SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S



Khatri loses first bout
Hockey coach hits back at critics
Athens, August 24
India started on the wrong foot in the wrestling competition with Mukesh Khatri losing tamely 0-6 to his Russian rival in the Greco-Roman style on the 11th day of the Olympic Games today.

Last-minute jitters dog India
Athens, August 24
Our national pride has been shattered in the birth place of Olympics. Our hockey team, the champion in eight of the previous 19 editions of the games, and trained by a German coach, has had three crushing defeats in five games it has played here so far.

Rach desperate to plug loopholes
Athens, August 24
India will have to check their tendency to concede last-minute goals when they take on arch-rivals Pakistan in what promises to be a high-voltage classification match for the 5-8 positions in the Olympic Games here tomorrow.

Poor show ‘due to defensive approach’
New Delhi, August 24
Indian hockey team is paying the price for not playing to their strength at the Athens Olympics, said former coach Rajinder Singh while blaming a defensive approach for the side’s lacklustre show in the mega tournament.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee greets Major Rajyavardhan Rathore Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee greets Major Rajyavardhan Rathore, who won the silver medal in double trap shooting at the Athens Olympics, in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI



The President of the Athens 2004 Organising Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, throws the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball semifinal between Australia
The President of the Athens 2004 Organising Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki (L), throws the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball semifinal between Australia and Japan in Athens on Tuesday.— Reuters

EARLIER STORIES
 

Pillay to retire after Olympics, says coach
Athens, August 24
The hour of reckoning seems to have finally come for the mercurial striker and four-time Olympian Dhanraj Pillay. ''Pillay will retire after the Olympics'', announced India's chief coach Gerhard Rach here today.

Don’t be complacent: Pak coaches
Athens, August 24
Pakistan coaches Roelant Oltmans and Tahir Zaman have cautioned the players not to be complacent against India in their fifth-eighth placing match in the Olympic hockey competition here tomorrow.

Anju George faces Herculean task today 
Athens, August 24
India's only hope for a second medal in the Olympics, long jumper Anju Bobby George has a Herculean task ahead of her in the event which starts here tomorrow amid a mind-boggling field.

Wang Feng Troy Dumais Ken Terauchi
From left to right: Wang Feng of China, Troy Dumais of the USA and Ken Terauchi of Japan dive during the men's 3-metre springboard event at the Olympics Games in Athens on Tuesday. Feng qualified for the final in second position while Dumais and Terauchi bagged the fifth and sixth position, respectively, to qualify for the final. — Reuters photos

Weightlifting coaches sacked
New Delhi, August 24
The government, taking a serious view of the doping scandal involving women weightlifters Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu at the Athen Olympic Games, acted swiftly to fix responsibility when it terminated the services of foreign coach Leonid Taranenko and national coach Pal Singh Sandhu with “immediate effect”.

Wariner leads US sweep in men’s 400 m
Athens, August 24
Jeremy Wariner stepped into Michael Johnson’s shoes and led a US sweep in the 400 metres yesterday, powering down the stretch to edge Otis Harris for his first major title.

Great Britain’s Kelly Holmes celebrates winning the gold medal in the women’s 800 metres in Athens on Monday. Holmes clocked one minute 56.38 seconds, ahead of Morocco’s Hasna Benhassi and Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak.
— Reuters photo
Great Britain’s Kelly Holmes celebrates winning the gold medal in the women’s 800 metres in Athens on Monday. Holmes clocked one minute 56.38 seconds

Jeremy Wariner of the USA rejoices after winning the men’s 400 metres final Wariner fastest in 400m since Michael Johnson
Athens, August 24
Jeremy Wariner began to fill the gaping hole left by track legend Michael Johnson when he emerged from obscurity to win the 400 metres gold medal at the Olympic Games here. Wariner was unknown outside the US college circuit just one year ago but his victory in 44.00sec breathed life into an event that has been in the doldrums since Johnson won the last of his five Olympic gold medals at the Sydney Olympics four years ago.





Jeremy Wariner of the USA rejoices after winning the men’s 400 metres final in Athens on Monday. Wariner won the gold medal in a time of 44.00 seconds, ahead of compatriots Otis Harris and Derrick Brew. — Reuters photo

Hamm wins silver amid tension
Athens, August 24
For 10 solid minutes, the crowd booed and whistled. Paul Hamm sat around and waited to start his routine. A week’s worth of controversy in gymnastics boiled over into the crowd last night during a bizarre, extraordinary evening in which Hamm won a silver medal on high bar and four-time Olympic gold medalist Alexei Nemov finished fifth, much to the crowd’s chagrin.

Discus throw winner to  lose gold
Athens, August 24
Hungarian Olympic discus champion Robert Fazekas will lose his gold medal and be expelled from the games after being caught trying to tamper with a urine sample, an International Olympic Committee source said today.

Korean Ryu spoils China’s party 
Athens, August 24
China reaffirmed its status as the most powerful force in world table tennis with three golds at the Athens Olympics, but South Korean Ryu Seung-Min ruined the Asian giant’s campaign for total dominance.

Swimmers Michael Phelps of the US and Inge De Bruijn of the Netherlands strike a pose during the Speedo Athlete Beach Day
Swimmers Michael Phelps of the US and Inge De Bruijn of the Netherlands strike a pose during the Speedo Athlete Beach Day at a beach in Athens on Tuesday.

Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the USA celebrate after winning their beach volleyball semifinal against compatriots Holly McPeak and Eliane Youngs
Misty May (L) and Kerri Walsh of the USA celebrate after winning their beach volleyball semifinal against compatriots Holly McPeak and Eliane Youngs in Athens on Monday. — Reuters photos

Boxing champion knocked out
Athens, August 24
Russian featherweight Alexei Tichtchenko ousted world champion Galib Jafarov of Kazakhstan from the Olympic boxing tournament, winning 36-26 to advance to the semifinals. Two world champions advanced with easy wins on the second day of quarterfinals at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall. Russian super heavyweight Alexander Povetkin and bantamweight Aghasi Mammadov both clinched a medal — as did the other 10 winners in yesterday’s fights, since bronzes are awarded to both semifinal losers.

