Spring �chill� could hold out excuse for Indians
Paes, Bhupathi have a mountain to climb
Bombay Gym, LMOB in final
The scent of money in Sydney
Basudeb nets winner
Chima venture
Native Tactics for Maharaja�s Cup
Track trials

Sydney, Sept. 14: 
Last time the Summer Olympic Games were held, in Atlanta, there was much talk of how athletes ran the risk of suffering from dehydration in the 30 degree Celsius heat. A huge rush of records stopped all such speculation.

In Sydney, this year, it is probably the Spring Olympic Games. One is not very sure how athletes would react to �summer� temperatures of 9-11 degrees centigrade! The sun shines happily, but after dusk woollens are a must.

Not that they are expected to perform to medal standards in any temperature, but probably this �chill� could hold out a good excuse for the Indians. It was an unrushed day for the Indians at the Athletes� Village here. Delegations were still coming in at the sprawling complex at Homebush Bay, flags were being raised and solemn speeches rendered.

Leander Paes, the flag-bearer, will be at the head of the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony tomorrow, his blue blazer, baize trousers and orange turban on show. This could surely have been his and Mahesh Bhupathi�s prime Olympics, had they not scuppered their chances.

The hockey stars are taking on bogey team Argentina yet again in their opening encounter Sunday, in pool B�s 10.30 am match. One hopes the sun is strong enough for the Ramandeep Singh-led Indians to be able to wipe off Atlanta�s 0-1 humiliation. Experts have �hoped� India would reach the semi-finals, at least.

Some other Indians start off the day before, though. On Saturday, in the women�s badminton first round, India�s 22-year-old former French Open champion Aparna Popat takes on Morgan Kelly of Britain. That is a rather tough first round. Kelly, the 1998 Welsh Woman of the Year, is the Commonwealth Games women�s singles champion and also the European runner-up.

On the men�s side, Pulella Gopichand takes on Ukraine�s Vladislav Druzchenko in the first round on Monday. The 27-year-old Druzchenko won the European junior champion gold in 1991 and is a regular member of the national team. Both matches are at 2 pm local time.

The shooters and boxers too start off early. Both squads have been tainted with the usual selection fracas, with a medal looking extremely remote.

That cannot be the said about athletics, where India actually filled up vacant slots with many who did not even qualify. Where they would have given a chance, to Bobby Aloysius, they stepped back.

With the only gutsy Indian, petite Sunita Rani, not being able to make it through injury, chances of a medal in this event are also bleak. One just hopes this �chill� does not get to their minds before their muscle tendons shrivel up.

Contingent officials, though, remained very busy. Their presence is mostly in the Village, making one wonder how this could help athletes. Interviews are being �restricted�, with 24-hour appointments. Seems like one was talking to Michael Johnson�s press liaison man. �I cannot help it,� said the official. �These are orders, and further relaxation cannot be done.�    

The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games gets underway Friday. India�s largest ever contingent will face the might of an international sporting world striving towards new horizons. In the last 48 years, India has collected only two individual bronze medals � Jadhav (Wrestling) in 1952 and Paes (Tennis) in 1996. It is a fitting tribute to Paes to select him as the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent.

In 1999, hopes for a gold medal in Sydney seemed bright. Sporting hearts leapt with delight as the Paes-Bhupathi duo burnished their No.1 world ranking with Grand Slam titles.

Since then, though, it seems that fate has conspired otherwise. First, it was the fall-out between Paes and Bhupathi fuelled by frequent exchanges featured in the press and then came the injuries. Mahesh�s shoulder required surgery and this kept him out of the game for about four months. Then Paes injured a ligament in his wrist at the French Championships and needed three months of treatment and rest.

With about five weeks to go for the Olympic Games, the boys, to everyone�s delight, settled their differences and got together once again after eight months of dissidence. Attaining peak form in such a short time, after a long lay off, seemed a daunting if not an impossible task.

There was a ray of hope when Bhupathi�s partner sportingly withdrew to allow Paes partner him in the US Open doubles. After their good showing in their first ATP tournament at Long Island, where they reached the semi-finals, a few matches in the US Open could have sharpened their game and given them the much needed practice for the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, a first round loss dashed Indian hopes and Paes and Bhupathi looked rusty and woefully short of match practice.

Then Mahesh decided to rest his sore shoulder and withdrew from the Tashkent tournament.

