Wednesday, August 27, 2008

TOP TEN : Upsets at Beijing Olympics

At the recently concluded Olympics games, China surged far ahead of USA in the gold medals race. Michel Phelps became All Time Great by capturing eight Gold medals in swimmimg, whereas Ussain Bolt set the track on fire by his electric runs in 100 and 200 meter sprints. Even though these are the three major highlights of this Olympics, none of them were entirely unexpected. This Olympics was full of drama, emotion, heartbreaks and upsets. Here is my pick on the most surprising results (not necessarily in the order of magnitude of surprise) at Beijing.

  • Ever since Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, he has been China's super hero. In Beijing, Liu, was the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. For millions of Chinese Liu fans, a gold medal in Beijing was a must , and if he couldn't, all of his previous achievements would become meaningless. Unfortunately his ankle injury aggravated at wrong time and he had to withdraw at the last minute. The anguish on faces of his supporters was evident. A huge heartbreak for Lui lovers. [back]
    In the build up to Beijing games, the 100 meter sprint competition was billed as tussle between Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Ussain Bolt. Ironically, gay lost in semi finals. Powell was nowhere in medal list. In fact Bolt won both 100 and 200 meter races with ridiculous ease. Even the 4X100 relay was also a huge disappointment as US team was eliminated in semi finals. [back]
    Roger Federer had come to Beijing on the back of humiliating defeats in French open and Wimbledon at the hands of Rafael Nadal. So, a fierce fight for gold between the two was anticipated by many. Federer instead, bowed out in the quarter finals itself. Meanwhile, Nadal continued his remarkable run by adding Olympics gold in his kitty. Federer, though stung by the loss, came back strongly to clinch gold in doubles event. Indian pair of Lee-Hesh had to suffer at his hands. [back]
    There were big upsets in both Men's and women's semi finals of Hockey. Australian team (Men)was in great form till it ran into Spaniards. German men won the Gold medal but their women counterparts, who were defending champions, lost to China in semis. China's dash to the finals in Hockey is most astonishing. Remember, Chinese men beat India and Pakistan in Doha Asiad two years ago? [back]
    For many years now, USA is the powerhouse in Sprints. US teams (Men and Women) in 100 meter relay were firm favourites. But surprisingly, both teams were disqualified for faulty baton exchange, the most basic requirement in relay race. I remember how Indian team (women) in 1988 was criticised for dropping the baton. But it happens to the most professional teams too you know! Curiously, the Baton dropping bug also caught up with Jamaican women. Fortunately, Bolt could hand the baton fluently to Powell for Jamaica to win men's gold. [back]
    Great Britain's impressive performance was another surprise. Last time, it was lying at the 10th spot. Here, they overtook more fancied countries like Australia and Germany with 19 gold medals. Most of English success came in cycling and Sailing. Next Olympics Games are in London. Who knows, like China here, Great Britain might use its home advantage for still better results. [back]
    Brazil, in its illustrious football history has one blemish. Despite winning five world cups, it is still luckless when it comes to winning Olympics gold. Ronaldinho had embarked on the mission Gold Medal, but he bumped into Messi's Argentine flourish. Argentina were far too good. So for Brazil, the wait continues. [back]
    One of the most astonishing turnarounds took place in diving competition. On the last jump, Mathew Mitcham , of Australia, was trailing by 35 points in 10 meter platform event. When all seemed lost, the Australian produced an unbelievable dive to win gold by 3 points, and in turn deny the Chinese team a clean sweep of medals in diving. Incidentally, Gay, Tyson that is, failed to win, but Mathew, who openly acknowledges to be gay, succeeded!
    India upset sixteen countries to claim 50th spot in ranking compared to 66th last time! For a country that is starved of sporting Heroes outside Cricket, the success of the trio, Bindra, Sushil and Vijender is being hailed as path breaking. It remains to be seen if this new found awareness about Boxing, Wrestling and other Olympics sports is sustained or is quickly forgotten by the onslaught of T-20 IPL! [back]

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Memorable Olympics Sports Extravaganza concludes

