The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian hopes pivot on athletes

New Delhi: India will look to their new talent to put up a good show at the Asian Games. Expectations are high with the team boasting of a few serious gold medal contenders.

Topping the list are K.M. Beenamol, Anju Bobby George, Saraswati Saha, Neelam J. Singh and K.M. Binu as the Indians hope to raise their gold count from the two won by Jyotirmoyee Sikdar in the women’s 800m and 1500m last time in Bangkok.

The flagbearer — Beenamol — is expected to lead from the front running in the 400m, 800m and 4x400m relay.

“I am hopeful of a good performance,” she said after winning the 400m and 800m here in the 42nd national open athletic meet that concluded on Monday.

Beenamol began the season with a 52.19 in New Delhi and then went twice under-52 seconds in the first two Asian GP meets. She showed signs of peaking at the right time recording her best — 51.47 — in the last circuit meet.

“I am gunning for the gold medal,” said a confident looking Anju, sitting besides her husband and coach Robert Bobby George after equalling the national mark in the long jump with a 6.74-m effort.

“The aim is to touch the 7.00m mark in Pusan,” said Robert, who will be accompanying her, raising the bar further as Anju nodded in agreement.

The effort in Delhi made her the leader in Asia this season ahead of Kazakh Yelena Koshcheyeva, who led with 6.63m in Bangkok.

Neelam, who won the discus bronze in Bangkok, wants to go a step further and, with a little bit of luck, turn it into gold. “If I can do around 62m. I stand a chance,” said the 31-year-old, who won silver at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

For 22-year-old Binu, who came into the limelight after his superb performance in the junior nationals in Kochi, Pusan is certainly going to be a big occasion. The frail athlete from Kerala was known more as the younger brother of Beenamol, but in a short time he has emerged as India’s best bet in the men’s 800m.

His best this season — 1:47.09 — in the last circuit meet in Ludhiana puts him .01 seconds behind the bronze medal winner’s time in the last Games.

Saraswati has shown remarkable consistency in dipping under 11.6 seconds and 23 seconds in the 100m and 200m, respectively, and the country looks to her in the two sprints and in the 400m relay.

Meanwhile, with only 17 days to go for the Games to begin, only 3.7 per cent of the 2.7 million tickets available have been sold, organisers said on Wednesday, reports AP from Seoul.

About 54,000 tickets — or more than half of the 99,000 tickets sold so far — were for the championship match in men’s soccer, said Kim Ju-han, a ticketing official at the Games’ organising committee.

The popularity of soccer surged in South Korea after the nation finished fourth in this year’s World Cup.

Fans have also picked up 18,000 of the 35,000 tickets available for the opening ceremony, which will feature athletes from South Korea and North Korea marching together, Kim said.

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