Now, the Olympic mountain looms over them. The peak is shrouded in the mists of shaky confidence and their backpacks are heavy with a nation�s hope.

The Olympic format is a 32 pair (draw) knockout event. All matches are best of three sets except the finals, which are best of five. Paes and Bhupathi are the eighth highest-ranking team according to the ITF rankings at the Olympic cut-off date. This would earn them the position of 8th seed and keep them from meeting any of the top seven teams till the third round. Of the seven higher-ranked teams, the most formidable pairs are the Woodies, the Swedes � Kulti and Tillstrom � and the Americans, O�Brien and Palmer.

Under normal circumstances, this draw would have meant fairly easy early rounds. But the Olympic event is very different. It brings together high-ranking singles players who have joined hands looking for glory for their country. The result � some formidable unseeded teams such as Kafelnikov and Safin, Corretja and Costa, Rosset and Federer � who hope to compensate their lack of teamwork with sheer power and higher standards of individual play. Such teams have made the Olympic draw tougher than the Grand Slams.

In top level doubles, the margin of victory is just a couple of points � an interception or a single volley is often the slender difference between defeat and victory. Slim margins require a measure of luck but in the long run close matches are won by experienced teams blooming in confidence. Swashbuckling interceptions, which make the vital breakthrough, are rooted in deep trust and understanding. Paes and Bhupathi may be found wanting in these vital areas because of their eight month separation.

But don�t despair at what I believe to be logical deductions, as there is the Paes factor to consider. In the past, Paes has always vaulted over rankings in high visibility matches like the Davis Cup and the Atlanta Olympics where he won five of his six matches against higher-ranked players, before losing to Agassi. I doubt if you will find another player in tennis history to match his record of victories over higher-ranked players.

Paes has received a well-deserved wild card in the men�s singles, which has a very strong entry. With Agassi�s withdrawal and in Sampras� absence, 17 of the top 20 ranked players have entered. Marat Safin, the US Open champion is amongst the entries. Having beaten Sampras, it is now that Safin will face the real test. It is one thing to play flat out with nothing to lose against one of the all-time greats and quite a different kettle of fish to play against ambitious lower-ranked players wanting to knock you off your pedestal. Safin certainly has the game, but whether he has the temperament of a great champion� only time will tell.

It is unlikely that Paes will pull off something similar to his Atlanta performance in the men�s singles considering that he has not played singles matches for a long time. Moreover he is four years older and has had a three-month injury lay-off.

To sum up, Indian hopes for a medal do not seem to be bright. But a large slice of luck, an easy draw and a burst of adrenaline could help Paes and Bhupathi find that �old magic� again in the doubles.    

Calcutta, Sept. 14: 
LMOB and Bombay Gymkhana will clash in Saturday�s final of the Famous Grouse All-India and South Asia Rugby meet. At the CC&FC today, LMOB defeated Greater Mumbai Police 27-6 and Bombay Gymkhana beat CFC 12-6.

Gerard Menezes had three conversions and two penalties for LMOB, while P. Tandon, R. MacNamara and H. Hooper had one try each. For Bombay Gymkhana, Minal Pastana and Mathew Spacy had one try each, while Steven Martin had one conversion. For CFC, Nicholas Menezes and Emil Vartazarian had one penalty each.

Meets at RCGC

The RCGC will host the East India junior and sub-junior golf meets from December 12 to 15 and the East India Amateur (match play) meet from December 19 to 25, according to a revised schedule of the Indian Golf Union.

CAB transfers

On the penultimate day of local cricket league transfers, Wrichik Majumdar left Wari to join East Bengal. Seventy-nine cricketers took transfer today.    

Sydney, Sept. 14: 
The first Olympic Games of this millenium has been touted to be the biggest ever. The glitz and glamour will be all-pervading at the modern Olympic Stadium at Homebush Bay, but a bigger one awaits on the track, in the throw pits, in the soccer, hockey fields, in the pool, and in every arena erected for the biggest sporting show on earth.

It is a big order, no doubt. The participation will be mind boggling, the media exposure super-saturated, and the bias towards lucre, all pervading.

While the Michael Johnsons and Marion Jones and the Maurice Greenes run, while the Cubans rule the ring, while the Ian Thorpes singe the watery lanes and even as while the drug-police do their duty the best they can, there is clear show of high finance slowly taking over the sport. Sydney�s bus drivers struck work as someone was working too long somewhere, and because some were fired because they spent too much time in union work.