Italy, Greece enter women’s water polo final
Athens, August 24
Italy and Greece advanced to the Olympic title game in women’s water polo today, with Italy beating the USA 6-5 and Greece topping Australia 6-2 in semifinal matches. Driver Manuela Zanchi scored with two seconds left to power Italy to its come-from-behind win over the USA, who beat Italy for the world title last year.

Athens Diary
Olympic tickets at a premium
“You want a ticket to go inside right now,” is the call that greets you outside most of the venues of the XXVIII Olympic Games here. Displaying tickets of various events and of different denominations, they are enterprising young men from various nationalities, who are here to make a quick buck. Interestingly, some young men of South Asian origin now settled in England and Germany, too, are trying their luck at trading in tickets.

We need to improve: Gagan Narang
Hyderabad, August 24
Shooter Gagan Narang, who failed to qualify for the Olympics final, will try to put the disappointment behind and aim for a better show in the days ahead. The world no 13, who missed qualification for the final of 10 metre air rifle by a whisker, told PTI here today that he was disappointed by his show but would chart a fresh course for himself soon. The 22-year-old, the youngest Indian shooter in fray in Athens who shot into prominence in the National Games by winning the gold, said it was just bad luck which saw him miss the final.

Sailors all at sea
Athens, August 24
Continuing their highly forgettable journey through the Mediterranean, the Indian sailing duo of Malav Shroff and Sumeet Patel remained anchored to the last place after the 15th and penultimate race of the 49er (mixed open double-handed dinghy) Olympic regatta here today.

Greek judoka succumbs to injuries
ATHENS: Greek judoka Eleni Ioannou died after 17 days of hospitalisation in critical condition following a fall from the third storey of her boyfriend’s apartment, a hospital source said today.

Olympic gold medalist Yuri Nikitin from Ukraine and bronze medallist Henrik Stehlik of Germany perform on the trampoline during an artistic gymnastics exhibition in Athens on Tuesday Olympic gold medalist Yuri Nikitin from Ukraine (left) and bronze medallist Henrik Stehlik of Germany perform on the trampoline during an artistic gymnastics exhibition in Athens on Tuesday. — Reuters



Confident Pak take on Aussies 
Amsterdam, August 2
On a high after some good performances in the recent past, Pakistan will take on world champions Australia in the final league engagement of the cricket tri-series here tomorrow hoping to keep their winning momentum going.

Asian cricketers selfish: Hayden
Sydney, August 24
Matthew Hayden says Australia are the leading cricketing team in the world because its players play as a team whereas cricketers from the sub-continent, including India, play for personal milestones.

India lose to Vietnam 1-2
Hanoi, August 24
Striking once in each half, Vietnam defeated India 2-1 to top group A in the LG Cup soccer tournament at Ho Chi Minh City today.

NZ junior athletics at Panipat
Chandigarh, August 24
More than 1,000 athletes from eight states will be seen in action in the three-day 16th North Zone Junior Athletic Championships to be held at Shivaji Stadium at Panipat.

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Khatri loses first bout
Hockey coach hits back at critics
M.R. Mishra

Athens, August 24
India started on the wrong foot in the wrestling competition with Mukesh Khatri losing tamely 0-6 to his Russian rival in the Greco-Roman style on the 11th day of the Olympic Games today.

Khatri was too passive in his 55 kg bout and got docked two points for the transgression against his 30-year-old rival Gueidar Mamedaliev in the Group B elimination round. But the Indian still has a bout against former world champion Dariusz Jablonski of Poland to remain in the fray.

On the hockey front, the team’s disastrous performance continued to show its ill-effects with coach Gerhard Rach lashing out at some members of the team for criticising his tactics in the media.

Rach, appointed controversially to the hot seat less than a month before the games in place of Rajinder Singh, was scathing in his criticism of veteran Dhanraj Pillay and forward Prabhjot Singh for airing their grievances in public.

“I don’t know what Prabhjot is complaining about. I don’t know why he is mourning. He has played 50-55 minutes in every game. Even in the last match against Argentina, he played for 25 minutes or so. For me, it’s all an excuse for his failures. He has not performed up to expectations and he’s trying to hide his failures,” Rach said in reply to the frontliner’s criticism yesterday.

Referring to Pillay’s strong views about his tactics, Rach said, “I would like to ask him what India has achieved in hockey in the past 16 years? If you don’t start changing now, you will not achieve anything for another 16 years.”

The German-born coach commented further, “If it was in Germany, or any other country, the players concerned would have been asked to go home.”

Things were no better in other disciplines with India having very little to look forward to in the remainder of the games barring long jumper Anju Bobby George, who is the only world-class competitor the Indian athletics contingent possesses.

Her competition is scheduled for tomorrow. But the athlete, who had tuned up for the Olympics by taking part in a string of top-level meets in the USA and Europe, remained incommunicado in order to concentrate on her primary aim — to become the first Indian athlete to climb the medal podium. — PTI

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Last-minute jitters dog India
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Athens, August 24
Our national pride has been shattered in the birth place of Olympics. Our hockey team, the champion in eight of the previous 19 editions of the games, and trained by a German coach, has had three crushing defeats in five games it has played here so far. Two of these defeats came by last-minute goals. And yesterday, when we drew with bottom-placed Pan American champions Argentina, we conceded yet another last-minute goal to draw the game.

Though a win against Argentina would not have made much of a difference to the standing of the team for the play-off matches, yet it has sent a strong message. We crumble at the end. Recriminations filled the air as we failed for the sixth successive time to make the last-four grades.

India, by finishing fourth in its pool, is now drawn to play arch-rival Pakistan tomorrow. This has again raised a lot of excitement in the Asian community here which has been making-a beeline for tickets.

“We must beat Pakistan. If we win, it is as good as a gold medal for us’” remarked Mr Mewa Singh, an office-bearer of the Indian-Greek Association.

