Beenamol saves day for India
Jitender, Anees surrender
Indian challenge ends in tennis
Hats off to the Woodies’ professionalism
Adamile may lift 2000 Guineas
‘Dreams’ best

Sydney, Sept. 22: 
It is funny how the script rarely seems to change for Indians at the Olympic Games. It is as if the nation keeps placing its faith in all the wrong people and in all the wrong places, virtually every time. As the athletics events started to unfold this morning in the hugely impressive Stadium Australia here, five of the six Indian athletes scheduled for the day gave up their ghosts without as much as a whimper.

More shocking was the fact that none of these five even came anywhere near their personal bests, marks and achievements that could have taken them easily to higher rounds today. One cannot but stop to remember the criticism made by India’s former sprint queen P. T. Usha. When track and field marks tumbled like nine-pins in several pre-Olympic qualifying meets, Usha had expressed doubts over the veracity of those marks and had demanded that the athletes be dope-tested. Interestingly enough, no immediate action was taken by the AAFI.

The silver lining

In the midst of it all, one athlete, mostly given up as a lost case, stayed in the race with an extremely bright performance. K. M. Beenamol, in the women’s 400m heats, came first at a brilliant 51.51 seconds. This is not the best Beenamol has done in her life (51.21, set at a meet in Kiev, though yet to be ratified as a national mark), but this was definitely far better a race and time than P.T.Usha’s former national mark of 51.61 seconds.

The star portion of the race and time was that Beenamol not only was the best qualifier in her round 1 heat, she was the overall best among all 32 qualifiers in this event. The second-best qualifier was Jitka Burianova of the Czech Republic, at 51.59 seconds, and Australia’s world best star runner Cathy Freeman was only fifth among the qualifiers (from another heat), at 51.63 seconds.

That, though, is not the true picture of the race. Qualification is a norm that all athletes must achieve to move into the next round, and rarely does anybody run his or her best time in the first round. One benefit Beenamol will get from this run will be a clear lane four assignment in the next round heat. That should come to her advantage, and she should be able to improve on her performance of today, if she tries.

Looking at her run today, it was clear that her injury had healed, and that she was capable of far more than what she gave. She was relaxed in her run, coming off the bend of the home stretch, to take on the two leaders till then, beating the taller Olga Kotlyarova of Russia with a well-judged sprint in the last 25m.

The day here started with the men’s shot put. Shakti Singh has become a legend of sorts back home. He has the Asian mark, which is yet to be ratified and his personal best has been a huge 20.60, though his national mark stands at 20.09. His life best is yet to be ratified. In Group B qualifiers today, the 32-year-old started at a ridiculous 18.40m. Possibly embarrassed, he corrected that huge first effort downward to 17.96m in throw No. 2. The third effort went to 18.13m. End of story.

Shakti’s friend and putting partner Bahadur Singh, bigger and bulkier, was even more spectacular. He had a first attempt of 18.70m, and followed it up with two no throws. He exited at 13th spot. Bahadur’s best has been 20.01m.

Had Shakti done even his personal best today he would have finished sixth. Then came the totally expected, Paramjit Singh, in the quarter-mile. Paramjit is one of those athletes who should not have been here in the first place. He has not even made the qualification mark.

In the men’s javelin, Jagdish Bishnoi went out in the qualification round, finishing at 70.86m and at the 15th spot. It will be interesting to note that Bishnoi has come here with a personal best record of 79.68m.

The reverse flip

Usually country builds up for the Olympics with modest scores and results at home and then moves into higher gear. The trend has changed for some time. These Olympics, there were world class results at home, results that probably have been quickly seen through in the Olympics arena where there are rather strict rules and technical methods followed. Not that Usha’s indication is definitely true, but it surely will be in the best interest of the nation to immediately erase all existing sham results and records and rejudge each athlete in actual competition conditions.

Nobody was available for comment, but probably Beenamol’ performance today saved their face somewhat.    

Sydney, Sept. 22 : 
India’s effort at the track and field and the tennis court was mostly reflected in the other events they participated in today. Pugilist Jitender Kumar was smashed 3-12 by Romanian Adrian Diaconu in four rounds, while Imtiaz Anees finished 23rd and at the bottom of the heap as the three-day equestrian event ended with jumping.

India take on Spain in the hockey tournament tomorrow, and this will the first of India’s must-win games to stay alive in the pool.

If India’s 75 kg star Jitender Kumar’s first round whipping of Canadian Donald Grant Orr is any yardstick, today’s second round bout with Adrian Diaconu was virtually an anti-climax.

It was more like the way Dingko Singh lost yesterday, unable to open up his rival’s guard, only worse.

The bout was definitely a tough one for Jitender, knowing well the pedigree of the boxer in question. Diaconu was the 71kg runner-up in the 1999 world championships the year before that, and was the 71kg bronze standard in the 1997 world championships. He is in contention for gold here.

