Smith (74) and then Kallis batted solidly for half-centuries.

“It was surprising to see the slow turn on this pitch,” said captain Marvan Atapattu. “Murali, too, did not bowl very well in this match but we hope to see him back among the wickets soon.”

Sri Lanka were left frustrated and even Kumar Sangakkara, who is a wicket-keeper but playing this Test as a specialist batsman, got to bowl for the first time in international cricket.

Left-handed Smith led the visiting side’s fightback as he was out at the stroke of tea after resuming the day on five.

He was playing a delivery from leg-spinner Upul Chandana, and as the ball went towards the stumps, he kicked it in an attempt to save his wicket but hit the ball on to the stumps.

Kallis, who had scored an aggressive 51 in the first innings, was more subdued in the second innings hitting six fours off 129 balls.

Scoreboard

Sri Lanka (1st innings): 486

South Africa (1st innings): 376

Sri Lanka (2nd innings): 214-9 declared

South Africa (2nd innings):

Smith b Chandana 74

Dippenaar c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 11

Van Jaarsveld lbw b Dilshan 29

Kallis not out 52

Rudolph not out 27

Extras: (b-1, lb-4, w-4, nb-3) 10

Total: (3 wckts, 90 overs) 203

Fall of wickets: 1-34, 2-98, 3-135

Bowling: Vaas 10-3-20-0, Jayasuriya 17-7-30-0, Dilshan 16-5-30-1, Maharoof 5-2-4-0, Muralitharan 20-5-37-1, Chandana 18-1-60-1, Samaraweera 3-0-13-0, Sangakkara 1-0-4-0. — Reuters

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Asian Cup had plenty of spark

Beijing, August 8
With 17 sending offs the Asian Cup was a bad-tempered affair, but it also showcased the giant strides the continent is making to match the top teams of the world.

While lacking the star power of Euro 2004, Asia’s premier football tournament had plenty of spark. Coaches were sacked, fans got ugly, players brawled and politics were dragged into the mix. The three-week festival ended yesterday with Japan defending their title against China, overcoming an intimidating atmosphere to win 3-1 courtesy a highly controversial goal that Koji Nakata appeared to scoop in with his hand.

Dubious refereeing decisions marred the tournament, with one referee, Bahraini Abdul Rahman, sent home after an erratic display of officiating.

The championships produced 94 goals, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and evidence that the game in Asia is pushing the barriers in its drive to be recognised as a competitive force on the global stage.

“It is a fact that most of the teams have made rapid improvement since four years ago and this is the most competitive and best tournament in Asian Cup history,” said Chinese veteran Li Ming, who was competing in his fourth Asian Cup.

While broadcast to record television audiences around the world, it received a mixed reception in China, the first time the world’s most populous country has hosted the premier Asian football event.

The home team attracted crowds, but many games elsewhere were played before half empty stadiums and the behaviour of Chinese fans was called into question.

Peter Velappan, the general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation, lit the tournament fuse on the opening day, threatening to bar future AFC events from Beijing and even suggesting the city was not a suitable venue for the Olympics.

He was outraged after fans booed speeches by guests at the opening ceremony and spent the rest of the tournament trying to make amends.

In the end, China making the final proved a dream for the AFC, but it also brought headaches, with fans heckling Japan over the country’s war-time past, drawing protests from politicians in Japan and China.

Tempers flared on the pitch though, with midfield brawls and 17 red cards in 32 games. Two Iranian players were suspended for slapping each other.

While China and Japan making the final was a fair bet, none tipped Gulf minnows Bahrain to make the last four.

The tiny state, population just 680,000, set the tone with a last gasp equaliser to hold China in the opening game of the tournament and went on to display a never-say-die attitude as the competition surprise package.

Perhaps the biggest failure was highly fancied Saudi Arabia. Recognised as one of Asia’s top three teams, the Saudis had won the tournament three times and been runners up twice, including in Lebanon four years ago.