“We hope to finish fifth here,” remarked Mr KPS Gill, President of the Indian Hockey Federation, after the game against Argentina, holding that India should have won the match by a margin of two goals. India did miss a couple of chances, including a sitter by veteran Dhanraj Pillay, who had beaten the goalkeeper but pushed the ball out from in front of an empty goalmouth.

The IHF chief, who has done his best in sending the team to the USA as well as Germany for its final coaching camps, wondered on the comments forward Prabhjot Singh made in an interview with a TV channel. Prabhjot alleged that he remained under-utilised in the tournament.

The coach of the Indian team, Gerhard Rach, was probably not pleased at his public criticism and retorted back at the post-match conference, virtually hurling abuses at those who had been breeding dissension and contempt in the team.

“Prabhjot has played in almost every game. Against Argentina, he played for 25 minutes. His performance is before you. Some players had been criticising Harpal Singh, who incidentally, has been India’s best player in the tournament so far,” remarked the coach.

The best performance of India after their eighth gold in Moscow has been Los Angeles (1984) where India took the fifth position. “We have been following Indian hockey since 1984. Every time we come to watch India play, we return home disappointed. Every time it is the same story — mismanagement, dissensions and failure to stand to the pressure of the competition,” remarked Ajmer Singh, a British of Indian origin.

Defiance of the management was obvious in yesterday’s game when some senior players were reluctant to be substituted. It happened more than once. And each time, the player who had to come to the field had to return to the desk as the player whom he had to replace refused to leave the field.

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Rach desperate to plug loopholes

Athens, August 24
India will have to check their tendency to concede last-minute goals when they take on arch-rivals Pakistan in what promises to be a high-voltage classification match for the 5-8 positions in the Olympic Games here tomorrow.

The Indians, also saddled by injury woes, have been haunted by the problem of conceding goals in the dying minutes and a similar blow could lead to their downfall against their bitter foes in what promises to be a test of Asian skills and nerves.

Out of a medal contention, India are now aiming for a top-five finish which would help them qualify for the Champions Trophy to be held in Pakistan in December. Pakistan automatically qualify for the elite six-nation tournament as hosts.

But for three times in a row here, the Indians have been laid low by last minute goals which have cost the eight-time gold medallists heavily and chief coach Gerhard Rach is aghast by the elementary mistakes his wards have been committing in the dying stages.

It is an aspect of the game which has tormented the Indians for much too long and it remains to be seen whether the tough talking by the coach will have any bearing when the two Asian giants clash at the Helliniko Hockey Centre.

But Dilip Tirkey and his men should not allow the recent controversies to weigh on their minds when they take on Pakistan who are also known to be a highly inconsistent team. But any clash between the traditional rivals generally brings out the best in the players and it would be no different tomorrow.

The injuries to several key players have also left the Indian camp a little worried ahead of the potentially nerve-wracking encounter.

The injury to goalkeeper Arian D’Souza, who has been by far the best Indian player in the tournament effecting some brilliant saves, will serve as a big blow for the team looking to improve upon its seventh-place finish in the last Olympic Games in Sydney.

D’Souza was hit just above the knee in the late stages of the match against Argentina and had to be stretchered off the field. The team management is keeping its fingers crossed about his recovery but it looks unlikely that the in-form custodian will be able to take the field.

Forward Deepak Thakur, who was rested in the last match because of chest problems, is keen to play against Pakistan but it remains to be seen whether the team think tank will take the risk and make him play even for a short while.

Notwitstanding the odds, India’s chief coach Gerhard Rach is desperate to plug the loopholes which, if left unrectified, could push India further down in the classification list. — PTI 

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Poor show ‘due to defensive approach’

New Delhi, August 24
Indian hockey team is paying the price for not playing to their strength at the Athens Olympics, said former coach Rajinder Singh while blaming a defensive approach for the side’s lacklustre show in the mega tournament.

“The team had the potential to qualify for the semifinals and win a medal but it has now gone up in smoke. We should have played an attacking game, which has always been our strength,” Rajinder told PTI here today.

Rajinder, who was unceremoniously removed from the chief coach’s post just a fortnight before the start of the Olympics, did not comment on the strategies of his successor Gerhard Rach of Germany. But he said the dreaded forward-line could have been used more effectively in all the matches.

“The forward line looked like as if they were playing as defenders. They were highly successful only recently. But unfortunately we did not use the strikers to the best of their abilities,” said Rajinder, who was a member of the team that won the gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Games. “We used 80 per cent of the energy on defending. The outcome could have been different had we used the same energy on attacking.”

He also said he noticed the players committing a number of mistakes at crucial times.

“The trapping was poor. I don’t know why it happened. But earlier it was not like that. I don’t want to compare the performance of the current team with the team under me. But there are certain areas which need attention.

“We must now stress on earning and scoring from penalty corners without conceding too many of them. We are also conceding goals in the dying moments,” said Rajinder, himself a penalty corner expert.

Rajinder said the players were collectively responsible for the debacle although there were a few silver linings.

“Adrian (D’Souza) has been quite impressive. He has done a wonderful job. Viren (Rasquinha) has also turned out to be a very good defender and a clever player. He is also having a fine tournament.”

He said the team’s best showing came in the tournament against Australia, which it lost 3-4 on a last minute goal.

Rajinder also blamed poor umpiring for compounding the side’s misery in the competition. “Umpiring has always gone against us,” he rued. With the side now playing for classification matches, Rajinder said it was important for it to beat Pakistan tomorrow and secure a place in this year’s Champions Trophy in Pakistan.

The top five teams and the hosts will qualify for the prestigious six-nation event, which will be held in Lahore in December. — PTI

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Pillay to retire after Olympics, says coach

Athens, August 24
The hour of reckoning seems to have finally come for the mercurial striker and four-time Olympian Dhanraj Pillay. ''Pillay will retire after the Olympics'', announced India's chief coach Gerhard Rach here today.

It was ironic that Pillay, the bete noire of Indian Hockey Federation whose exclusion and then inclusion in the team created much controversy before the start of the Olympics, did not get the chance to announce his retirement. It was done by the coach after the match against Argentina.

The announcement by the coach is seen as a ploy by the IHF which wants to get rid of few senior players.