The three things that were for Jitender were his height (he is 6’ 3”, compared to Diaconu’s 5’11”), and the fact that the Diaconu has come up to higher weight category this time. These were, however, not too much in evidence as the match progressed.

In the first round Jitender was intent on getting through Diaconu’s guard. He tried his punches, but feeble jabs and unimpressive roundhouse hits did not impress.

Jitender’s guard soon dropped and the Romanian was up 2-1. The flurry of punches grew in the second round, Jitender failing to score more than one point, Diaconu well guarded in gloves.

In the final round Jitender did force a few punches, but all he could manage was one point as the Romanian took off four more.


Anees completed his quota of hardship at the equestrian event, with a rich final tally of 236. That earned him the bottom place (23rd). Astride Spring Invader, he managed 10 jump penalties and zero time penalties for a total of 120 penalties. However, his earlier rounds — dressage and crosscountry — had been too poor to pull him out of the situation.

The crunch match

India look forward to a win versus Spain tomorrow, albeit not without a great deal of trepidation. India’s loss to South Korea has shaken quite a few nerves, and Spain, who drew with Australia in their last match, are as eager to make the cut as India.

“There was no injury, and we will play all out tomorrow,” was all Vasudevan Baskaran would say.

India would not be pressured with the Korean speed tomorrow, but the identity that Spin have earned from the Atlanta Olympics can destroy a great many hopes.    

Sydney, Sept. 22: 
The Indian adventure in the tennis competition of the Sydney Olympics is over. Crack Indian men’s doubles pair Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were today dispatched in straight sets in the second round by the world’s top pair, Aussies Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, better known as the ‘Woodies’. The Indian pair lost 3-6, 6-7 (1-7).

That, however, was a brilliant result, compared to the Indian women duo’s first round performance. Manisha Malhotra and Nirupama Vaidyanathan were whipped 0-6, 0-6 by sixth seeds Jelena Dokic and Rennae Stubbs of Australia.

In their last tournament together — Woodforde is quitting after the Olympics — the Aussie pair brought off some brilliant combination play in front of a wildly screaming crowd at the 10,000-capacity tennis centre stadium.

Amid shouts of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oye, Oye, Oye”, the Woodies were intent on holding serve, warding off typically Leander charges at the net and those outlandish shots that have often upset top players.

Bhupathi’s serves sometimes went in nice and deep and the first serve percentage was decent. However, there wasn’t enough power in them and the returns often came as rude shocks to the net-charger Paes. As usual, there were some brilliant rallies were on view, and there were those drop shots and snap smashes off virtually net-cord range that Paes is famous for, bringing home valuable points.

Games went with serve till the eighth. Paes was serving and he was hesitant opening up, starting with a double fault. The two did manage to neutralise that but were not prepared for the brilliant down-the-line passing shot that killed all competition immediately after. When Bhupathi sent one forehand low into the net, the Indians were broken.

The second set saw the Indians take a little more initiative, but the Australians had by then realised how different the duo was from its world No. 1 heydays. All serves were held and the match moved into tie-break, where the Woodies tore the Indians apart in no time.

Leander later said: “The Woodies’ serves were the crucial factor in their win. They served so well, we could hardly reply.” He said he was “very disappointed” with the result in what he now believes to be his last Olympic hurrah. “I cannot describe this disappointment. I expected a better exit from the Olympic fold.”

Bhupathi said: “We will be playing more tournaments in the future together and we believe we will be able to bring our understanding back to what it had been.”

The Woodies showed quiet confidence. Woodforde said: “Running with the Olympic torch together was a feeling that made us understand what sporting spirit is really all about. I was in tears when we were running with the torch for a while, and today also we have tears in our eyes, just feeling the great support we have received from our countrymen. Now I believe, and we both believe that it is not the medal and not the winning that is the most important thing in an Olympics.”

“We knew that if they (Leander and Bhupathi) had to beat us they had to play their best tennis and more. They were far from it, and we are now in the best form and have years of understanding between us to fall back on.”

Gone in 35 minutes

The women were in and out in 35 minutes. They were slow off their feet and never in any manner of control, vis-a-vis rallies and serves and service returns.

The Indians were broken thrice in the first and thrice in the second set. They never even came close to breaking the Australians. It was, in short, a quick execution.    

When we walked into the stadium Friday, into a cauldron of noise, the stage was set for a showdown. And we came up short. Just short.

Mahesh and I had been working really hard, trying to rid ourselves of the rust. We played well against the Romanians, we played even better today. But the Woodies were too good. At the end of the day, it was clear this wasn’t meant to be our day.

The atmosphere was electric, there is no other word. Before you walk onto court, the announcer reads out the names of players on the public address system and the country they represent, which is an unbelievable feeling.

It’s not the US Open or Wimbledon where you’re playing for yourself, here you’re playing for your country. The crowd gave us a very generous welcome, but obviously it was Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge who they had come to see.

