can lead India
China reasserted their supremacy in table tennis by winning all five gold medals at the world championship in Shanghai, writes Vikramdeep Johal
DENMARK'S Michael Maze was one of the stars at the recent World Table Tennis Championship in Shanghai. No, he didnít win any title, but he did something almost as remarkable. The Dane caused a sensation by beating no less than two Chinese players, Wang Hao and Hao Shuai, before going down in the semifinal to another.
Indeed, whether it is the world championship or the Olympics, itís not big news when a Chinese player wins, but when one loses, especially to a non-Chinese.
Perhaps no country has dominated any sport for so long as has China. As expected, the Chinese swept all five gold medals in Shanghai to reassert their ping-pong supremacy, even as Maze waged a lone, vain battle for the Europeans.
Chinese players also made up for the disappointment at the Athens Olympics last year, when Koreaís Ryu Seung-Min stole the menís singles gold medal from them by defeating Wang Hao in the final. This time, world number one Wang Liqin beat compatriot Ma Lin in the final to complete the five-gold haul for China.
Such was Chinaís domination that four of the five finals were all-Chinese affairs. The only exception was the menís doubles title clash, in which Wang Hao and Kong Linghui outplayed the German pair of Timo Boll and Christian Suess.
The first gold medal came Chinaís way when Wang Liqin and his 16-year-old partner Guo Yue beat Liu Guozheng and Bai Yang in the mixed doubles.
In the womenís singles final, world number one Zhang Yining defeated Guo Yan. Zhang, who won two Olympic golds in Athens, did an encore by winning the womenís doubles as well. Zhang and Wang Nan retained their title by downing Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng.
The tournament had its share of controversy. Several players complained that the playing conditions were below standard. Seventy of them, including defending menís singles champion Werner Schlager of Austria, wrote to the International Table Tennis Federation blaming faulty floors, soft balls and what not for their bad performances. (Schlager was knocked out in the second round by 43-year-old Chinese He Zhi Wen). But the ITTF brushed aside all these complaints, terming them mere excuses.
There was an element of sadness, too, as the table tennis world bid farewell to one of its greats, Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden. The former Olympic and world champion called it quits after losing in the third round, bringing the curtain down on an illustrious 19-year career during which he doggedly challenged the might of the Chinese players yet won the hearts of their people.
Indian flop show
An unfavourable draw, combined with indifferent performances, led to the early exit of Indian paddlers. Commonwealth menís champion Achanta Sharath Kamal, unlucky to be pitted against top seed and eventual winner Wang Liqin of China in the first round, went down 8-11, 8-11, 5-11, 11-9, 8-11.
Indian women fared no better. Nandita Saha was routed by third seed Chinese Niu Jianfeng in the opening round. Visakha Vijay bowed out without a fight to Tatyana Kostromia of Belarus. Unfortunately, the countryís top two women players, national champion Poulumi Ghatak and Mouma Das, opted out of the championship.
In the mixed doubles, Achanta Sharath
Kamal and Mamta Prabhu got a walkover from Bode Abiodium and Atisi Owoh
of Nigeria in the first round. In the second, they were defeated by the
Singaporean pair of Xiao Li Cai and Jia Wei Li. The other mixed doubles
pairs ó Subhajit Saha-Nandita Saha, Amirban Nandy-Kasturi Chakraborty
and Soumyadeep Roy-Visakha Vijayó crashed out in the opening round.
SPAIN is a nation passionate about soccer. It idolises its footballers, not caring much about other sports stars. People go to watch Spanish league matches in droves and enthusiasm for other disciplines is not much evident. It was a welcome change to see at least 115,000 Spaniards come to cheer Fernando Alonso, who had won the last three Formula One races, at the Circuit de Catalunya, hoping for a repeat performance by their new hero.
High on confidence, the home boy started third on the grid. He still had a chance though, as no driver starting from lower than the third position had ever won the Spanish Grand Prix. But the host nationís new-found love for Formula One racing turned into disappointment as Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren-Mercedes, who had taken the provisional pole in qualifying, led from start to finish, winning the third race of his career. It was the 11th instance that this race had been won from the pole position.
The Finn, whose last win came at the Belgian Grand Prix last year, drove almost with perfection to relegate the home favourite to the second place. He recorded the fastest lap 13 times between the third and 20th laps. Hard as he tried, Alonso could not match the scorching pace of Raikkonen. This was the first loss for Renault this season after Giancarlo Fisichella gave them a winning start in Melbourne.
The first Indian to make the Formula One grade, Narain Karthikeyan, finished 13th. The last of the drivers to complete the 66 laps, he termed it as his worst Formula One race. His Jordan team-mate Tiago Monteiro of Portugal, who started last on the grid, finished 12th. This was the first time Karthikeyan crossed the finish line after Monteiro, who obviously rated it as his best race this season.
This year does not seem to be good for the most dominant name on the circuit for a decade. Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Ferrari, who won 13 races last year, was unable to finish the race. Bidding to match the record of five consecutive wins at a single venue, set by Ayrton Senna at Monaco, the German retired after 46 laps to register his third non-finish result in five races this season.