Rach said two senior players were in line to hang up their boots once the Olympics is over.

To a pointed query if Pillay was one of them, Rach said, ''Yes. I have been told that he will retire after the Olympics.''

Asked whether the second player was Baljit Singh Dhillon, he replied, ''You seem to know everything.''

Meanwhile, striker Deepak Thakur, who was admitted to the ICU of a local hospital after the match against New Zealand, was present on the Indian bench during their last league encounter against Argentina.

It is not clear whether the striker will play the crucial match against Pakistan tomorrow. ''We are watching his condition and will take a decision before the match'' IHF secretary K Jothikumaran said. —UNI 

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Don’t be complacent: Pak coaches

Athens, August 24
Pakistan coaches Roelant Oltmans and Tahir Zaman have cautioned the players not to be complacent against India in their fifth-eighth placing match in the Olympic hockey competition here tomorrow.

“It is important we play our natural game. India can not be underestimated”, said Tahir Zaman when asked about team’s strategy for tomorrow’s match.

“We should have been in the semis but two losses put us out. Now we have to give our best to finish at least fifth in the tournament,” said Zaman.

Oltmans, the Dutch coach, who was brought in to train the team late last year was also of the view “Pakistan can ill-afford to miss chances. Our forwards should display consistency and play fast, flowing game.”

He said he would have liked to see Pakistan in the semis.“The boys played superbly except against Spain and that made all the difference,” he said.

The Dutch coach said he was very pleased the way his boys played against Britain. “We need to main the same flow against the Indians.”

Though India and Pakistan have played each other many a times in last year with most of the verdicts going in favour of India, this year they have played three times and Pakistan won on all three occasions. The last was in Amsterdam where Pakistan blanked India 6-1 in a four-nation tourney. — UNI

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Anju George faces Herculean task today 

Athens, August 24
India's only hope for a second medal in the Olympics, long jumper Anju Bobby George has a Herculean task ahead of her in the event which starts here tomorrow amid a mind-boggling field.

The 27-year star Indian jumper ranked joint fifth with world champion Eunice Barber of France will have to perform many notches above her best of 6.74 metres to hope for a podium finish.

Anju, the first Indian athlete to win a global medal as she earned a bronze in last year's world championships in Paris with 6.70 metres faces a 40-strong field in which seven have crossed over 7 meters and at least six have crossed over 6.74 metres.

Anju's set the national record at 6.74 metres in Thiruvananthapuram in 2001 and repeated that performance in New Delhi next year. Again in 2002 she became the first Indian women athlete to win a Commonwealth medal (Bronze) and then went on to claim the gold in the Asian Games.

But it was her showing in the world championships at Paris which vaulted her to unprecedented fame which very few Indian athletes have enjoyed.

Anju had trained under world record holder Mike Powell in the USA in 2003 before her world championships success, and though her medal cannot be attributed to Powell and his training, he did polish her technique.

An injury had prevented her from making the trip to the Sydney Olympics, though she had qualified for the 2000 Games, but that disappointment had made her resolve stronger in 2003 as she went after the world medal.

But things have not worked out well this season. Her achievements were modest, beginning with a fourth place in Osaka and then the gold at Doha (wind-aided 6.82 m). She had the fifth place in Ostrava, bronze in Eugene and silver in Madrid. She also had the fourth place in Rome (6.41) and fifth in Stockholm (6.60), performances that seemed to suggest a setback of sorts.

But Anju had done around those marks last year as well before she touched a season best of 6.70 in Paris for the world bronze. She is now confident that her training sessions would help her convert to a good 6.90-6.95 effort and she might even be able to go beyond 7.0 metres.

Her main challengers Tatyana Lebedeva (Rus), Tatyana Kotova (Rus), Irina Simagina (Rus) and Marion Jones (US) are in tremendous form, all having touched or crossed 7.00 metres.

Lebedeva jumped a 7.33 (best in two years in the world) in the Russian National championships in Tula, where Simagina jumped 7.27.

Jones was in terrific form during the US trials, coming up with a 7.11.

The pull-out by Jamaican Elva Goulbourne, the Commonwealth Games champion, who also had a 7.16 for the season, made the contest at the top somewhat easier. Swede Carolina Kluft, the world heptathlon champion, also had a 6.97. Eunice Barber was injured and her fate was not known till well into Olympics time.

Anju needs all the luck to qualify for the finals but once in the final, she could be in with a chance. If she can produce 6.95 she is well in with a chance for a medal. Even around 6.80-6.85, she might be in for a bronze. Otherwise, she will have to settle for a place below fourth.

Her own assessment as she had said back home was 7-7.10 metres for gold, 6.95-7.00 for silver and around 6.95 for bronze. But the question is will she perform up to this level in such a high voltage field.

Hungary's Zita Ajkler too has a higher jump than Anju. Zita's best is 6.76, same is the case with Romania's Adina Anton who has 6.80 jump to her credit.

Australia's Bronwyn Thompson has the season's best of 6.80 and her personal best is 7.00. American Upshaw of the USA has a season and personal best of 6.84 while Bulgaria's Antoniya has 6.78 to her credit.

Then there is China's Yingnan Guan (season best 6.80 and personal best 6.95) and Lativa's Valentina Gotovska (SB 6.72, PB 6.91). And these are jumpers whose chances are not rated high.

Where it leaves Anju will only be known after the qualifying round gets over tomorrow afternoon.—UNI

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Weightlifting coaches sacked
Our Sports Reporter

New Delhi, August 24
The government, taking a serious view of the doping scandal involving women weightlifters Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu at the Athen Olympic Games, acted swiftly to fix responsibility when it terminated the services of foreign coach Leonid Taranenko and national coach Pal Singh Sandhu with “immediate effect”.

A government communication said “this decision has been taken keeping in view the incidents of doping, which have come to light during the Athens Olympics-2004”, adding that “the government has lost confidence in the two coaches in the wake of these incidents”.

Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu had tested positive for banned substances, and Pratima, on her return home, blamed the coaches for the incidents.

