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June 5, 2000


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The week in Indian sports

Manipur win women's nationals
Diphu, May 29: Manipur won the women's national football championship for the third successive year, and the sixth time in its eight-year history, in Diphu last week. In the final played in front of a packed stadium in this small District town, they beat two-time champions Bengal by a solitary first-half goal. In fact, the interest in the final was so overwhelming that the organisers had a difficult time controlling the surging crowds which had taken up place on all four sides of the line.

The Manipur players were not deterred by the huge crowd and made three early shots at goal. Bengal had to pay heavily for shifting its nippy winger Sayanti Nandi to the wing-back position to bolster the defence and moved the original left-back Dulali Ghosh to mid-field. The absence of Sayanti on the right wing meant that Sujata was the only genuine forward to take the battle to the rival camp. Manipur had enough ammunition to dismiss that challenge.

Tababi Devi, recognised as the country's most potent forward, was in her element early in the game, taking two shots at goal in the space of three minutes. Bengal goalkeeper Ranjita was distinctly lucky to keep her savage left-footer out in the 11th minute and Chaoba Devi unleashed a right footer in the 16th minute to test her out again. It was only a matter of time before Manipur got on to the score sheet. In the 27th minute the inevitable happened when Tababi Devi took advantage of a scramble in the Bengal box and unleashed a ferocious left-footer which the Bengal custodian could only get her palms to but failed to keep in.

Manipur's triumph at the nationals was not surprising on the back of their sterling performances throughout the week. Their agility and speed were remarkable and the girls showed that lasting the 80 minutes of the match was easy for them. The team exerted pressure on rival teams through their mid-fielders and accurate long shots and the defenders were difficult to penetrate. In their semi-finals they showed the huge gap that exists between them and the rest of the country by trouncing hosts Assam 12-0. Earlier against Maharshtra the team had put up another phenomenal display to win 5-0. Against Goa in the league phase also the team showed that they had the ability to increase the tempo as and when they chose with an 8-0 win after leading by only a single goal at the interval.

Sonal Phadke wins ITF Masters
New Delhi, May 31: Sonal Phadke justified her top billing when she captured the $5000 ITF women's Masters tournament at the DLTA Courts in New Delhi last week. Phadke defeated Megha Vakharia 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Vakharia came into the tournament on the back of an astonishing run of success that had seen her clinch back to back ITF titles in Bombay and Pune. Her exploits in the previous weeks had given her the number two seeding. Having defeated Phadke in their last two matches she entered the final as the favourite.

However, nothing went right for Vakharia from the start. A spate of double faults cost her the third game. From there it was Phadke all the way. Capitalising on the unforced errors by Vakharia, Phadke kept the pressure to storm ahead 5-1. Vakharia lost the first set tamely 1-6.

The second set was evenly matched, with the games going with serve until Phadke held her serve in the fifth game. But Phadke achieved the all-important break in the eighth game to lead 5-3. Serving for the match, she finished with a overhead smash. At the end of the match Phadke expresses surprise that she had won the match so easily. "I had to attack and be alert as she had beaten me the last two times, though I have beaten her many times before," said the 17-year-old.

The victory fetched her the winners' cheque of 800 US dollars but, more importantly, five WTA points. After having fallen out of the computer ranking recently, this win coupled with her creditable showing in the last few weeks would ensure that she gets a respectable ranking now. Megha had to settle for 500 US dollars and four WTA points at the end of the circuit.

Sonal will now train her focus on the junior circuit after missing the French Open. She will now attempt to qualify for Wimbledon after competing in two preparatory events. She says she will concentrate fully on the junior circuit till the US Open in September. Megha, meanwhile, will rest her painful arm for some time before plunging into the domestic circuit again.

Good show by Anjali Vedapathak
Italy, June 2: Anjali Vedapathak came up with yet another fine performance to make it to the final of the air rifle event at the World Cup shooting championships in Milano, Italy. However, she had to be content with the eighth spot because of a below par effort in the final. Looking to impress the International Shooting Sport Federation for the 'hardship quota' for the Sydney Olympics, Anjali shot a series of 98, 99, 100 and 99 to make it to the final with a total of 396 out of 400. She was fifth among eight finalists in a field which had two scores of 399 ,and one each of 398 and 397.