He let down the home crowd, but Alonso
still maintained his lead in aggregate with 44 points. Victory boosted
Raikkonenís total to 17 points, placing him third in driversí
classification behind Jarno Trulli of Toyota, who finished third in
Barcelona. The next Grand Prix race is in Monaco on May 22.
ICY waters and even the fear of sharks did not deter ace swimmer Bula Chowdhury from crossing the Robson Bay in South Africa recently.
"Only last December a woman was killed by a shark in Robson Bay while a local newspaper published a photo of a shark found there the day before I took the plunge," said Bula.
"So there was always the mortal fear of a shark attack. But the biggest impediment was the ice-cold water which hits the brain causing hypothermia," she recalled.
Bula, who has crossed seven seas in five continents, narrated the difficult but immensely satisfying experience of swimming from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island (Robson Bay) near Cape Town in South Africa.
She clocked a 30-km distance in three hours and 26 minutes braving the icy waters. The 35-year-old swimmer started at 10 am in the morning (South Africa local time) and completed the distance at 1.26 pm. The timing was a record in itself as Bula became the first Asian woman to have swum the stretch in such a short time.
"It was a totally different situation there. From the hot weather here I went to swim at a place that was just about embracing winter. I had no idea about the coldness of the water (11`B0C) and it initially numbed me. "Add to this the water plants which are as high as two-storeyed buildings and the disturbance of the jelly fishes, especially the Blue Bottle jellyfishes which sting," said Bula.
"I chose this spot because I wanted to pay my respects to Nelson Mandela who was kept imprisoned on Robben Island. I can now understand why he was confined there as the water channel ensures that none could never reach the mainland," she said.
Not sure of what she would achieve next, Bula said she wants to be part of a swimming academy here if corporates like Sahara come forward with finances.
In August last year, Bula became the first woman to cross the seven seas by crossing the Palk Straits from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu. She had earlier successfully crossed the English Channel (England), Catalina Bay (USA), Cook Strait (New Zealand), Strait of Gibraltar (Spain), Tiranian Sea (Italy) and Toroneous Gulf (Greece).
Bula has been a fighter throughout her life. Her father would send her to Srirampur in Hooghly district of West Bengal to attend swimming classes under Ila Paul, a swimmer of repute those days. She progressed to swimming in Kolkataís pools at Beliaghata and College Square. From there to the state-of-the-art pools in the Asian circuit was but a small jump.
After ruling the South East Asian pools
at the competitive level for over a decade, she took to the rough seas.
She started long distance swimming in 1989, when she was at the prime of
short distance swimming and crossed the English Channel. She then proved
her detractors wrong by winning six golds in the 1991 South Asian
Federation Games. In 1999, she crossed the English Channel again. ó
Sehwag can lead India
VIRENDER Sehwag is the right choice to lead the Indian cricket team. The Delhi lad has a lot of confidence. His highest score of 309 runs against Pakistan showed that he had the ability to play a long innings and dominate the opposition.
An important area which needs immediate attention is the bowling in one-day matches. It is amazing to learn that even after scoring more than 300 runs, the Indian team had to face defeat.
To improve the bowling attack, Ajit Agarkar should be included in the team. His capability to bowl reverse swing can yield good results. Further, care should also be taken to avoid sudden collapse of the batting line-up. Agility needs to be maintained by the players to avoid frequent run outs.
Nirmal Kumar, PANCHKULA
Kudos to Pakistan who clinched an exceptionally remarkable one-day series victory by winning the high- profile sixth one-day international in New Delhi. Pakistan trounced India by 159 runs to give the hosts a rude shock. Batting first, Pakistan amassed a mammoth 303 and then bundled out India for a paltry 144 in 37 overs. Haq and his team, who embarked upon their India campaign as underdogs, drew the Test series ó and then scripted a stunning come-from-behind ODI series triumph.
India, who frittered away a 2-0 advantage, were themselves to blame for their rout. The batsmen put up a rank bad and spineless show to not even last their full quota of 50 overs.
Tarsem S. Bumrah BATALA
After the humiliating defeat of the Indian cricket team at the hands of Pakistan, it is high time that the BCCI thought of preparing a young energetic team which has the nationís prestige in mind and the players do not play for their own records. We need a team which should be 100 per cent fit, whose players do not hanker after money and appear in advertisements.
We should include genuine allrounders in the team. The squad should be selected not on the basis of past performance, but on current form like in the case of other cricket teams.
Selectors should be chosen from former players like Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar.
Lalit C. Dogra DHARAMSALA
The Indian teamís biggest problem has been Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkarís loss of form. There is pressure on opening batsman Virender Sehwag. The shuffling of the batting order must stop. Constant change of batting position prevents a player from knowing what is his precise role in the team.
Why not pick talented young players to replace the ageing players? Out-of-touch Ganguly needs to change his approach a bit in one-day cricket to strike form again.
Prixit Shakya, Shimla
The coach of the Indian cricket team should be an Indian. Former players like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ajit Wadekar and Gundappa Viswanath are well experienced and can coach our team very well.
Gurudev Singh Jain, Baltana
ODIs and Test matches are usually organised between January and April every year, which is the most crucial period for students because of their examinations. The time spent on viewing matches adversely affects exam preparations. The BCCI should take note of the problem and arrange all ODI and Test matches after April so that studies are not affected.
Vinod Kumar Sud,