They came to China without playing any friendlies, so confident was Dutch coach Gerard Van Der Lem.

It all went horribly wrong, as they lost to Iraq and Uzbekistan and drew with lowly Turkmenistan to crash out at the group stage, with Van Der Lem paying for it with his job.

Uzbekistan and drew with lowly Turkmenistan to crash out at the group stage, with Van Der Lem paying for it with his job.

Experienced Frenchman Phillippe Troussier, who won the Asian Cup with Japan four years ago, was also sensationally sacked by Qatar after they lost their opening group match against Indonesia. — AFP

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Railways win boxing trophy
Tribune News Service

Hisar, August 8
The Railways team won the overall trophy with 49 points on the final day of the 51st National Senior Men’s Boxing Championship which concluded at Mahabir Stadium here today.

The Services team was number two with 45 points while Haryana got the third place with 28. H.K.Beliwal of the Services team was adjudged the best boxer of the tournament. Gurmukh Singh of Punjab was declared the best loser.

Mr Ajay Chautala, MP and INLD general secretary, was the chief guest on the concluding ceremony. He gave away the prizes to the winners. Twentytwo boxers displayed their talent to bag the gold and silver medals in 11 categories.

Railways pugilists won four gold, one silver and three bronze medals, while the Services team boxers bagged four gold, one silver and one bronze medals. The Haryana team remained at number three on points.

In the first bout of the day, Delhi’s Balbir easily defeated Jonathan of Services 24-7. H.K.Beliwal of the Services beat Gurmukh Singh of Punjab 15-12.

In the bantamweight category, Haryana captain Bijender Singh defeated Torak Kharoram of Meghalaya 24-13. In feather weight, A.L. Lakra of the Services outscored L.Roman Singh of Manipur.

In the light weight category, Jai Bhagwan of Railway prevailed over Ranjit Singh of All-India Police and won the bout 15-1. In the lightwelterweight category, Som Bahadur Pun defeated Praveen Kumar of Railways 17-3. In the welterweight category Railway’s Hari Kishan beat Birender Singh of Punjab.

Middleweight boxer Parminder of the Railways defeated Punjab’s Gautam Bhargava 16-9. In the light heavyweight category, Railway’s Durjay Shastri defeated Haryana’s Sukhwinder Singh.

In the heavyweight category, Ajay Kumar of Delhi beat Raj Kumar of BSF to win the gold. In the super heavyweight category, V.Johnson of Services got the gold on a knockout basis. His opponent, Sanjeev Kumar of Sikkim, did not appear in the ring.

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Dingko accuses referees of bias
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

N.G. Dingko Hisar, August 8
Asian gold medallist, Arjuna awardee and Olympian boxer N.G. Dingko Singh has alleged that he was unfairly declared the loser during the National Senior Men’s Boxing Championship. Dingko lost to Sonu Chahal of Haryana in the light weight category 11-12 on August 5.

Talking to The Tribune, Dingko levelled allegations against the organisers, stating that it was wrong to declare him defeated and it was a biased decision. The Services boxer said his was not the only instance of an unfair decision and referees had been influenced to favour certain teams and candidates.

When asked why didn’t he protest against the decision, he replied that it would be of no use as the decision had been made. Protesting against the decision during the bout would have brought a bad name to him, he added.

A disappointed Dingko said after being a national champion for seven times and having been adjudged the best boxer thrice, it was very painful to lose a simple bout due to an unfair decision.

“On the basis of my long experience in international as well as national boxing, I am sure I was leading in the bout. Show the recording to any competent expert and he would declare me the winner,” Dingko maintained. The star boxer recalled that he had begun his professional boxing career from Ambala in Haryana, stating that “it all ended here in Hisar, which is also in Haryana.” 

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Indian eves 2nd in Asian wrestling meet
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 8
Indian girls finished overall second in the Asian Cadet Wrestling Championship, which concluded in Bisheek (Kyrgystan) today. The Indian girls won two gold, two silver and one bronze medals at the championship which had begun on August 5, Wrestling Federation of India president R.S. Malik informed in a statement here.

