Breathless sport of the east
Asiad gold proves Indian hockey is still alive: Oltmans
Arab nations’ African-imports make competition tough
Bianchi fighting for life after crash
Djokovic, Sharapova make hay in China
Barca have it easy
Lahore Lions win Indervir Grewal
Breathless sport of the east
Incheon, October 5
Balwan Singh is India’s kabaddi coach. He tells you that kabaddi is a very scientific sport, that uttering the word ‘kabaddi’ rhythmically makes the internal organs stronger. “It’s about breath control,” he says. And breath, he adds with finality and triumph, “is life.”
He says that kabaddi is as old as the Mahabharata – that when Abhimanyu broke through the Chkravyuha, that was kabaddi. “In kabaddi, seven players form a semi-circle to trap one raider, like the Kauravas trapped Abhimanyu,” he says. “It’s the best sport – have you seen one man challenge seven men in any other sport?”
Cricket, he says, is an imported sport – it’s not of this land.
But the customary attitude to kabaddi is this: “Seriously, kabaddi is a sport?! How many people/countries play it?” Kabaddi remains a lowbrow sport of the non-elite, the elite play and watch cricket or tennis or football or golf.
The history of sport runs parallel to the history of colonialism. History is written by the victors – sport is taught by the victor. Among the 26 sports in the Summer Olympic programme, not one is indigenous to the countries that were colonised by the West, though some sports that are in the Olympics – like wrestling, running or archery – have existed in almost every culture of the world.
Only two Olympic sports – judo and taekwondo – are indigenous Asian sports, though they’re not really ‘sports’ in the way recreational sports are. Judo and taekwondo are martial arts, and became Olympic sports only after they became popular in the West as martial arts.
The origins of badminton are believed to be in India, though some doubt has been cast over this claim; in any case, it became a world sport only after the British codified its rules and popularised it.
The conquered races and cultures were considered physically and morally weak by the West; the traditional sports of those races were considered inferior to their own sports.
Kabaddi, thus, is inferior to cricket because the British taught us that their sports, with an ingrained moral code, are superior – and like well-trained monkeys, the colonised people have believed it, and continue to believe it.
Asians have, thus, scant respect for their own sports – kabaddi can thus be dismissed as ‘it’s only kabaddi’. Even the Asian Games program did not include judo or taekwondo until 1986, after sports like handball had been included init. Judo and taekwondo were first included in the 1986 Seoul Asiad; kabaddi, sepaktakraw, and wushu came in in 1990, while karate became an Asian Games sport in 1994.
Western sports expanded through the conquest of the world, and in post-colonial times, they expanded through their power of making money.
Balwan Singh, the Indian coach, says kabaddi is the sport of India; however, Iranians have a similar claim – they say that their traditional sports like Zoo or Zu, Ishtidi and Shirundudu are like kabaddi. South Asia is the home of kabaddi, and it’s the national sport of Bangladesh. Sri Lankan kabaddi officials inform that the country has more kabaddi clubs than cricket clubs.
Kabaddi has a footprint in Malaysia due to transfer of people from India to that country.
“The Chinese origin people don’t play kabaddi in our country,” says Malaysian coach Palaniandy Muniandi, who communicates with his players in Tamil and Malaya. Most of them are of Tamil or Malay ethnicity. “Kabaddi has been there in Malaysia for a long time, maybe 70 years.”
“There would be around 1,000 kabaddi players in Malaysia,” says Harpal Singh, the Punjabi-speaking vice president of the Kabaddi Association of Malaysia. “Kabaddi doesn’t pay, and most of our boys have minor jobs.” Kabaddi is a very popular rural sport in Bangladesh, but it’s played in a big field, and is different from the indoor kabaddi of the Asiad.
“It’s been played in the Bangladeshi villages for over 200 years,” says M Rafiqul Islam, an executive member of the Bangladesh Olympic Association. “It’s very popular among the farmers… It’s played during festivals, and the winning team is awarded a shield by the head of the village.”
The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) of India, he says, has boosted the sport in Bangladesh. “It is encouraging people in our country to take up sport,” he says. “At one time, football was more popular than cricket, but cricket rose because of TV. I think kabaddi can become bigger, due to the PKL.”
The PKL has given kabaddi an urban makeover. “Just look at the TV ratings of the PKL,” says Balwan Singh. “Kabaddi is hugely popular across India. There are many leagues in India, like in football, cricket, kabaddi… Kabaddi is more popular than the other leagues!”
