Gopichand in last 16, Jitender up
India look to prove a point to the world
Give it your best shot: Usha
Daniel matched Vijay�s score

Sydney, Sept. 18: 
Few that India�s achievements are in the Olympic Games, today there were thin silver lines. Silver, nevertheless, when Pulella Gopichand moved into the badminton men�s singles pre-quarter finals with a fine win, and when Jitender Kumar made the second round in the 75kg bout in the ring.

There was a small spark when Chetan Baboor won his second singles 25-23, 21-18, 23-21 against Peter Jackson of New Zealand, but the game is over anyway, with the Indian failing to move on.

The silver lining

Jitender�s was the silver lining of the day. He was solid against Canada�s Donald Grant Orr in the 75kg first round. He dominated from the start and Orr could hardly match him. In the second round itself, Jitender forced a standing count.

Orr was pretty badly shaken after that and this became evident in the third round when he had to take another standing count. The 23-year-old was oozy on his feet and it was, almost expectedly, a Referee Stops Contest decision, because of Blow to Head. That was in a second short of two minutes in the third round.

Later, Ashok Mattoo, chef-de-mission of the Indian contingent and head of the national boxing body, said he expected much from this fighter. Coach Gurbux Singh Sandhu, however, was not really forthcoming in comment, pointing to the controversy he had generated when he had talked about Dingko Singh�s injury.

Gopichand shines

Gopichand was another person doing pretty well this day, at the badminton court. He beat Vladislav Druzchenko of the Ukraine 15-3, 10-15, 15-7 to move on in 58 minutes. It was right from the first game that the Indian dominated the 1991 European junior gold winner. The Ukrainian did fight back in the second game, but Gopichand soon wore him down.

He will be up against Indonesian second seed Hendrawan in the next round.

Bindra�s strange �feat�

Abhinav Bindra�s finishing 11th can never be justified by the shooter. He scored a total of 590 in six rounds in qualifying and failed to make the cut, the rounds being 98, 99, 98, 97, 100, 98. He finished way down the men�s 10m air rifle qualification event, with a bunch of three more.

What surprises is that this 18-year-old Chandigarh lad had come here with two brilliant performances under his belt � third in the Asian Shooting Championship and fourth in the Munich World Cup, both this year.

Consider these bits of statistics: In the Langkawi (Malaysia) Asian Championship Bindra had earned bronze with a total of 694.9 (including qualifying score of 102.9). One Yalin Cai of China had come fifth in that meet with 691.9. In the Munich World Cup, Bindra had come fourth, behind Cai, but Bindra had scored 697.7 and Cai 697.8, a difference of 0.1. In the same meet, one Artem Khadjibekov of Russia had won gold at 699 points.

In Sydney today, Cai won gold at 696.4, a Final Olympic Record (in shooting, Olympic records are kept separately for Olympic Record and for records made in the finals only), while Khadjibekov won silver at 695.1. The bronze went at 693.8, to Russia�s Evgueni Aleinikov.

A pedestrian study of the above will show what happened, and where Bindra could have been only had he just maintained form. It also adds credence to allegations all around the country that Indians slip when really needed.

Flattering to deceive

For Nisha Millet, it was again a case of the unknown factor that throws Indian athletes out of sync. She was in heat No. 1 in women�s 200m freestyle. Incidentally, there were only three competitors in this heat, and this was through an evaluation of personal marks submitted.

Millet came first in the heat at 2:08.89 and the field in this heat can be judged by the fact that the second woman, Pamela Vasques of Honduras, was 6.94 seconds behind Millet. In the final tally of the six heats, Nisha was way down at the 37th position.

One more by the wayside

Baijan Sanmacha Chanu was touted as a women�s 53kg weightlifting medal prospect when selection was done and when Kunjurani Devi was overlooked with disdain. Chanu, ranked second in the world, should have been through to bronze, at least, if she had lifted her practice best of 202kg.

Her official personal best is 197.5 but today she managed just 195 (85 in snatch and 110 in clean and jerk and her efforts at 87.5 and 117.5, respectively, failed). Chanu finished sixth. Xia Yang of China won gold at 225.0, Feng-Ying Li of Chinese Taipei the silver at 212.5 and Winami Binti Samt of Indonesia the bronze at 202.5.