Good reason to protest. Better, because the way SOCOG has been scrimping money (like obviously using less than the required count of buses so far) and tugging at sources (sponsors cars here travel on exclusive lanes: no traffic rules for them), it probably needs to be taxed on such lines and then a jury should decide why any Olympic organising committee should have such monopolistic powers.

For that matter, why should the IOC? Juan Antonio Samaranch, its president and �ruler�, finds nothing wrong in already squeezed resources going further down under. A slow fire is on the rise, and could grow if those high prices for foodstuff do stay in tomorrow�s opening ceremony.

That is one side of an organising committee, which has earned praise from Greenpeace for protecting a marshland in Homebush Bay that was found to be the breeding ground of the rare golden frogs. Sidneysiders complain about the prices, but Samaranch has probably made them realise the �goodness� of such sacrifice.    

Calcutta, Sept. 14: 

Lady Luck was on Mohun Bagan�s side today as they edged past JCT by a lone goal to enter the final of the IFA Shield , setting up a title clash with arch-rivals East Bengal.

The crowd that gathered at the venue to support the city outfit had to be content with the one goal, coming from Basudeb Mondal, as the rest of the match produced little in terms of entertainment.

The matchwinner came in the 42nd minute, when Basudeb�s longranger got deflected off the foot of defender Ranjit Singh and went over the goalkeeper�s head into the net. JCT custodian Baljit Singh could do little but remain a mere spectator in the whole episode.

The rest of the match was, however, a display of extreme mediocrity. And it was difficult to imagine that it was a semi-final of a major domestic tournament featuring two teams who are prominent in the National League.

Mohun Bagan had, in fact, the better of the exchanges and could have perhaps increased the tally had their forwards showed a little more alertness. JCT, on the other hand, hardly made an impact.

In fact, in the first 20 minutes, Mohun Bagan had nearly three chances, the best being wasted by R.C. Prakash. Running down the right flank, he could have easily taken an attempt at goal. But he ran almost to the edge of the box, and tried to backpass to Jose Ramirez Barreto. But it went out of control.

In the 35th minute, the Brazilian had a chance to open the account, when, in a goalmouth melee, he tried a right footer, which was off the mark.

The second half, too, saw a few chances being missed by the home team. In the 25th minute, Amitava Chanda�s measured centre from the left found no Mohun Bagan forward who could lend the finishing touch.

Minutes later, Rennedy Singh�s powerful longranger sailed over. Perhaps the best opportunity came in the 40th minute, when Rennedy�s cross found Omollo. His header was a good try, but not enough to increase the tally.

In the very next minute, an attempt by Joao Dos Santos � who replaced Basudeb midway the second half � went abegging. Receiving a pass from Barreto, he took a shot that crashed into the crossbar.


MOHUN BAGAN: Sandip Nandy, Dulal Biswas, Samuel Omollo, M. Suresh, Amitava Chanda, Basudev Mondal (Joao Dos Santos, 65), R. P. Singh, Debjit Ghosh, Satyajit Chatterjee (Rennedy Singh, 56), R.C. Prakash, Jose Ramirez Barreto.

JCT: Baljit Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Kuldip Singh, Ranjit Singh, Daljit Singh, Jasbir Singh, Hardip Saini, Ram Pal (Harjinder Singh, 46), Hardip Sangha (Surjit Singh, 46), Jaswinder Singh, Hardip Gill (Sukhjit Singh, 73).

Referee: S. Suresh

SAIL, Salkia in goalless tie

SAIL and Salkia Friends played out a goalless tie in the CFL Super Division return leg for the last five teams today. In group A, Bhratri Sangha beat Behala Youth by a Madhav Das strike. The other matches � Rajasthan versus Aryan and Howrah Union versus CFC � ended in barren draws.    

New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
Chima Okerie will endorse and promote Nike�s football Geo Merlin, which costs a whopping Rs. 7,000, for the Indian market.

Chima, who has settled in Brighton, England, is now in India seeking sponsorship for his online retail shop �Shoppe Chima�. He will be in Calcutta next week.

The Geo Merlin football has been produced by Dutch engineers Bert and Frank Schaper.    

Mysore, Sept. 14: 
Native Tactics, the hattricker from Darius Byramji�s yard, is expected to win the 1,600m Maharaja�s Gold Cup tomorrow. Aslam Kader partners the Blue Bird-Miss Oriental filly.


2.15 pm: Brave Edge 1. My Goodness 2. Western Ghats 3.