Taranenko had been hired to specially train Karnam Malleswari, who had won a bronze medal in the Sydney Olympic Games, though she shied away from contest at Athens. But later, he became the overall incharge of the women lifters when the Olympic coaching camp was shifted to Belarus.

ATHENS (UNI): Barely hours after being sacked from the chief weightlifting coach’s post, Pal Singh Sandhu pleaded innocence and said he was ready to cooperate with the inquiry commission set up after two lifters were tested positive at the Olympic Games here.

“I will not question the government’s decision. They can decide what they deem fit. But I am clean,” he said.

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Wariner leads US sweep in men’s 400 m

Athens, August 24
Jeremy Wariner stepped into Michael Johnson’s shoes and led a US sweep in the 400 metres yesterday, powering down the stretch to edge Otis Harris for his first major title.

Wariner clocked 44 seconds, his personal best, to stretch the Americans’ winning streak in the event to 20 years and pick up where the retired two-time champion Johnson left off.

Harris won the silver in 44.16, and Derrick Brew took the bronze in 44.42.

“It means a lot. We all thought we could go out there and go 1-2-3. We did our best, we fought hard, and we all came out on top,” Wariner said, showing no sign of emotion. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Wariner has Johnson’s old coach, Clyde Hart.

Kelly Holmes took away her friend Maria Mutola’s 800-meter Olympic title in a close race that saw the defending champion shut out of the medals.

Francoise Mbango Etone gave Cameroon its first Olympic medal in athletics when she won the triple jump at 15.30 meters.

Robert Fazekas of Hungary set an Olympic record of 70.93 meters to win the gold in the discus. Defending champion Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania had to settle for silver at 69.89 and Zoltan Kovago of Hungary took the bronze at 67.04.

Mutola, the three-time world champion from Mozambique, appeared on the way to another gold when she took the lead coming into the final straight. But Holmes closed in and passed her friend and training partner in the finish.

Mutola faded in the final few strides as Hasna Benhassi of Morocco and Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia both nipped the former champion on the line. Benhassi and Ceplak both clocked 1:56.43, but the photo finish gave the silver to the Moroccan.

“Kelly knows my weaknesses,” said Mutola, who also had a bronze in Atlanta. “Kelly deserved her gold medal.”

Holmes, a bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games and fourth at Atlanta in 1996, finished in 1:56.38. — AP

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Wariner fastest in 400m since Michael Johnson

Athens, August 24
Jeremy Wariner began to fill the gaping hole left by track legend Michael Johnson when he emerged from obscurity to win the 400 metres gold medal at the Olympic Games here.

Wariner was unknown outside the US college circuit just one year ago but his victory in 44.00sec breathed life into an event that has been in the doldrums since Johnson won the last of his five Olympic gold medals at the Sydney Olympics four years ago.

The winning time makes Wariner the fastest performer since Johnson, and the fifth quickest of all time.

Wariner’s improvement — two years ago he had a best time of 46.10sec and finished fourth in the US junior championships — represents a quantum leap by the standards of this event.

And the man who guided the raw 20-year-old college kid to glory was none other than Johnson’s former coach, Clyde Hart.

Apart from sharing the same mentor, Wariner and Johnson both hail from Texas, but one thing does divide them — unusually for an Olympic champion in the men’s sprint events, Wariner is white.

He makes light of what is a controversial issue, although it is something that his teammates, silver and bronze medallists Otis Harris and Derrick Brew, remarked on. “He is the fastest white guy I ever saw,” said Harris, who is black. — AFP

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Hamm wins silver amid tension

Athens, August 24
For 10 solid minutes, the crowd booed and whistled. Paul Hamm sat around and waited to start his routine. A week’s worth of controversy in gymnastics boiled over into the crowd last night during a bizarre, extraordinary evening in which Hamm won a silver medal on high bar and four-time Olympic gold medalist Alexei Nemov finished fifth, much to the crowd’s chagrin.

On a night when American all-around champion Carly Patterson won silver on the beam to give the US women their sixth medal, and Romania’s Catalina Ponor won gold on beam and floor, it was the high bar routine that everybody was anticipating.

Hamm scored a 9.812, tying Italy’s Igor Cassina for first, but Cassina won a tiebreaker to take the gold. Japan’s Isao Yoneda won bronze.

The showdown on the last event of the night was supposed to be between Hamm, the all-around gold medal winner, and Yang Tae-young of South Korea, who won bronze but was embroiled in a protest over a scoring error that the Koreans hoped could give him a duplicate gold.

Nemov’s routine changed all that.

The Russian, “Sexy Alexei” as he is known, put together the riskiest, most daring routine of the 10 men on the high bar. He did six release moves, four in a row and two more in which he did full somersaults while flying over the bar.

To the untrained eye, they all looked perfect; the only hiccup in the routine appeared to be a slight step forward on the dismount.

Or at least that’s what the fans thought.

When his score came up, a 9.725 that ranked him last of the three competitors to go to that point, the booing started. At first, it seemed funny and Nemov laughed along, even bowing to the crowd, many of whom waved Greek and Russian flags and chanted in their native tongues.

Hamm was supposed to go next and his name was announced, but the booing did not abate. He stepped off the podium, paced, then finally took a seat, realizing the whistling and jeering was not going to end soon. Then, something strange, a new score popped up, a 9.762 thanks to a slight change by the Malaysian judge, but that didn’t change Nemov’s ranking.

Finally, Hamm and his coach, Miles Avery, motioned Nemov to the podium and he asked for silence that the crowd gave.

Hamm finally went, after being iced for 10 minutes, and was practically flawless. He brilliantly executed his trademark three straight release moves without any problem, took a slight step forward on the landing and received ... a 9.812, a mark that easily outdistanced Nemov. — AP

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Discus throw winner to lose gold

Athens, August 24
Hungarian Olympic discus champion Robert Fazekas will lose his gold medal and be expelled from the games after being caught trying to tamper with a urine sample, an International Olympic Committee source said today.

The source also said Belarussian high jumper Aleksey Lesnichiy, who was last in the qualifying round, had tested positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol.

Fazekas was spotted by officials trying to tamper with his sample after Monday’s final.