Udaykumar, Indian coach, adds: “Next year, just compare the TV ratings of the IPL and kabaddi. I can assure you that the ratings of the PKL would be higher.”
Ajay Thakur, 26 and an employee of Air India, says people stop him in the markets, at the airports, and seek autographs. “People love kabaddi, they say it’s exciting and thrilling,” he says. “If you upload a photo on facebook, there are thousands of likes in minutes…”
“It is a mardon waala khel – a sport for tough people,” Thakur, a strapping raider, adds. “The original sportspersons are from these sports, like kushti and kabaddi!”
Islam admires the strong, physical styles of Iran, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. “They will control the sport one day,” he declares with a laugh. “Iran and Afghanistan players are very fit and strong. In a few years, they’ll get better than us.”
Iran already is better than the most – the Irani men and women won the medals at the Asiad. The men gave India a horrible scare and their head coach, Gholamreza Mazandarani says that India won (27-25) because the referees favoured India. “
Mazandarani, a 38-year-old village baker from Mohammadabad (population 2,000) in the Gorgan region, is not upset over the defeat. “That is God’s will,” says this very large, strong and gentle man. “But we have played kabaddi for less than 15 years, though we have sports similar to it. Inshallah, in time, we’ll beat India for Asian Games gold.”
Mazandarani has four boys from the Mohammadabad in the national team. “They started with me when they were little boys,” he says.
Now, as is clearly evident, those are men – big, muscular, agile men who gave India a terrible scare in the final, dominating the match for most of the 40 minutes. India caught up only at the end and can be termed very fortunate.
A sport is taken seriously only if it has a worldwide base and a large number of practitioners. High numbers in sport, historically, have come through colonialism, or, in the case of the American sports, very strong influence of the American Soft Power.
Can kabaddi be a world sport? Seems unlikely, but Balwan Kumar, Mazandarani and other kabaddi fanatics live in hope.
New Delhi, October 5
A spirited India outclassed arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 in a nerve-wrecking shoot-out to regain the gold medal after a gap of 16 years and also sealed a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Before embarking for the Asian Games, there was immense pressure on highly-paid Oltmans and chief coach Terry Walsh to deliver results, but the legendary Dutchman said the performance in Incheon will definitely silence the critics of hockey.
“I never feel pressure. The word pressure in not in my dictionary. I know my job. I know what I am doing and the same way Terry knows what he is doing. It is important that people have faith in us and let us do our work,” Oltmans said.
“I hope the gold will silence the critics for quite some time now. This gold proves that hockey is still alive and kicking in this country,” he said.
Oltmans is satisfied with the performance of both the men’s and women’s team, but said there is still lots to improve upon.
“Of course I’m satisfied with the performances. It is close to maximum. We had a chance to win silver in the women’s competition. Both the women’s and men’s teams created a lot of goal scoring chances which tells that we are going in the right direction. But there are plenty of areas to improve,” he said. — PTI
Arab nations’ African-imports make competition tough
Incheon, October 5
The issue that baffles and upsets Sumariwalla pertains to the ‘import’ of athletes from Africa by the Arab countries.
Femi Seun Ogunode, a 24-year-old sprinter, was born in Nigeria in 1991. He was a Nigerian for the first 18 years of his life — then he turned into a Qatari. He took the nationality of Qatar in 2009, and the next year, in the Guangzhou Asian Games, he won the 200m and 400m gold medals. He became the second athlete in Asian Games to win these events in the same event — Milkha Singh achieved this in the 1958 Asian Games. In Incheon this time, Ogunode did the 100m-200m double.
“The import — the buying, actually — of athletes from Africa has made competition much tougher than the past in the Asian Games,” says Sumariwalla, whose 100m record remained the national best for 18 years. “China has become a big force, but they’ve used their own athletes… The Middle-Eastern countries, however, have bought all these runners from Africa.”
The African challenge, he says, is more serious in the middle and long distance events.
Oluwakemi Adekoya, 21, was a thrilling young prospect, a Nigerian 400m specialist.
Then, during the Doha leg of the Diamond League in April this year, Adekoya set a new national 400m hurdles record of 54.59 seconds – but the record was set for a new country, Bahrain. The head of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, present at the race in Doha, was not aware that Adekoya had switched allegiance to Bahrain. He was stunned when after winning, Adekoya held up a banner that said: “I ? Bahrain”. Adekoya won the women’s 400m gold for Bahrain at Incheon.
