Thanou talks tough
Cheers, haze clears
An American clad in Russian uniform
Peruvian late starter at 25
Boxers start for Beijing
Collingwood ton rescues England
Ashok Mankad passes away
A promise unfulfilled
India hold Tajikistan
CYG baton relay begins
Ma Guowei has no doubt — pedicab racing would make the perfect Olympic sport. He jostles for position as a phalanx of pedicabs sweep over Silver Ingot Bridge, madly tinkling their bells as they pedal tourists past ramshackle houses in the back streets of old Beijing. Taking off his Beijing 2008 baseball hat to wipe the sweat from his brow, he said: ''I think it would make a good Olympic sport.'' But at 32, he concedes that he may not be quite at his Olympic peak on the covered tricycles which provide pedal-powered transport for two passengers. Beijing ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the world. With pollution a major concern for organisers in the lead-up to the Games that open on August. 8, Ma Guowei is certainly doing his bit for a ''Green Olympics''.
Fencer Andrea Baldini, a leading Italian gold medal hope for the Beijing Olympics, has failed a doping test, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) said on Friday.
The 22-year-old, who won the silver medal in the foil at the 2006 and 2007 world championships, tested positive for the diuretic furosemide during the European fencing championship in Kiev last month, a CONI spokesman said.
Baldini, ranked number one in the world, has been suspended from the team but could be restored for the Games should a second sample prove negative, the Italian Fencing Federation told Reuters. The athlete told Scarso he was innocent in a telephone conversation, the president said. He said he had taken an antibiotic but thought it was safe, Scarso reported.
Maria Portilla took up running only at the age of 25. Despite all the setbacks, the 36-year-old from one of the poorest regions of the Peruvian Andes will be travelling to Beijing to run her second Olympic marathon with high hopes. She missed out on Athens and it was not until 2006 that she regained her best form.
Edwin Moses: Nine years, nine months, nine days. Or to put it another way, 122 races, during which American hurdler Edwin Moses reigned supreme at the top of his discipline for more than two Olympiads. Proficient enough to merit recognition in the 110m event (13.7 sec), he made an attempt at the 400m version in 1976. In his second race he recorded a time of 50.1 sec. A few months later Moses was successful in the American selection trials and his Olympic journey began. In the Montreal Games (1976) Moses took both the gold medal and the world record in a time of 47.63 sec. On July 3 1980, three weeks from the start of the Moscow Games, Moses set a new world record: 47.13 sec. However President Jimmy Carter decided upon a boycott and thus deprived the defending Olympic champion of defending and retaining a title that was well within his grasp.
Beijing, August 1
The August. 2-3 board meeting is then followed by an IOC session, ending on the eve of the Games' opening ceremony. The Beijing Olympics run from August. 8-24.
Thanou, aged 33, was banned until Dec. 2006 and has only raced a handful of times since then but met the Beijing qualifying time and won inclusion in Greece's Olympic team.
The IOC, angered that her affair overshadowed the start of the 2004 Games, has said it would review her eligibility in line with its 2004 decision on her.
In a letter to the IOC, her lawyer Gregory Ioannidis said should she be banned from competing, he would take ''all necessary actions, legal and otherwise, to safeguard Ms Thanou's interests and reputation from any further harm''.
The IOC board is also expected to decide on the allocation of the Sydney 2000 Olympics medals taken from US sprinter Marion Jones, who admitted to doping last year.
Jones won five medals, including three golds, at those Games and Thanou stands to get one of them after Jones said she had used banned substances, and was sent to jail for lying to federal investigators.
Thanou won silver in the 100m behind Jones and now expects to be awarded the gold.
Yet the IOC has said this will not be an automatic upgrading but rather the medals will be given to those athletes who are proven to be clean.
The board has also to decide on allocating the 4X400m relay gold medal won by the United States in Sydney.
Antonio Pettigrew, a member of the gold-winning relay team that also included Michael Johnson and twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison, told a U.S. court in May he had used banned substances.
The IOC will also discuss Beijing pollution days before the opening ceremony with Games organisers trying to reduce the amount of pollution and avoid any event postponements.
The board will also hear progress reports on the Vancouver 2010 winter Games, the London 2012 summer Olympics and the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics. — Reuters
Athens: Katerina Thanou has slammed the IOC decision to delay a hearing on her participation in the Beijing Games until the eve of the Opening Ceremony.