Lithuanian Virgilijus Alekna will now be awarded the gold, Zoltan Kovago (Hungary) and Aleksander Tammert (Estonia) the bronze.

Hungarian Olympic Committee spokesman Dezso Vad said he was unaware of the IOC decision. “We have heard that he could not give enough urine and he was there (at the doping control) until 3 am in the morning and he just could not give enough. That’s the only thing we know and that the IOC was meeting to discuss this,” he said.

Fazekas is the second athletics gold medallist to forfeit his title at the Athens games after a positive test. Irina Korzhanenko of Russia was stripped of her women’s Olympic shot put gold on Sunday after testing positive for a steroid. — Reuters

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Korean Ryu spoils China’s party 

Athens, August 24
China reaffirmed its status as the most powerful force in world table tennis with three golds at the Athens Olympics, but South Korean Ryu Seung-Min ruined the Asian giant’s campaign for total dominance.

Yesterday it was left to Wang Hao, who at age 20 was the youngest member of the men’s team, to try and win the team’s fourth gold in the final against Ryu, the world number three.

But 22-year-old Ryu beat Wang Hao for pace, power and precision, eventually outlasting him 11-3, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-13, 11-9 in 45 minutes. — AFP

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Boxing champion knocked out

Athens, August 24
Russian featherweight Alexei Tichtchenko ousted world champion Galib Jafarov of Kazakhstan from the Olympic boxing tournament, winning 36-26 to advance to the semifinals.

Two world champions advanced with easy wins on the second day of quarterfinals at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall. Russian super heavyweight Alexander Povetkin and bantamweight Aghasi Mammadov both clinched a medal — as did the other 10 winners in yesterday’s fights, since bronzes are awarded to both semifinal losers.

Two more fighters from the powerful Cuban team advanced to the semis. Bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux and super heavyweight Michel Lopez Nunez encountered no problems, but featherweight Luis Franco was beaten by Germany’s Vitali Tajbert.

Tichtchenko, a 20-year-old Olympic rookie with no major international titles, took an early lead and finished off the night’s biggest upset with tight combinations of punches. Jafarov, who disappointed a section of cheering Kazakhstan fans, was the second world champion to lose in the quarterfinals, joining French light welterweight Willy Blain.

Tajbert, the runner-up at last year’s world championships and the reigning European champion, became just the second boxer to beat a Cuban. Franco, an 18-year-old in his first Olympics, was no match for Tajbert’s power and tactics.

“I am happy to be in the bronze medal position, but this is not my dream,” Tajbert said. “My dream is to win the gold.”

North Korea’s Kim Song Guk and South Korea’s Jo Seok Hwan also advanced in the featherweight division.

Rigondeaux, the defending gold medal-winning bantamweight, pounded Russia’s Gennady Kovalev 20-5 to set up a meeting with Uzbekistan’s Bahodirjon Sooltonov, the world No. 3. — AP

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Italy, Greece enter women’s water polo final

Athens, August 24
Italy and Greece advanced to the Olympic title game in women’s water polo today, with Italy beating the USA 6-5 and Greece topping Australia 6-2 in semifinal matches. Driver Manuela Zanchi scored with two seconds left to power Italy to its come-from-behind win over the USA, who beat Italy for the world title last year.

“The USA is the strongest team in the world,” said Italian coach Pierluigi Formiconi. “At that moment, the Italian team is the best in the world.”

In a physical game, the USA jumped out to a 4-2 lead over Italy early in the third quarter. Italy clawed back behind a goal from centre fielder Giusy Malato and two from driver Tania di Mario to put Italy ahead 5-4 with little more than two minutes to go.

Ellen Estes tied the game for the USA with 1:11 remaining. The game seemed destined to go into extra time until Zanchi shot unmarked from the left side as time wound down.

Antigoni Roumpesi scored twice to lead Greece over Australia, the defending Olympic champion, as Greece jumped out to a 5-1 lead by late in the second quarter. The final is on Thursday. — Reuters

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Athens Diary
Olympic tickets at a premium
Prabhjot Singh

“You want a ticket to go inside right now,” is the call that greets you outside most of the venues of the XXVIII Olympic Games here. Displaying tickets of various events and of different denominations, they are enterprising young men from various nationalities, who are here to make a quick buck.

Interestingly, some young men of South Asian origin now settled in England and Germany, too, are trying their luck at trading in tickets.

“It is a good pastime and in the process we make some money,” remarked Mr Mohammad Iqbal, a Pakistani, who sold tickets for swimming event at double the price after purchasing from a Canadian family whose interest in event had vanished after its swimmers had been eliminated in the heats. Instead, they bought tickets at a premium from another vendor for the artistic gymnastic event.

And many of the vendors in the trade are foreigners, who came here to witness Olympic Games. Realizing that some locals were making money by either making “distress” purchases from those who were not more interested or had been charging premium for the advance purchases they made for this mega event, they too, joined the game.

The police have neither time nor any control on this sale purchase of Olympic tickets. The common ticket trading centers are metro stations, Olympic venues and other busy public places.

At the Athens main olympic complex, day tickets for track and field, aquatics, including water polo and diving, sell on a premium. “It is not black marketing. It is a business. If someone has invested his time, money and energy, he has a right to make some money also,” remarked a police officer when his attention was diverted to the open trading of tickets.

Some of the ticket traders have worked out a novel modus operandi. They stand in a corner carrying a placard saying that they need tickets for themselves. Invariably they come across “distress sellers”. But in the evenings, when the crowds start spilling out at Olympic venues, the demand for tickets shoots up.

In hockey, tickets for the Indo-Pakistan match tomorrow are already selling at a premium. The cheapest Euro 10 ticket is up for sale for Euro 15 and Euro 20 ticket is getting as much as Euro 30 to 40.

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We need to improve: Gagan Narang

Hyderabad, August 24
Shooter Gagan Narang, who failed to qualify for the Olympics final, will try to put the disappointment behind and aim for a better show in the days ahead.

The world no 13, who missed qualification for the final of 10 metre air rifle by a whisker, told PTI here today that he was disappointed by his show but would chart a fresh course for himself soon.