Ruth Jebet, who turns 18 in November, was born in Kenya. As a schoolgirl, she was the top Kenyan 3000m and 5000m runner. At the age of 16, she switched her allegiance to Bahrain, and immediately excelled for her new country. At the 2013 Asian Athletics Championships, she led from start to finish and beat India’s Sudha Singh, the Asian Games champion, by over 15 seconds. Earlier this year, she won the World Junior Championship — beating two Kenyan girls. Jebet won the 3,000m steeplechase gold here. She’s an amazing talent, head and shoulders above the best in Asia — she destroyed the field here, winning with a time of 9 minutes, 31.36 seconds. This beat the older Asian Games record by a scarcely believable 24 sec.
Alia Saeed Mohammed, originally an Ethiopian, won the women’s 10,000m for the United Arab Emirates. The 23-year-old had been a middle-level runner for Ethiopia, and in Africa, but the move to Asia has made her a continental champion. Jebet is a world-beater and would have excelled for Kenya as well, but many African runners move to Asia because the competition in their nations is very intense, especially in Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco. Many athletes privately grumble, and some have publicly said that the competition from Africa-born athletes is “unfair”.
“I think it’s unfair because they are taller and have a longer stride,” said Chinese sprinter Su Bingtian, the men’s 100 metre silver medal winner, who had lost to Femi Ogunode. “They are more powerful and athletic. Physically we are at a disadvantage.” Wei Jizhongo, the Olympic Council of Asia honorary vice president, said the number of “imports” should be decreased.
“If they buy some athletes , they stop the training of their athletes. This is not beneficial for their (Asian) country’s sports,” Wei said.
Adille Sumariwalla, who is also the president of the Athletics Association of India, says that importing/buying African athletes is not good for the Asians. “Money has helped some nations, and that is unfair on countries who do not or cannot buy athletes,” he says. “Are these Asian Games? Watch the middle and long distance races, and you would wonder if these are Asian Games or African Games!” Jebet was disqualified from the race because she’d gone off the track accidently for a moment, but was later reinstated as the winner. “My king promised me that he would get me the gold. The Bahrain king spoke to me and promised me that,” she later said.
‘For King and Country’, that’s now Jebet’s motto. And perhaps also a ‘bag of gold’. Who could blame a teen for it?
Colonial nations have recruited and incorporated sporting talent from Africa for long, for their club and national teams. Since 2006, Middle-East money has been adding a new dimension to this phenomenon.
Bianchi fighting for life after crash
Suzuka (Japan), October 5
The accident led to the race at Suzuka being stopped and cast a pall over the paddock with drivers shocked at what had happened. McLaren's Jenson Button, who finished fifth, said it was "an accident that you hope never happens in Formula One".
Bianchi, extracted unconscious from the car, was taken by ambulance to Mie General Hospital where he underwent surgery. "The CT scan shows that he has suffered a severe head injury," the International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement.
Speaking to France 3 television, Bianchi's father Philippe said it could take 24 hours before the situation became clearer. The accident was the most serious involving a driver at a grand prix weekend since Brazilian Felipe Massa suffered near-fatal head injuries in Hungary in 2009 after being hit on the helmet by a bouncing spring shed from a car in front.
Massa made a full recovery from that incident and was racing for Williams on Sunday. The Brazilian, who has the same manager as Bianchi, went with other drivers and team officials to the hospital after the race while an outpouring of support for the Frenchman flooded social media.
Bianchi, a graduate of Ferrari's young driver academy, scored Marussia's first ever points when he finished ninth at this year's Monaco Grand Prix and was highly-rated with a bright future. The accident occurred at the same point of the track, the Dunlop Curve, where Adrian Sutil had aquaplaned off into the tyre barrier moments earlier (lap 42) and was watching his car being removed. The crash brought out the safety and medical cars and then the red flags.