Chanu later said that she did have a chance to win bronze, and that had been her aim, but just �could not get into the shape needed for this level of meet today.� The sad fact is that no amount of excellent rehearsal can suffice if the final act on the stage is smudged.

Nothing to learn: Baboor

Baboor believes he has not really learned anything serious from these Olympics. �I have been to several international events, and I believe I can judge, but I should have been a little more prepared,� he said.

�The three-week rest I was forced to take recently because I twisted an ankle did not help. And today I did give away a few leads before I won, I did not like that.�

Later in the day, Baboor and Raman Subramanyan lost 24-26, 21-17, 18-21 to the Nigerian pair of Segun Toriola and Nosiru Kazeem.

In the women�s section, Poulami Ghatak was a bundle of nerves as she went down 12-21, 9-21, 9-21 to France�s Anne Boileau �I am yet to be able to receive serve,� she said. �I must correct this, and my fitness.    

Sydney, Sept. 18: 
India come up against their first tough hurdle in hockey tomorrow evening. Home team Australia, led by Michael York and coached by Terry Walsh and aided by hundreds of vocal supporters, will vie for the best in the last match of the day.

The teams have started off well, India beating Argentina, their bogey team, 3-0, while the Aussies thrashed Poland 4-0. This result is not disturbing Indian chief coach Vasudevan Baskaran at all. �A match versus Poland is not the same as a match versus India,� he said. �Australia is a good team and I hold them in great respect. They have great players, veterans like Jay Stacy, who was the International Player of the Year and is a prolific scorer. And they have more than just Stacy on the roster to get the strong message across.�

Baskaran is probably right in this respect, considering the fact that the Aussies have been happy at being able to �avoid, in the preliminaries, medal contenders Germany, the Netherlands and Pakistan (who are in Pool A),� as an Australian official so tacitly put it. However, this is something that could land the host team, bronze winners in Atlanta, in a bit of a spot versus India, who finished a poor eighth four years back.

�That is no consolation, because they are at home, and we are visiting,� added Baskaran. �However, we must remember that we have played the Aussies in Perth and won 2-1 (in the four-nation meet which India won a few months back), and though we have lost in Sydney (1-2) recently (in practice), we have come to know their team a bit.�

He also said that the morale of the players being high at the moment much is expected though he will not make any comment that he might have to eat later.

Baskaran said he was happy with the way his forwards Dhanraj Pillay, Mukesh Kumar and Sameer Dad have fared so far. He expects a policeman on Pillay but believes the original ploy of this screen releasing Mukesh and Dad could just about work.

His worry is the defence, though, and, of course, the penalty-corner conversions. �We are much better in our penalty corner scene now and I am saying this knowing that you have not really seen much of this in the first match,� he said. �We did not go all out on that front versus Argentina.� That may be so, but it does not quite justify the misses. There are two simple ways to a penalty corner, really, you score or you miss.

Skipper Ramandeep Singh carries a great burden of not letting his team down. He has been moving well but his five stitches on the gash under the left eye could be a problem. Ramandeep has said, though, that it was not: �I can see,� he had said. �And that�s all what we need,� his coach had added.

Baskaran today, following morning practice, showed his team videos of the Aussie team in action and said: �I believe that session was helpful, because we discussed a lot of strategy and have devised a plan.� That, of course, remained secret.

He said India would go all out. �This is an important match, both for India and for Australia,� he said. If the semi-final is India�s immediate target, India must force at least a draw versus Australia and then hope to beat Spain, Poland and South Korea.

All that is possible by the book. In reality, though, it is quite different. �You never really know in a tournament of this standing. Today Malaysia held the Netherlands, the super champions, and Pakistan simply walloped Britain. How do you account for that? Caution should be the watchword.�

He, however, is prepared to presage that a big, burly fight is on the cards tomorrow.

�Everybody is fit as a fiddle (including Ramandeep) in the team and they are raring to go. We need to prove a thing or three to the world,� he said. He said the evening match scene will not be a problem either. �We have played enough evening matches an are used to it by now.�    

Sydney, Sept. 18: 
India�s former sprint queen P. T. Usha is here as an �observer� for the Indian Railways. Yesterday she visited the Athletes� Village and she says she found the accommodation �a bit congested�.

Three people per room is not the ideal situation. She, though, feels the morale in the Indian contingent is high and told the athletes not to lose heart and to give their best.