The IOC informed Thanou's legal team late on Thursday that the meeting, which was due to be made this weekend, would now take place on August 7.
Breaking a four-year silence to speak publicly at a press conference in Athens on Friday, Thanou, who served a two-year ban for missing a doping test on the eve of the Athens Games four years ago, also questioned the IOC's motives.
"The meeting will take place on August 7 and the decision may be announced on the 8th because of the Opening Ceremony but perhaps not until the 9th or 10th."
The first round of the women's 100 metres is on August 16.
Cheers, haze clears
Beijing, August 1 Skies over Beijing were the same gray as past days, but the rains overnight cooled temperatures and swept away much of the fumes and dust. Citywide average air quality in the 24 hours up to midday on Friday was Grade I, or "good", the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau found, according to the Xinhua news agency. Beijing officials have denied the haze is a pollution threat while also announcing emergency steps to kick in if air pollution is bad during the Olympics starting in a week on August 8. The main worry, tiny particulate matter from vehicles, factories and power plants, was at "good" levels at all 27 measuring stations.
Beijing, August 1
Skies over Beijing were the same gray as past days, but the rains overnight cooled temperatures and swept away much of the fumes and dust.
Citywide average air quality in the 24 hours up to midday on Friday was Grade I, or "good", the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau found, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Beijing officials have denied the haze is a pollution threat while also announcing emergency steps to kick in if air pollution is bad during the Olympics starting in a week on August 8.
The main worry, tiny particulate matter from vehicles, factories and power plants, was at "good" levels at all 27 measuring stations. — Reuters
Los Angeles, August 1
The 31-year-old was not initially sought by the US team.
So Hammon, who has no ancestral link to Russia, accepted an offer to play for the Russian national squad. She received a passport and naturalized citizenship in February, enabling her participation. Last year she signed a four-year deal worth 2 million dollar to play with the CSKA Moscow professional club.
Long before she ever became a member of the San Antonio Silver Stars of the WNBA, Hammon dreamed of participating in the Olympics. But she never quite saw it playing out like this.
''It was a hard decision. I know I'm doing it for the right reasons,'' Hammon told Reuters.
''I know how I feel about my country. I love what America stands for and that we're the free world. But freedom has never been free. People have paid for it.''
Hammon knows that now more than ever.
She has been the source of much discussion, and in some cases, shock, about an American clad in a Russian uniform.
Hammon was most notably lambasted by US women's basketball coach Anne Donovan.
''If you play in this country, live in this country, and you grow up in the heartland and you put on a Russian uniform, you are not a patriotic person,'' Donovan said.
But the 5ft 6in (1.68 metres) point guard who finished second in WNBA MVP voting last season, had not been given an immediate opportunity to wear a USA uniform.
When USA Basketball released its first list of 23 prospective players to make the Olympic team, Hammon's name was not on it.
Later, the committee expanded the list to 30 and invited Hammon to try out, but it was too late. ''I've never even played in an FIBA sanctioned event,'' Hammon said. ''They had a long time to give me the opportunity.'' Little has ever been handed to the feisty Hammon who is known for taking the big shot in the pressure-packed moment.
Hammon, who averages 17.4 points and 4.7 assists per game this season, went undrafted out of Colorado State University and began her WNBA career in 1999 on the New York Liberty bench.
So when she felt passed over by her national team she filed it away as just another challenge and it is this mental toughness that has earned her the respect of her peers. — Reuters
Peruvian late starter at 25
Lima, August 1 Portilla, born in the department of Apurimac, had to work as a child to help keep her family after her father fell seriously ill. ''My childhood was a bit tough,'' she told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Andean city of Cusco where she was finishing her preparations. ''My father had a problem in his bones and it made me sad to see him in bed, not able to walk... But it transformed my personality.'' Portilla's efforts left her with an injured back. ''I had a hernia and they operated on me but afterwards I went out to work again,'' she said. ''That was why I couldn't do physical education, I was afraid.'' All that changed at the age of 25 when Portilla was training to be an infant school teacher. Her tutor threatened to fail her if she did not undergo a physical education test. Reluctantly, Portilla agreed to take part in a race and despite going barefoot and won. ''When I won, I had no trainers,'' she said. ''After that, people bought them for me. It was the first time I had been given trainers.'' Her potential was spotted by the Peru Runners Club and with their support she qualified for the Sydney Olympics. It was not a happy experience, however. ''The sun was burning terribly and my shoes started to burn. There was pain here and there, it kept popping up in different places. Suddenly, all the other girls started passing me.''