    29th Olympics Games had commenced sixteen days ago with a spectacular opening ceremony. Today, they were concluded with equally grand closing ceremony. China, the hosts clearly dominated the games winning whopping 51 gold medals, easily beating USA in the race for top spot.
    Many pundits had predicted that China would use the 'home advantage' to topple USA. But the margin of its dominance is astounding. China retained its supremacy in Diving, Gymnastics, Table Tennis, Badminton, Weightlifting, and shooting. It also showed its prowess in some of non-traditional sports such as Rowing, Fencing, Trampoline caneoing and kyaking etc. Chinese women won silver in hockey, Bronze in Tennis. Apart from Athletics, china dominated in most of the disciplines. China's emergence as the top sporting superpower is certainly the most important highlight of this edition of Olympics.
    USA team officials would be disappointed despite winning 110 medals. They missed out on some sure gold medals. Jamaica robbed them of at least five gold medals in athletics. The most shocking was 'Baton dropping' by men and women in 100 meter relay. Loss of Brayan brothers in Tennis doubles, failure of Felix Alison in women sprints were disappointing. Basketball teams (Men and women) did redeem themselves. But for Michel Phelps, USA performance would have been even poorer.
    Michel Phelps and Ussain Bolt were undoubtedly the Superheroes of this Olympics. Both have achieved stupendous feats. While Phelps obtained eight swimmimg gold medals, most by any sportsperson in single Olympics, Bolt achieved a Golden Double in sprints with world Record timimgs in addition to leading Jamaican relay team to Gold medal. The images of calm and confident Phelps, and exuberent and flamboyant Bolt will continue to linger in the memories for a long time.
    One of the major upsets in this Olympics was Federer's loss in Mens' Tennis although he won the doubles Gold. Rafael Nadal's fantastic run of form got him the gold medal. Brazil's defeat in Football was also a blow to aspirations of Ronaldhino. This Olympics also saw end of a glorious era for Haile Gebrselassie, the great long distance runner from Ethiopia.
    It was a historic Olympics for India. First ever individual gold medal, followed by two more bronze medals, the most won by Indian contingent in a single Olympics event. The achievemtns of Bindra, Sushilkumar and Vijender have received wide coverage in the media. It has also aroused great interest about Olympics sports. One only hopes that the authorities will capitalise on this new found interest and go about in a more organised manner for preparations of 2012 London Games. Unless there is a radical change towards Sports as treated by government and society, Indian public will have to be content with individual brilliance of a few athletes who have excelled this time.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Lightening Bolt Strikes Twice

    While the first half of Beijing Games was dominated by Michel Phelps, in the last few days the limelight is entirely on Ussain Bolt. Phelps has certainly become an all time great by winning eight gold medals in a single Olympics. However, Bolt's feat of winning the Golden double, that too by beating world Records in both events, at a single Olympics is equally incredible if not more. Like Phelps, Bolt too has assured himself a place in Olympics history.

    Before the start of Games, sprinting supremacy was supposed to be a three way tussle between Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. Bolt was even quoted as not being sure if he would run both the sprints as 200 meter sprint was his more preferred race. Gay, though could not even make it to the finals on Sunday. Powell too, was nowhere in medal rankings of 100 meters sprints. In fact, Bolt made it ridiculously easy. Usually short distance races are decided by photo finish. But Bolt had won by a fair distance. so much so that had he not relaxed a bit in last few strides, his world record time would have been lesser than 9.69 sec by quite a margin.
    It was another memorable evening on Wednesday at National Stadium in Beijing for 200 meter finals. Unlike the 100 m dash, Bolt got strongly off the blocks and sped away of the pack. It was one of the most astonishing spectacle of 19.30 sec. Lightening Bolt had literally set the track on fire. The images of excited Bolt breaking into samba dance will continue to linger in the minds on nearly hundred thousand spectators in the stadium and many more like me in front of Television who were fortunate to witness the lightening strike Beijing.

    Just as the race, the build up to the dash in which Bolt is participating is also a treat to watch. The way he gets ready at the blocks, his mannerisms and gestures to the public are so entertaining. His nonchalance reminds me of another West Indian, Viv Richards whose swaggering entry on the Cricket field used to charge the atmosphere. No wonder Bolt initially tried his hand to be a fast bowler.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Olympics Hockey without India

    Hockey is celebrating its Hundred years in Olympics. Ironically, India, the country that has won most number of gold medals, does not feature in this edition of Olympics. India's steady decline in world rankings has started in 1976. KPS Gill's regime at IHF performed the last rites of Indian Hockey before he being overthrown by another GILL, MS the sports minister.
    Common Indian sports enthusiast quickly got over India's absence as suddenly India has found new sporting Heroes in Bindra and Boxing trio of Akhil, Vijender and Jitender. So much so, that despite Hockey being our national game, hardly anybody seems to be following what is happening in Hockey matches at Beijing. There is virtually no coverage of Hockey on TV or Newspaper media. So, here's presenting a brief review of Hockey at Beijing.

    Asian Hockey is represented by Korea, Pakistan and hosts China. Sadly Pakistan Hockey is also facing similar downslide. Having lost to Britain and top ranked Australia, it will be extremely difficult for Pakistan team to enter Semifinals from B group which also has strong Netherlands.