�I told them that medals are not the most important thing (she did not want to comment on India�s medal hopes), and that it was only important that one gives his or her best in the biggest sporting extravaganza of the world,� she said.

She is staying with friends here.

Usha will also be covering (vioce feed only) the Games for a Kerala television channel Kairaly TV. Though the Communists of the state deny it, the channel is basically an unofficial chronicler for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) of the state. The channel was launched only last month and competes with Surya TV (the Malayalam version of Sun TV) and with Asia Net TV. Usha will also be featured in a column in South Indian newspaper.

�I am sure that there is a lot of potential in the Indian squad here, but it has also to be appreciated that the standards that have been already set at the Sydney Olympics are super,� she said. There was an oblique reference to how Indian athletes have rarely been able to produce their personal bests on the international arena.

She, though, would make no further comment on the possible doping allegation that she had made back home when, during the series of meets building up to the Olympics, records (in athletics) had fallen like ninepins and Usha�s records have not been spared either. Interestingly, those records are yet to be ratified. At this point Usha wishes to keep her contacts green with the authorities.

Usha said the food here was okay. She was comparing notes from her prodigious experience, right from the Moscow Olympics. �I saw some athletes have brought pickles and such stuff from back home, and since rice is well available here, the lunches are okay,� she said. That only lend credence to what Shakti Singh had said yesterday.

Before the athletics events start (on September 22), Usha is spending time visiting the different places of interest here. Today she took a tour of the grand Sydney Opera House. She will be visiting a few more places before she sets down to the �business� of reportage, she as the new avatar.    

Trainer Vijay Singh has a knack for taking the battle into the rival stronghold. The crafty trainer seems to have unbound faith in his stock and he normally proves his point. Early in the season, he made a mile-specialist Jeweller win a six-furlong race and Alyssum�s last week�s victory over a sprint also earned him kudos � a clever ploy to ensure better odds.

On Wednesday, Vijay fashioned the victory of Auctioneer in the 1,100m Green Sari Cup on similar lines. Known for his exploits over 1,400m and beyond trips, the Malvado-Grundy�s Flame four-year-old triumphed with grace and �lan over a distance much too short to his liking. The nagging rain and the burst blood vessel of the odds-on favourite, Optimum Choice, may have further helped the cause of the four-year-old Auctioneer but his victory was never in doubt. Cristopher Alford never allowed Optimum Choice the luxury of taking a long lead and kept Auctioneer within two lengths of the leader till approaching the distance-post. Auctioneer took the matter in his hands 150m metres from home and posted a facile under two-length victory.

Earlier in the Star Flame Cup Vijay had led in Alsheim to the winner�s enclosure after the Tecorno-Krishma�s Pet three-year-old thrashed the last-start easy winner, Eau Savage.

The one to match the wits of Vijay on the day was the fellow-trainer Daniel David. The youngster also notched up a brace of winners through Abstract in the Noble Fairy Handicap and Endless Surprise in the Whiplash Cup. Abstract, however, remained neglected in the betting ring as stablemate Sharp Sensation and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman�s Sky Command cornered a bulk of betting. Nevertheless, the Steinbeck-Alessandrina five-year-old established a comfortable lead from the start to leave the fancied duo with a catch-me-if-you-can situation.

Prepared only in cantering exercises and three spurts in close proximity, Endless Surprise carried her heavy-impost of 61-kg to an impressive victory in the 1,100m Whiplash Cup. Needless to say that the Argyle Lake-Prime Passion filly may score again.

What could have been Daniel�s big day and his first treble, failed to materialise with the defeat of his hot-fancy Ashbury in the Pussy Galore Handicap. Javed Khan�s No Regrets won the race landing a big gamble for the stable. Not only the intermittent rain but Cristopher�s ailing palm may also have contributed to the defeat of the Gold Discovery-Rose Of Sharon filly who lost in a close-finish. Cristopher, it is said, was carrying a burn injury in his hand. He kept Ashbury in close attendance of No Regrets while Avionic cut a hot-pace but failed to bridge-in the gap in the final 150 metres.

Sitting pretty at the weights, Deepak Karki�s Storm Trooper galloped to an easy victory in the Golden Beam Handicap. Apprentice Amjad Khan made no mistake on the Nyayo-Dazzling Glory filly.    


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