Out of a 10,000-strong crowd, 98% were cheering for the Aussies, but I’d like to thank the Indians who were there for they somehow managed to make themselves heard over the din. We thrive in such an atmosphere, we feed off the energy around us. If sport is about theatre, this was it.

But I have to take my hat off to the Woodies. They are so professional, it is almost scary. This was their first match and they were short on match-practice, and so they were out on the courts everyday playing practice matches.

They’ve been playing for years together, have won 11 Grand Slam titles together and are unquestionably one of the best doubles teams ever. Still, they don’t leave anything to chance.

I noticed them watching the entire second set we played against the Romanians, and obviously their homework paid off. For instance the other day, Andrei Pavel hit a couple of screaming forehands down the middle, leaving me and Mahesh stranded because we were guarding our lines. Early in the match, Woodforde did exactly the same to us, and though this time I managed to get the ball back off my frame, it shows how professional they are.

They also served magnificently, hard and deep, and more importantly, got a very high percentage of first serves in.

We, in turn, were just one shot short of turning the match. We’d get to 30-all on their serve, but then needed a spark of inspiration, but it didn’t happen. The match was closer than perhaps the scoreline suggests for there was only one break-point in the entire match, and they took it.

It will be tough for anyone to beat the Woodies here, especially since second seeds Jared Palmer and Alex O’Brien are out. Maybe, only Canadians Sebastian Lareau and Daniel Nestor have a chance.

I am obviously terribly disappointed to be leaving Sydney without a medal. But considering the amount of tennis we have played, it’s not surprising.

Despite the reversals, I think Mahesh and I are just one big match from turning it around. We are both trying to look at things positively, and doing everything to get back to No. 1 again. It’s just a matter of time before we get there.    

Adamile, who lost out to Starry Scene a fortnight ago in the 1000 Guineas, is expected to make amends in tomorrow’s feature the 1,600m Bettagere Estates Mysore 2000 Guineas. The Razeen-Climbing High filly from Darius Byramji’s yard will be ridden by Aslam Kader.


10.15 am: Amazing Force 1. Cashflo 2. Flinders 3.

10.45 am: Chantenay 1. Appleby 2. Undoubted 3.

11.15 am: Summer Mood 1. Golden Goal 2. Hong Kong Boy 3.

11.45 am: High Clarity 1. Acceptor 2. Royal Caribbean 3.

12.15 pm: Crystal Moment 1. Holy Heights 2. Cruden Bay 3.

12.45 pm: Adamile 1. Starry Scene 2. The Music Man 3.

1.15 pm: Jersey Lightning 1. Surge Of Power 2. Musky Bird 3.

1.45 pm: Poise 1. Cassini 2. Flying Scot 3.

Day’s Best: Adamile

Double:Chantenay & Crystal Moment. ‘Dreams’ best BY HONKY DORY Although, promoted after her comfortable victory, the Altaf Hussain-trained Dancing Dreams is expected to bag the Sporting Alliance Plate in Pune on Saturday. C. Rajendra partners the Gold Discovery-Gold Standard filly.


2.15 pm: Topaz 1. Fine Arrow 2. Tap On Power 3.

2.45 pm: Gorgeous Princess 1. Au Revoir 2. Sarena Pride 3.

3.15 pm: Dancing Dreams 1. Phrwaxshi 2. Merry Lea 3.

3.45 pm: Cotopaxi 1. Master Honey 2. Boldwin 3.

4.15 pm: Helianthus 1. Wild Heart 2. Classic Rock 3.

4.45 pm: Different Crown 1. Soviet Run 2. Zongrilla 3.

5.15 pm: Inimitable 1. Boundless Thrill 2. Red Trident 3.

5.45 pm: Candescent 1. Thundering Grey 2. Arabian Commander 3.

Day’s Best: Helianthus

Double: Cotopaxi & Different Crown.    

Although, promoted after her comfortable victory, the Altaf Hussain-trained Dancing Dreams is expected to bag the Sporting Alliance Plate in Pune on Saturday. C. Rajendra partners the Gold Discovery-Gold Standard filly.


2.15 pm: Topaz 1. Fine Arrow 2. Tap On Power 3.

2.45 pm: Gorgeous Princess 1. Au Revoir 2. Sarena Pride 3.

3.15 pm: Dancing Dreams 1. Phrwaxshi 2. Merry Lea 3.

3.45 pm: Cotopaxi 1. Master Honey 2. Boldwin 3.

4.15 pm: Helianthus 1. Wild Heart 2. Classic Rock 3.

4.45 pm: Different Crown 1. Soviet Run 2. Zongrilla 3.

5.15 pm: Inimitable 1. Boundless Thrill 2. Red Trident 3.

5.45 pm: Candescent 1. Thundering Grey 2. Arabian Commander 3.

Day’s Best: Helianthus

Double: Cotopaxi & Different Crown.    


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