    Korea on the other hand is still keeping Asian flag afloat by drawing against Germany. This group A is witnessing keen tussle for second semifinal births between Korea, Germany and New Zealand, with Spain on top. A few keen tussles between Korea Vs Spain and New Zealand Vs Germany on Tuesday will be decisive. On form Australia are overwhelming favourites to beat Netherlands for Gold Medal. The final is scheduled on 23rd Aug. (points table as on Sun Aug 17)

    Many Hockey followers like me wonder if Indian hockey will see the glorious days of past again. The bickerings amongst the Hockey administrators are at all time high. There was some hope of revival when Ric charlseworth came to India to offer helping hand. But how he was literally humiliated and kept away from the team in Qualifiers tournment is well known. A frustrated Charlesworth has given up and is slated to join Australian Hockey team as its coach.

    So this is the second Australian Indian sport has ill-treated. The unfortunate sacking of Greg Chappell by BCCI is still fresh in the memory. It is often argued that a foreign coach is not suitable for Indian teams consisting of players from different states and different cultural background. But look at what Indian Football team coach Houghton has achieved. India's victory at recently concluded AFC Cup could well be the turning point for Indian football. While there seem to be no hope for Indian Hockey's revival, Indian Football is all set to reach newer heights.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    One Billion - One Medallion

    Abhinav Bindra has given a 'Golden Gift' to his own countrymen on the occasion of Independence Day. His Gold medal winning performance is surely the greatest moment in history of Indian sports since independence. The country is showering all the accolades on him and rightly so.

    We hear some outrageous reactions being given by the sports officials like Mr kalmadi of IOA. The other day he was seen claiming a turn around in India's performance at international level after this success. Well, this is hardly likely to happen, at least in near future. Because, even in this euphoria of first ever gold, one can not overlook certain stark realities.

    One must not forget that the success achieved by Abhinav is entirely on his own. Of course his financially strong family stood in good stead. But neither the shooting Federation of India, nor Indian Olympic Association and certainly not the officials like Mr Kalmadi have a slightest contribution in his success. Hence Mr Kalmadi and others need not congratulate themselves on Bindra's achievement. Rajyawardhan Rathore, the Athens Hero too benifited from the fact that he is an armyman. Sania Mirza, Paes and Bhupati, Vishwanathan Anand, Jeev Milkha Singh.. all these sportpersons have come in to prominence by their own dedication and backed by family support. The efforts on individual levels are bound to result in medals few and far in between. For a large scale success, a planned and large scale effort on governmental and organisational level is necessary. China is now reaping the fruits of rigourous and concentrated hard work for more than three decades.

    So, the the hopes of inspired performances from other Indian atheletes in Beijing have quickly evaporated. A feeble hope still rests on Paes-Bhupati. But, it seems as though the tag of 'One Medal country' will continue to stick with India until next Olympics!!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Left Is Right!

    Aug 13 is celebrated as Left Handers' Day. In the world dominated by right handers, the left handed community is a small minority. In many countries including India, left handed ness is still looked down. the word 'left' itself is attched with a smack of negivitism and inferiority.
    But like in many fields, left handers have carved a special nitche in the world of sports. Sir Gary sobers, the greatest cricketer to have played the game, has with his left handed batting and bowling prowess dominated the sixties. The elegent David Gower, indomitable Alan Border, lethal Wasim Akram, artistic Bishan Bedi, flamboyant Brian Lara are some examples of left handed greats to have played Cricket.
    Left handed Tennis players have a unique flair. Tempermental McEnroe , legendary Martina Navratilova and more currently Rafael Nadaal are some of the most popular sportspersons.
    Recently, an online poll was conducted to nominate the most popular Left hander of the World. US Presidential candidate Barack Obama won the poll overtaking some of the prominent personalities including Anjolina Juile among others.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Olympics Gold Fails to Inspire Indian Cricketers

    This surely is the most important moment in independent India's sporting history. Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an Olympics gold medal in an individual event. One only hopes that his stupendous achievement becomes a trendsetter for many more laurels to the country.
    After rather disappointing beginning to Beijing Olympics, an early morning news of Bindra's success today was a pleasant surprise to Indian fans. As the nation started pouring adulation on him, Saina Nehwal put up inspired performance to enter quarterfinals of Ladies Badminton by beating a more fancied opponent from Hong Kong. All eyes will be on her as she tries to enter the medal round tomorrow.
    Abinav's golden feat, however, failed to inspire the high-profile Indian Cricketers as they surrendered rather meekly to SriLanka in third Test at Colombo. The star studded Indian Team was tamed single handedly by a newcomer Lankan spinner, Ajantha Mendis. The Fab Foursome of Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman fell miserably. Kumble was well below his best. Is it really time to bid good bye to some of these heavyweights?