There were no podium celebrations and the champagne was left unsprayed, with the top three drivers merely clinking the bottles before putting them back on the ground. "It's obviously a real anti-climax to hear that one of our fellow colleagues is seriously injured so that's really the main worry," Mercedes' race winner Lewis Hamilton told the BBC. "You could see some commotion and the car was really badly damaged on the right. We just hope he's OK." "I'm not thinking about the race, I'm thinking about my colleague," said his team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg. "I've been given some information and it seems very, very serious. I'm hoping for the best." Nice-born Bianchi, who comes from a motor racing family, is a regular travelling companion of Ferrari's double world champion Fernando Alonso and popular with other drivers, with whom he often plays soccer. Formula One is proud of its safety record, and constantly strives to make cars safer, while remaining acutely aware that the sport will always be dangerous. "Motor-racing is dangerous. We get used to it if nothing happens and then suddenly we are all surprised," former champion Niki Lauda, who came back from a near fatal crash in 1976, told reporters. The death of Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna, in 1994, remains the last driver race fatality but there have been close escapes since then. — Reuters
There were no podium celebrations and the champagne was left unsprayed, with the top three drivers merely clinking the bottles before putting them back on the ground. "It's obviously a real anti-climax to hear that one of our fellow colleagues is seriously injured so that's really the main worry," Mercedes' race winner Lewis Hamilton told the BBC.
"You could see some commotion and the car was really badly damaged on the right. We just hope he's OK." "I'm not thinking about the race, I'm thinking about my colleague," said his team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg. "I've been given some information and it seems very, very serious. I'm hoping for the best."
Nice-born Bianchi, who comes from a motor racing family, is a regular travelling companion of Ferrari's double world champion Fernando Alonso and popular with other drivers, with whom he often plays soccer.
Formula One is proud of its safety record, and constantly strives to make cars safer, while remaining acutely aware that the sport will always be dangerous.
"Motor-racing is dangerous. We get used to it if nothing happens and then suddenly we are all surprised," former champion Niki Lauda, who came back from a near fatal crash in 1976, told reporters.
The death of Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna, in 1994, remains the last driver race fatality but there have been close escapes since then. — Reuters
Hamilton wins crash-marred race
Britain's Lewis Hamilton won a wet and sombre Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his Formula One lead over Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg to 10 points with four races remaining. The race started behind the safety car due to heavy rain and ended without celebration after Marussia's Jules Bianchi was taken to hospital following a crash that left the young Frenchman seriously injured. Rosberg, who had started on pole position, finished second following a third deployment of the safety car and then red flags being displayed. Germany's quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who is leaving Red Bull for Ferrari at the end of the season, took third place with the result based on positions after 44 of the scheduled 53 laps. Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who would otherwise have been on the podium, was fourth for Red Bull. The drivers tense faces as they waited to step on the podium told the true story of the afternoon, with Bianchi foremost in their thoughts. No champagne was sprayed, with the top three merely clinking the bottles and taking a quiet swig before placing them back on the floor. "The driver is not conscious and has been sent to the hospital by the ambulance because the helicopter cannot go in these conditions," said a spokesman for the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA). "It's obviously a real anti-climax to hear that one of our fellow colleagues is seriously injured so that's really the main worry," said Hamilton, who would otherwise have been delighted with his third win in a row and one of his most impressive performances. — Reuters
Mumbai, October 5
Chasing an imposing target of 283, Ramdin smashed a run-a-ball century to rescue his side from a precarious 65 for 4, but the visitors could manage only 266 for nine in their stipulated 50 overs. The wicket-keeper batsman's 102 helped his side inch closer to the target during which he struck 10 fours and three sixes.
Asked to bat second, the Caribbean side's batting woes continued as they lost both the openers Jermaine Blackwood and Leon Johnson inside the first eight overs. The two got out on identical score of seven off 12 balls. Marlon Samuels, who scored 56 in the previous match, tried to attack the bowlers and struck three fours and a six in his knock of 24 off 33 balls. His cameo, however, came to an end when he was bowled by leg-spinner Karn Sharma in the 12th over.
Skipper Kieron Pollard scored just nine off 17 balls. He struck Sharma for a mammoth six but was back in the hut when the leg-spinner shattered his stumps two balls later, leaving his side reeling at 65 for four after 16 overs.
It was then upto Ramdin and Darren Sammy to do the repair job, who both notched up a century and half-century each. Ramdin and Sammy shared a 101-run stand for the fifth wicket before the later mistimed a shot and was caught by stumper Sanju Samson off Dhawal Kulkarni. Sammy's 67-ball 50-run knock comprised six fours and a six.
Earlier, in-form Unmukt Chand smashed a fine century to guide India A to a competitive 282 against West Indies. The Delhi lad continued his rich form and made a stroke filled 101 off 111 deliveries. His 192 minutes stay at the crease yielded eight fours and three sixes.