2.45 pm: Elegant Rainbow 1. Semoran 2. Enthronement 3.

3.15 pm: Chevalier 1. Belief 2. Armiger 3.

3.45 pm: Alisa 1. Sleek Gold 2. Tajik 3.

4.15 pm: Native Tactics 1. Sterling Fantasy 2. Astronautics 3.

4.45 pm: Alylady 1. Spirito 2. Star Sunrise 3.

5.15 pm: Day�s Of Glory 1. Frontier Hero 2. Alminstar 3.

Day�s Best: Native Tactics

Double: Elegant Rainbow & Chevalier.


(With inter-state dividends) 1. Panchgani Plate 1,200m: (1-2-5) Silent Honour (Prakash) 1; Amalgamate 2; Dream Come True 3. Not run: Great Monarch (12). Won by: 7; 2-1/4; (1-15.6). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 13; 14; 19; Quinella: 28; Tanala: 110. Fav: Silent Honour (1). 2. S. Hajee Memorial Plate 1,400m: (2-14-7) Opalette (Prakash) 1; River Dale 2; Beautiful Bird 3. Won by: 1/2; 3; (1-30.2). Tote: Win Rs 24; Place: 14; 37; 356; Quinella: 345; Tanala: 50,370 (C.o). Fav: Opalette (2). 3. Fair Wood Plate 1,600m: (1-8-2) Fereneze (Appu) 1; Donna Mia 2; Along All 3. Won by: 1/2; 2; (1-42.3). Tote: Win Rs 42; Place: 15; 19; 14; Quinella: 241; Tanala: 573. Fav: Along All (2). 4. Madras Race Club Cup, Div-I 1,200m: (9-6-4) Andestine (Surjeet) 1; Mehvish 2; Jai Bharath 3. Won by: 6; 4-1/4; (1-16.3). Tote: Win Rs 45; Place: 19; 17; 19; Quinella: 107; Tanala: 1,226. Fav: Surf Rider (7). 5. New Indian Express Gold Cup 1,600m: (1-5-4) La Unique (Kader) 1; Winning Glory 2; Master Weaver 3. Won by: SH; 3; (1-40.6). Tote: Win Rs 36; Place: 14; 25; 65; Quinella: 258; Tanala: 4,487. Fav: The Royals (2). 6. Eclipse Plate 1,200m: (6-9-16) Gracious Rohit (Rakesh) 1; Skipping Away 2; Dad�s Joy 3. Not run: Ratn (3).Won by: 1; 1-1/4; (1-15.9). Tote: Win Rs 26; Place: 14; 37; 34; Quinella: 185; Tanala: 1,654. Fav: Gracious Rohit (6). 7. Udupi Plate 1,400m: (10-12-5) Hot Property (Ramesh) 1; Letham Grange 2; Almaz 3. Won by: 5; Nk; (1-28.7). Tote: Win Rs 101; Place: 36; 28; 14; Quinella: 453; Tanala: 7,089. Fav: King�s Common (8).

Jackpot: Rs 17,825; (C) Rs 475.

Treble: (i) Rs 668; (ii) Rs 1,301. Track trials Calcutta, Sept.14: The following track-work was noted today:

Outer sand track

800m: Scavenger�s Son (Rb) in 1-2s; (400m) 30 2/5s.

Monsoon track

1,000m: Starry Flag (Rabani) in 1-13s; (400m) 25s. Easy.

800m: Acaress (Islam) and Soviet Port (Rabani) in 52s; (400m) 24s. Both level. Garden Of Heaven (Saran) in 54s; (400m) 24s. Moved well. Jayaashva (Bird) in 1-0s; (400m) 24 2/5s. Easy.

Sand track

800m: Ring Dancer (K. Gurang) in 59s; (400m) 28 2/5s.    

Calcutta, Sept.14: The following track-work was noted today:

Outer sand track

800m: Scavenger�s Son (Rb) in 1-2s; (400m) 30 2/5s.

Monsoon track

1,000m: Starry Flag (Rabani) in 1-13s; (400m) 25s. Easy.

800m: Acaress (Islam) and Soviet Port (Rabani) in 52s; (400m) 24s. Both level. Garden Of Heaven (Saran) in 54s; (400m) 24s. Moved well. Jayaashva (Bird) in 1-0s; (400m) 24 2/5s. Easy.

Sand track

800m: Ring Dancer (K. Gurang) in 59s; (400m) 28 2/5s.    

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