Lima, August 1
Portilla, born in the department of Apurimac, had to work as a child to help keep her family after her father fell seriously ill.
''My childhood was a bit tough,'' she told Reuters in a telephone interview from the Andean city of Cusco where she was finishing her preparations.
''My father had a problem in his bones and it made me sad to see him in bed, not able to walk... But it transformed my personality.'' Portilla's efforts left her with an injured back.
''I had a hernia and they operated on me but afterwards I went out to work again,'' she said. ''That was why I couldn't do physical education, I was afraid.''
All that changed at the age of 25 when Portilla was training to be an infant school teacher. Her tutor threatened to fail her if she did not undergo a physical education test.
Reluctantly, Portilla agreed to take part in a race and despite going barefoot and won.
''When I won, I had no trainers,'' she said. ''After that, people bought them for me. It was the first time I had been given trainers.'' Her potential was spotted by the Peru Runners Club and with their support she qualified for the Sydney Olympics.
It was not a happy experience, however.
''The sun was burning terribly and my shoes started to burn. There was pain here and there, it kept popping up in different places. Suddenly, all the other girls started passing me.'' — Reuters
Boxers start for Beijing
Patiala, August 1
The boxers are being accompanied by Dronacharya awardee coach G.S. Sandhu and his deputy B.I. Fernandez. South African Heath Mathews is going with the squad as a physiotherapist.
Fernandez was also with the boxers in the Sydney and Athens Games. He is from Cuba and is widely considered to be a master tactician and a good planner.
There is indeed hope from at least two of them - Akhil Kumar and Vijender Kumar - in the 54 kg and 75 kg weight class respectively. The spotlight will undoubtedly be on the young Akhil Kumar and he is tipped by experts to make the semifinal berth.
Four boxers - Akhil, Vijender, Jatinder and Dinesh - out of the five are trainees of the SAI centre in Bhiwani and train under coach Jagdeesh Singh, better known for his unconventional training methods.
Due to the efforts of this foursome, Bhiwani, a nondescript township in Haryana known more for its textile mills, has earned the sobriquet of ‘Cuba of Indian boxing’.
The other boxer - A.L. Lakra - is from the Services, which earlier was the boxing hub of the country.
Harbhajan (4-71) restricts Sri Lanka
Galle, Aug 1
Remarkably, it was the 11th consecutive hundred wherein the Indian vice-captain posted an innings of 150-plus; and in so doing, became only the second Indian - after Sunil Gavaskar - to “carry his bat”.
The other milestone passed in a memorable essay, embellished by 22 fours and four sixes, was 5,000 runs in Tests.
The tricky Ajantha Mendis troubled all in course of collecting six for 117, but not the Nawab of Najafgarh!
A four-wicket strike by Harbhajan thereafter disfigured the hosts’ top order, though skipper Mahela Jayawardene survived to fight another day. Sri Lanka are still 114 runs in arrears, with only the tail to follow and the grim prospect of having to bat fourth on a wearing pitch.
“Bhajji” bowled unchanged for 25 overs. With an around the wicket ploy, he brought leg before wicket into play and, in fact, trapped Samaraweera with one that straightened - a decision upheld after being referred to the TV umpire.
Zaheer induced an edge to third slip to remove Michael Vandort early. But Kumar Sangakkara and Malinda Warnapura capitalised on some short of a length bowling, indeed flagged the side’s 50 in only the 9th over - faster than even the Sehwag piloted run-rate.
There is a touch of innocence about the Galle International Cricket Stadium, scene of current skirmish. But such innocence ends the moment Sehwag settles into his threatening stance. Whether carving Chaminda Vaas past point, bludgeoning Muttiah Muralitharan through the covers or blasting Mendis for six - which he achieved twice, once with a sweep and then a straight drive - there’s a singular panache about his batting.
VVS Laxman proved to be a decent foil. Not as aggressive as the Delhi dynamo, but unsparing of loose deliveries. He tormented Murali with two boundaries in an over before pulling Mendis for four to hoist the 100 partnership for the fifth wicket. The next ball was short and sweet and could have been belted anywhere. But the Hyderabadi only managed to spoon it to midwicket.