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Cricket in Olympics?

    Formal inauguration of Beijing Olympics is just a few hours away.The organisers claim that the spectators in the Stadium and the TV audience is going to experience one of the grandest ever opening ceremonies in the history of sports. Live telecast of the opening ceremony beginning at 1730 Hrs. IST.
    Competitions though, have already begun two days ago.Ladies Football matches commenced with china starting on winning note and US team faltering in opening fixture. In coming two weeks, the race for medals between these two nations is surely going to be close one.
    In India, there is hardly any enthusiasm about the Olympics Games of this year. But Olympics of year 2020 are in news from now itself. Adam Gilchrist recently advocated inclusion of Twenty-20 Cricket in 2020 Olympics. He found instant takers in India. India just a few months ago won the inaugural T-20 Cricket World Cup. Cricket has huge following in India. Cricketers enjoy tumultuous popularity. And, even though only a handful of countries play Cricket, performance of many of Indian Cricketers is termed as 'World Class'. No wonder Indian Cricket lovers backed this idea with a hope that at least in 2020, India stands a chance of winning a Gold medal!. Some enthusiasts even went to extent of asking Indian Govt to exert international pressure on IOC for inclusion of Cricket in Olympics so that India can win its first ever Olympics Gold!!
    Seriously though, it is not going to be easy to press for inclusion of Cricket. Even a T-20 match takes about four hours to complete. Besides a world wide acceptance to Cricket is certainly not there. But one thing is for sure. Even if Cricket does get entry in Olympics, it would be no surprise if the first gold is bagged by China, Korea or US instead of India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka!!
    The Games have already started on a disastrous note for India. Lone weightlifter in the contingent, Monika Devi had could not board plane to Beijing on grounds of failing doping test. It will be difficult for the other team members and management to keep composure and perform creditably. Let us hope that India contingent puts its best ever performance and re tuns home with improved medal count. Best of Luck India!

    Sunday, August 3, 2008

    Beijing Games : Contenders of Success

    This Olympics at Beijing is widely tipped to be the most competitive in the history. There is huge amount of interest about the country winning maximum medals and number of records to be broken. In every edition of the Games, a few athletes attract attention. Their performance arouses huge expectations amongst sports lovers across the world. Here is a brief introduction to some of the 'superstars' of Beijing Games.
    Brazil's Football team : Despite winning the world cup five times, the flamboyant south American nation has not been able to win a gold medal at the Olympics. this time big guns like Ronaldinho and Robinho are in their ranks. Clearly Brazil team is out to put the record straight.
    Basketball Team (USA) : After the success of Dream Team' in 1992, USA team is failing to win 15th gold in Basketball. Two of NBA superstars of today, Kobe Brayant and Lebron Jones are present in American team which hopes to bring back the glory.
    Men's singles Tennis : There is fierce rivalry between Nadal(Spain) and Federer(Switzerland) in last few months. Nadal has just overtaken Federer in ATP rankings. With this background, Beijing is expected to see high voltage clash between the two for Gold medal.
    100 meters sprint : This is always the most glamorous event at Olympics. the winner is aptly called 'the fastest man on the Earth'. This time there is a three way contest. American Tyson Gay faces stiff challenge from tow Jamaicans - Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt who is the current record holder (9.72 sec)
    Michel Phelps(USA). this 23 year swimmer has set for himself a stiff target as he aims to beat the feat achieved by Mark Spitz forty years ago. Spitz became first swimmer to win seven gold medals in single Olympics. Phelps intends to do one better, Best of Luck to him!
    Liu Xiang (China) : He is clearly the athlete under most pressure from his countrymen to win gold. Four years ago he became China's first and only gold medalist in Athletics when he won 110 metre Hurdles. People of china desperately want him to retain the gold medal.
    Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia) : at Athens Games in 2004, Hidayat ruined Chinese party. He thwarted China's clean sweep of Golds in Badmington. This time though, a young and flamboyant Lin Dan looks to wrest the men's gold medal.
    Bernard Lagat : This time USA contingent has quite a few athletes who have in the past represented other countries at the Olympics. Lagat represented Kenya when he won 1500 metre and 5000 metre races in Athens. It remains to be seen how he performs as a US citizen.
    These superstars along with many other athletes will try their best to make their country proud. So let us enjoy the Beijing games and hope that a stray medal comes India's way too!