Chand, who scored an unbeaten 79 in the previous match, looked a bit tentative initially but later on unleashed a flurry of boundaries. He was ably supported by 22-year old Karun Nair and the duo stitched a 124-ball 149 run stand for the second wicket. The two youngsters sent the bowlers on a leather hunt as they carted them all over the park. — PTI
Brief scores: India A: 282 all out in 48.1 overs (Unmukt Chand 101, Karun Nair 64; Jerome Taylor 3/51); West Indies: 266 for 9 (Ramdin 102, Holder 54, Sammy 50, Kulkarni 3/39).
Beijing, October 5
Top seed Djokovic took 66 minutes to seal a 6-0 6-2 win against Berdych, who raised his arms in celebration when he won a game to avoid the ignominy of a double bagel with the Serb leading 6-0 5-0 and serving for the match.
Berdych managed to win back-to-back games, but it was just a matter of time before Djokovic sealed an easy win to continue his love affair with the Beijing tournament where he now has a 24-0 record.
Earlier in the women's final, Wimbledon champion Kvitova broke her opponent in the very first game but Sharapova showed greater intensity towards the end to prevail in a contest that lasted two hours and 28 minutes.
French Open champion Sharapova broke her Czech opponent twice to claim the first set, but Kvitova unleashed 15 winners in the second to force a decider.
Sharapova, having dropped her first set in the tournament, raised her game in the third, racing to a 3-0 lead but could not capitalise on her first match point at 5-2 with an inside out forehand into the net.
She eventually served out the match and raised her hands in celebration after Kvitova buried a return into the net.
"It was a bit of an up-and-down match I'd say -- maybe not the best out of the tournament," Sharapova told reporters. — Reuters
Nishikori wins Japan Open
Tokyo: Local hero Kei Nishikori claimed his second Japan Open title on Sunday, overcoming familiar foe Milos Raonic 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4 in the final under a closed roof at the Ariake Colosseum. "It has been incredible and I think this is the first time I have won two weeks in a row," said Nishikori.
Barcelona, October 5
Messi chipped goalkeeper Antonio "Tono" Rodriguez in the 35th minute for his 249th league goal, leaving him two behind the all-time scoring record held by Telmo Zarra since 1955.
A minute later, Neymar added his seventh league goal in as many rounds, giving the strike pair a combined 13 of Barcelona's 19 goals in league play. "This goes in runs. The connection between (Messi and Neymar) is working for us now and others will appear," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.
Rayo was spared a larger defeat thanks to Barcelona not exploiting its chances, despite the hosts finishing two men down after Jorge Morcillo and Javier Aquino received their second bookings. Barcelona's sixth win, to go with one draw, left it two points ahead of Valencia, after it beat Atletico Madrid 3-1. — PTI
Lahore Lions win Indervir Grewal
Mohali, October 5
The match started on an even keel as both sides scored easy points. Shazad Dogar started the affair amidst chants of ‘Dogar’ from a huge section of the crowd. His reputation had preceded him and the tall Pakistani, currently fifth on the list of top raiders, did not disappoint. He set the ball rolling with an easy point. He was stopped only once, wrestled into submission by Narinder Ram. It was the loudest moment in the stadium as the crowd, biggest in the four days at Mohali, went berserk.
The match was disrupted during the second quarter, when Lahore Lions contested a controversial point and someone from the crowd threw a water bottle at the team. The incident riled up the players, but after a majority of the spectators started chanting ‘Dogar’, the Pakistani players cooled down. The incident was followed by a few ugly tackles but the players didn’t lose their tempers.
While Dogar was undoubtedly the best raider, Vancouver team’s Sucha was the most exciting. He was involved in some outstanding contests, especially with Aslam Dogar. In one incident, Sucha broke free from Aslam’s grip but lost his balance. By the time he recovered, Aslam was blocking the gate. As Sucha hopped on his leading leg, building momentum, the crowd sensed a tussle and a buzz built in the stadium. But by the time the spectators could relish the anticipation, Sucha had already feigned going right, shaking the Lahore stopper off balance, and dashed past around Aslam untouched.
Want to secure place in top 100: Saketh Myneni
Preeja Sreedharan to bid adieu to athletics
I would have protested differently: Mary Kom
I understand her pain and fully support the issue she raised but personally I would have protested differently though I can’t say how. This is my personal thought but I support her,” said the Olympic bronze-medallist and five-time world champion. “I hope judges and referees are fair in all competitions, there is nothing more I can say on it.” — Agencies