The 22-year-old, the youngest Indian shooter in fray in Athens who shot into prominence in the National Games by winning the gold, said it was just bad luck which saw him miss the final.

“I was under a lot of pressure and I believe that I handled the situation well. It was sheer bad luck that I missed out the chance to qualify for the finals,” Gagan, who works for Indian Airlines, said on his return.

“It was a good experience for me to be part of the Indian contingent in the Olympics but I am very disappointed with the outcome,” he said.

The youngster, who took up the sport in a casual manner during his outings at the Marina beach in his birthplace Chennai, spoke with pride about double trap shooter Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who won the country’s first ever individual silver medal in Olympics since.—PTI 

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Sailors all at sea

Athens, August 24
Continuing their highly forgettable journey through the Mediterranean, the Indian sailing duo of Malav Shroff and Sumeet Patel remained anchored to the last place after the 15th and penultimate race of the 49er (mixed open double-handed dinghy) Olympic regatta here today.

The Indian wild card entrants have so far accumulated 235 net penalty points and appear certain to finish wooden spooners in the gruelling race, which would come to a close on Thursday when the last race would be fought.

The Indians are now 62 net penalty points adrift of their closest rivals Krzysztof Kierkowski and Marcin Czajkowski of Poland and a huge 175 points behind leaders Iker Martinez and Xavier Fernandez of Spain. — PTI

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Argentina in soccer final

Athens: Favourites Argentina beat Italy 3-0 on Tuesday to claim their place in the final of the Olympic soccer competotion. Goals by leading goalscorer Carlos Tevez, with a smart volley after 16 minutes, and Luis Gonzalez, with a thunderous shot on the run after 69 minutes, ensured the impressive Latin Americans of a comfortable passage before substitute Mariano Gonzalez scored with his first touch in the 85th minute to complete the score. — Reuters

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Greek judoka succumbs to injuries

ATHENS: Greek judoka Eleni Ioannou died after 17 days of hospitalisation in critical condition following a fall from the third storey of her boyfriend’s apartment, a hospital source said today.

The 20-year old fell after an argument with her boyfriend Yiorgos Chryssostomidis, 24. Chryssostomidis, who is said to have drug problems, attempted to commit suicide three days later by jumping off the same balcony. His situation is improving, hospital sources said.

Ioannou had been national champion in the +78kg category for the past three years and won the bronze medal in the 2002 Balkan Games. She was replaced in the Olympic team by 22-year-old Eleni Patsiou. — AFP

Olympics broadcast

MOSCOW: China will use Russian satellites for global airing of Beijing Olympics in 2008. Russian IT and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said China and Russia have reached an agreement on the use of Russian satellites for broadcasting Beijing Olympics.

Reiman is currently in Beijing for the meeting of Sino-Russian sub-commission for communications and information technologies. — PTI

Sampanis stamps

ATHENS: Commemora-tive stamps featuring doped Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis stand to become a collectors’ item after the Greek post’s decision to withdraw the issue because the athlete failed a drugs test.

The Greek post office ELTA issues commemorative stamps of every Greek athlete winning a medal in the Athens Olympics the day following their success.

But the ELTA on Sunday decided to withdraw from circulation the Sampanis stamp issue after the athlete tested positive for a banned substance and had his medal withdrawn.

“The sale stopped on Monday,” ELTA spokesman Kyriakos Vlastarakos told AFP.

Vlastarakos said he had no information on how many Sampanis stamps had been already sold between today, a day after Sampanis won his medal, and Sunday.

According to the English-language daily Kathimerini, 136,000 Sampanis stamps have been issued. — AFP

Pappas out of decathlon

ATHENS: World champion Tom Pappas of the USA withdrew from the Olympic decathlon competition on Tuesday after injuring his foot in the pole vault. Pappas had been lying fifth after seven events, 390 points behind leader Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan.

The American, who finished fifth at the Sydney Olympics, limped away from the stadium after making one failed attempt at 4.60 metres.

Former world record holder Tomas Dvorak pulled out on Monday after aggravating an Achilles tendon injury during the opening event of the decathlon, the 100 metres. — Reuters

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Confident Pak take on Aussies 

Amsterdam, August 24
On a high after some good performances in the recent past, Pakistan will take on world champions Australia in the final league engagement of the cricket tri-series here tomorrow hoping to keep their winning momentum going.

With India virtually out of contention for a final berth after their opening game defeat to Pakistan, the Saturday summit clash will see Pakistan and Australia fight for supremacy yet again in this lead-up tournament to the Champions Trophy. Indian can sneak into the final only if Australia lose badly to Pakistan.

But for that to happen, Pakistan would have to beat Australia by a very huge margin — something nearly next to impossible considering the sheer quality of the world champions. Even if the tie is a wash-out, India would be left in the lurch on the basis of points.

As the table stands, Pakistan are on top of the pool with six points while India and Australia have three points each from the rain-abandoned match yesterday. Pakistan are assured of a place in the final and India’s best chances rest on Australia losing by a huge margin.

On the net run-rate issue, Pakistan are top of the heap with plus two against their name. Indians are minus two and Australia, because of the abandoned game, have not got any run-rate in their block.

Pakistan could do India a favour but Australians now have an idea of the batting conditions at the VRA ground where the ball tends to spin abnormally. It is also too slow a wicket for the batsmen to time their shots.

Also, Australia run deep in their batting with Michael Clarke coming in at number seven. The tail in Brad Hogg, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz are no rabbits with the bat either.

Pakistan though would be very keen to do well against Australia as it would help them with their upward moving graph they have acquired since the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka last month.

Pakistan were able to put it across India in both Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and here in Holland and they would look better if they are able to beat Australia as well.

They have taken recourse to some bold methods ever since Bob Woolmer agreed to be the coach of their team. Shoaib Malik is coming at number three and giving depth to their batting while Shoaib Akhtar is not hurt when he is given the ball as first change.

The lynchpins of their batting, Inzamam-ul Haq and Yousuf Youhana, have not fired for a while now and once they do, Pakistan batting would acquire a larger aura.