Mendis conceded four runs an over, for Sehwag fairly took him apart. But he drilled away at the other end, scalping Dinesh Karthik, about whom the only thing that can be said is that his wicket-keeping is worse than his batting. Rarely gathering the spinners cleanly, he failed to stump Sangakkara off Harbhajan. Fortunately for India, the classy left-hander departed 12 runs later, beaten by a ball that seemed to stop.
Sri Lanka (1st innings)
Birmingham, August 1
Collingwood, who has scored only 96 first class runs this season, demonstrated his strength of character with an unbeaten 101 in England's 297 for six at the close.
They lead South Africa by 214 runs. — Reuters
Ashok Mankad passes away
Mumbai, August 1
Mankad is is survived by wife Nirupama, a former national-level tennis champion and Mihir and Harsh.
Ashok Mankad was the son of legendary Test cricket Vinoo Mankad. He played in 22 Tests between 1969 and 1978 and scored 991 runs with an average of 25.41. After retirement as a Test player Mankad went on to serve as manager of the Indian team even while he represented Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy matches.
Mankad's sudden demise came as a shock in the city since he had appeared on television channels just two days ago. "I was shocked to hear the sad news of the demise of Ashok Mankad, a former Test cricketer," BCCI chief Sharad Pawar said in a statement.
Mumbai, August 1
The son of legendary Vinoo Mankad, played in only 22 Tests, spread over almost a decade and he batted from anywhere between No 1 and No 8, and quite often, he played in only one Test of a series.
He first came into prominence by scoring a half century as a teenager against the MCC for West Zone in 1963-64. A series of big scores over the years saw him get his break against New Zealand in 1969-70. He went in late in the order, and then because of circumstances was pushed to the opening slot. He was an instant success in his new role against Australia, negotiating McKenzie and Connolly with ease and running up successive scores of 74, 8, 64, 68 and 97.
He was also a member of the twin tours of West Indies and England in 1971 when India under Ajit Wadekar scored back-to-back Test series wins in both the tours, heralding a beginning of a new India, which knew how to win abroad.
He had a fair amount of success on the tour of West Indies in 1971, striking up a good combination with ''new boy'' Sunil Gavaskar, with whom he shared partnerships of 68, 74, 72 and 123 (unbroken). But he failed in England in 1971 and thereafter a question mark hung over his Test career.
Overlooked for the series against England in 1972-73, he played in only one Test against England in 1974 and another against West Indies in 1974-75, always being shuttled up and down the order. He missed the dual tour of New Zealand and West Indies, but was back for the series against New Zealand at home in 1976-77. He did well enough but was dropped and was again considered for only one Test against England later that season. — UNI
Hyderabad, August 1
A defence lapse in the 11th minute cost India a goal. Tukhtasunov, after a solo run down the line from the right and almost from the half line, gave a cross to unmarked Yusuf Rabiev who scored the goal.
But India's equaliser came in the 18th minute of the second half when star striker Baichung Bhutia, entering as substitute, scored a header off a pass from Steven Dias. But Baichung missed a couple of chances to gain the much-needed lead. Tajik goal keeper Alisher Tuychiev and strong defence thwarted him.
Tajikistan dominated the first half keeping the 1-0 lead, but the scene changed after Bhutia's arrival in the last 30 minutes. India made valiant efforts to win the match, but failed.
Turkmenistan thrashed Afghanistan 5-0 in the second match of the day here at the Gachibowli Stadium and stamped their class of superiority all over. Guvanchmuhamed Ovekov (1, 42, 77, 88) scored the maiden hat-trick of the tournament and his team mate Vyaceslev Kendelev struck in the 22nd minute to complete the tally for Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan thrashed Afghanistan 5-0 in the second match of the day here at the Gachibowli Stadium and stamped their class of superiority all over.
Guvanchmuhamed Ovekov (1, 42, 77, 88) scored the maiden hat-trick of the tournament and his team mate Vyaceslev Kendelev struck in the 22nd minute to complete the tally for Turkmenistan. — Agencies
New Delhi, August 1
The mascot of the CYG Pune Games - 'Jigr', designed to promote 'Save the Tiger' campaign, was also unveiled at the glittering function organised by the Delhi government.
The Baton started its 8000-km journey with former hockey Olympian Dhanraj Pillay in presence of chairman of the Games Organising Committee Suresh Kalmadi, Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dixit and sports minister M.S. Gill among others.
The relay, a concept based on Queen's Baton Relay, will travel to nine DU colleges before leaving for its final destination, Pune University. On its journey, the baton will pass across nine states and 199 cities, towns and villages of the nation.— PTI