Geeta (46 kg) and Suman (55 kg) claimed gold medals while Sudesh (43 kg) and Priyanka (70kg) finished runner-up in their respective categories. Meenakshi Devi bagged bronze medal in 70 kg. The Indian team will return tomorrow.

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GND varsity steps in to help disabled boxer
Neeraj Bagga

Amritsar, August 8
Guru Nanak Dev University has written to the Sports Ministry, the Association of Indian Universities and the Punjab Government to help create a special post for its boxer Shiv Sharma, who sustained serious injuries during a brawl at Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry at Nauni, near Solan, on March 26.

Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, admitted that the university did not have any post as per his qualification. He said as the pugilist was a graduate, he could not be given a peon’s job, but he was also not qualified enough for a clerical post.

Shiv Sharma, along with 10 other students, including eight boxers, got injured at Dr Y. S. Parmar University when a group of university students went on the rampage. His younger brother, Prem Sharma, also a boxer, sustained minor injuries. They had gone to participate in the All-India Inter-University Men’s Boxing Championship. The brawl took place because some students, who were observing mourning for the death of their fellow student, demanded the stopping of campus activities, including the championship.

A bronze medallist in the last inter-university championship, Shiv said on the phone from Gurdaspur, “I had put in earnest efforts to improve my ranking.” However, he can no longer play the sport as he is unable to move three fingers of his right hand.

Subhash Chander, Shiv’s father, a retired bank employee, said he had written four letters to the university for getting his son a job but to no avail. He said the fateful incident had left Shiv ineligible for jobs in the Indo- Tibetan Border Police, South-East Centre Railway and the Punjab and Haryana High Court, from whom he had received letters to appear in their tests.

The Vice-Chancellor said a job could not be provided in a fixed period. He said keeping in mind that their players, including Shiv, were not directly involved in the brawl, he was looking into the matter. However, he said it would take some time and he would even ask some colleges for a job.

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Women footballers honoured
Our Sports Reporter

Ludhiana, August 8
Four international women football players of Punjab who have brought laurels to the state were felicitated by the Punjab Women’s Football Association (PWFA) at a function in Phagwara yesterday. The players honoured were Paramjit Kaur, Sharanjit Kaur Shampy, Gurmeet Kaur and Simranjeet Kaur.

Ms Sukhwinder Kaur, a spokesperson for the PWFA, said Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Revenue Minister, Punjab, was the chief guest. He gave away cash prizes of Rs 5,000 each and a citation to the footballers. Mr Samra announced a grant of Rs 50,000 for the association.

An exhibition match in memory of Lala Dwarka Dass Sehgal, founder of Leader Football Club who had organised Santosh Trophy football championship at Phagwara, was played between the teams of Sukhjit Starch Mills and Nivia Club. The former won 7-4.

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Sania wins title in England

Hyderabad, August 8
Adding one more feather to her cap, Sania Mirza upset top seed Irina Boulykina of Russia to win the $ 10,000 ITF women’s title at Wrexham, England.
Trailing by a set, Sania bounced back superbly to defeat Boulykina (world no. 238) 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the final to win her eighth professional title and the third this year. — PTI

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Varun Kumar to lead Delhi
Our Sports Reporter

New Delhi, August 8
Varun Kumar will lead a 14-member Delhi team in the Sahara Buchi Babu All-India Invitation Cricket Tournament to be played in Chennai from August 19.
Former Indian medium-pacer and national selector Madan Lal will accompany the team as manager, according to former Indian opener and vice-president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association Chetan Chauhan.

The team: Varun Kumar (captain), Pardeep Chawla (vice-captain), Pururaj Singh, Aditya Jain, Shikhar Dhawan, NS Negi, Abhinav Bali, Mayank Tehlan, Wilkin Vitor, Abhishek Sharma, Vivek Khurana, Kunal Lal, Kuldeep Rawat and Sanjay Gill.

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