Their bowling too is in good hands and fast bowlers have shown remarkable discipline of late. The fielders are fitter and keener and all in all Pakistan look a much-improved side.

Australia, on the other hand, are keen to give their bowlers some practice before the final and hopefully a full game tomorrow would provide just that opportunity.

Brett Lee is coming after a long lay-off and the likes of Glenn McGrath and Brad Hogg will be looking to find some good rhythm ahead of the Champions Trophy in England (September 10 to 25).

Teams (from):

Australia: Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Ian Harvey, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Glenn McGrath, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin.

Pakistan: Inzamam-ul Haq, Yasir Hameed, Imran Farhat, Yousuf Youhana, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Moin Khan, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdur Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed. — PTI

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Asian cricketers selfish: Hayden

Sydney, August 24
Matthew Hayden says Australia are the leading cricketing team in the world because its players play as a team whereas cricketers from the sub-continent, including India, play for personal milestones.

Hayden believes many subcontinental players bat too selfishly for their team’s own good and this is what explains Australia’s recent dominance over India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in one-day cricket.

The opener said a crucial difference between his side and their subcontinental rivals was that Australian batsmen were more willing to risk personal milestones for the sake of keeping their team’s run rate high, according to a report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.

“In one-day cricket, if you get to 70 or 80, you can obviously get a hundred by just batting carefully but we just don’t do that. It affects a batsman’s statistics but we just don’t go for those personal marks,” he said.

“Counties like India suffer from that. We back ourselves against those countries because they’ll get two or three players in the 70s and beyond and they’ll be eyeing off that personal landmark.” — PTI

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India lose to Vietnam 1-2

Hanoi, August 24
Striking once in each half, Vietnam defeated India 2-1 to top group A in the LG Cup soccer tournament at Ho Chi Minh City today.

India also advance to the next stage, along with the host, with the third team in the group — Myanmar — being eliminated from the six-team tournament with two losses.

Vinh put Vietnam ahead in the 21st minute with a shot from 15 metres that got past diving Indian goalkeeper Neseem Akhtar to the right corner of the goal.

Thach Bao Khanh doubled Vietnam’s lead in the 57th minute with a header in the penalty box on a pass from playmaker Le Hong Minh.

Midfielder Climax Lawrence scored a consolation goal for India three minutes from the end on a rebound following a free kick by Renedy Singh, which hit the crossbar.

The win was a sweet revenge for the Vietnamese team, which was defeated b the Indians in the tournament final two years ago.

Vietnam will play the Ho Chi Minh City team in the first semifinal, while India will play the South Korean Students’ team in the second semifinal on Thursday. — AP

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NZ junior athletics at Panipat
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
More than 1,000 athletes from eight states will be seen in action in the three-day 16th North Zone Junior Athletic Championships to be held at Shivaji Stadium at Panipat. Giving this information here today, Haryana Athletic Association president Abhey Singh Chautala said that a team to represent North Zone in the National Inter-Zonal Junior Athletic Championships to be held in Meerut from October 15 to 17 would be selected on the basis of the performance of the athletes in Panipat.

The states which are expected to take part in the meet are Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttranchal and Himachal Pradesh. Competitions will be held for boys and girls in the age groups of under-14, under-16, under-18 and under-20. HSAA secretary Hanuman Singh Bhadu said in the under-14 category for boys and girls only pentathlon competitions would be conducted.

More than 136 events would be conducted during the three-day meet. The organisers have set up a medical board to determine the age of the athletes. The athletes have been directed to bring with them their original date of birth certificates. Entry closes with Mr Raj Kumar Mittan, Secretary of the District Athletic Association, Panipat, on September 3.

Meanwhile, the organising committee, headed by Panipat Deputy Commissioner Anurag Rastogi, recently held its meeting to review the arrangements for the meet. For the smooth conduct of the meet, Panipat Additional Deputy Commissioner Vazir Singh Goyat has been appointed organising secretary.

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COUNTRY

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

TOTAL

USA

23

26

17

66

China

23

15

12

50

Japan

15

8

9

32

Australia

13

9

13

35

France

9

7

9

25

Germany

8

10

12

30

Italy

8

6

7

21

Romania

8

4

4

16

Ukraine

8

2

5

15

Russia

7

16

19

42

Britain

7

8

7

22

South Korea

6

10

5

21

Greece

5

2

2

9

Hungary

4

4

2

10

Netherlands

3

6

8

17

Sweden

3

0

1

4

Turkey

3

0

1

4

Belarus

2

3

6

11

Poland

2

2

3

7

Slovakia

2

2

1

5

Bulgaria

2

1

5

8

Ethiopia

2

1

1

4

Georgia

2

1

0

3

Thailand

2

0

2

4

Chile

2

0

1

3

Norway

2

0

0

2

New Zealand

2

0

0

2

Spain

1

7

3

11

Canada

1

3

1

5

Cuba

1

1

6

8

Indonesia

1

1

2

4

South Africa

1

1

2

4

Zimbabwe

1

1

1

3

Denmark

1

0

5

6

Belgium

1

0

2

3

Brazil

1

0

2

3

Switzerland

1

0

1

2

Cameroon

1

0

0

1

UAE

1

0

0

1

Austria

0

4

1

5

Czech Republic

0

3

3

6

North Korea

0

3

1

4

Croatia

0

2

2

4

Kenya

0

2

0

2

Lithuania

0

2

0

2

Portugal

0

2

0

2

Slovenia

0

1

3

4

Estonia

0

1

1

2

Taiwan

0

1

1

2

Finland

0

1

0

1

Hong Kong

0

1

0

1

India

0

1

0

1

Kazakhstan

0

1

0

1

Latvia

0

1

0

1

Morocco

0

1

0

1

Serbia & Montenegro

0

1

0

1

Argentina

0

0

2

2

Azerbaijan

0

0

2

2

Colombia

0

0

1

1

Eritrea

0

0

1

1

Israel

0

0

1

1

Jamaica

0

0

1

1

Mongolia

0

0

1

1

Trinidad & Tobago

0

0

1

1

Venezuela

0

0

1

1

Top

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