However, in the final, Anjali started poorly by her standards and had a rather indifferent series for a total of 100.7 which pushed her to the bottom with a score of 496.7. The other Indians, Deepali Deshpande and Suma Dixit shot totals of 392 and 388 and could not join Anjali in the final. Later in the rifle 3-position event , Anjali came up with a score of 568 while her compatriots Deepali Deshpande and Kuheli Gangulee shot 574 and 567 respectively but finished well out of the medals bracket.

Meanwhile, in the men's air rifle event , Abhinav Bindra shot a total of 590 but could not make it to the final. Among the other Indians, T C Palangappa had a score of 595, A.P. Subbiah shot 583 and Dilip Sawant 566. In the air pistol, Ved Prakash came up with the best score among the Indians as he shot a total of 579. Jaspal Rana shot 575 and Samresh Jung 565. In the free rifle event, A P Subbiah and T C Palangappa came up with scores of 589 and 588 but failed to reach the final.

Sureshwaran begins in fine style
Kuala Lumpur, May 29: Indian racing prodigy Parthiva Sureswaran began the Formula Asian 2000 championship in sizzling style in Kuala Lumpur last week. In his maiden international race, the young Indian driver came in second, showing no nervousness. Representing team JK Tyres, Sureshwaran, who is hoping to emulate his better-known compatriot Narain Karthikeyan as an international driver by winning the overall title, came up with a brilliant display at the famous Johar Bahru racing track in Kuala Lumpur.

Team JK, who have invested Rs. 40 lakh for Sureswaran to compete at this year's championships, are hoping that he follows in the footsteps of Karthikeyan and takes the next step towards Formula-three status. Karthikeyan is currently placed third in the overall World championships for formula-three, which is being held in the United Kingdom.

Sureshwaran, who took pole position for the race, got off to a good start and led till lap seven before Malaysia's Wai Liong overtook him. Despite heavy pressure from the rest of the field, the Indian youngster maintained his second place to qualify for the next race. He finished in 19 minutes, 11.14 seconds, eight seconds adrift of Malaysia's Wai Liong, who finished at the top of the podium in a time of 19 minutes, 3.49 seconds. Liong was driving for Team Meritus, Malaysia. Mark Doddard of England, driving for Ghia Sports Racing came third with a time of 19 minutes, 11.85 seconds.

Gulab Chand and Ajit Bhaduria strike gold
Almaty, May 30: Gulab Chand and Ajit Bhaduria won gold medals at the Kosanov memorial international athletics meet , held at Almaty, Kazakhstan last week. Gulab Chand won the 5000 metres in 14 minutes 30.98 seconds, pushing behind Iranian Jafar Babakhani, to whom he had lost in an international meet last year. Babakhani clocked 14:31.29 with Kazakhstan's Takhir Namashaev claiming bronze in 14:39.12.

Gulab, who won bronze at the 10,000 metres at the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1998 and a silver in the 5000 metres at the Asian Track and Field Championships in Fukuoka earlier in the same year has been suffering from a recurring heel injury since last season. He has shown signs of recovery and his result here before the Asian Track and Field championships in Jakarta in August is an encouraging sign. Although his personal best in the 5000 metres is 13:55.0 seconds, Gulab is gradually on the road to regaining the form that made him the country's most successful middle-distance runner in the last two years.

In the discus throw, former national champion Ajit Bhaduria won the gold with an effort of 55.86 metres. He was followed by Evgeny Buchatskiy of Kazakhstan, who threw 53.51 metres and Uzbekistan's Roman Poltoratiskiy, who measured 52.91 metres with his best throw. Although Bhaduria's mark was well short of the national mark of 61.72 metres, held by Shakti Singh, it was good enough to clinch gold on the day. Bhaduria, who holds a personal best of 58.18 metres - - set in 1998, is hoping to go over the 60-metre bracket this season to be in medal contention at the Asian Track and Field championships.

On the track, Ananad Menezes won silver in the 200 metres, clocking 21.73 seconds behind Konstantin Zhuravlev of Uzbekistan, who came in first with a timing of 21.66 seconds. Arif Akhundov of Azerbeijan was third in 21.99 seconds. Nirbhay Singh won India its fourth medal of the meet with a bronze in the hammer throw for me. Nirbhay threw the hammer to 66.82 metres to finish third behind Nikolay Davidov of Kyrgyztan, who threw 69.15 metres, and Viktor Ustinov of Uzbekistan, who won silver with a distance of 67.20 metres. Despite finishing third, Nirbhay achieved his personal-best mark at the meet by improving his previous best of 62.85 metres by almost four metres. The current national record stands in the name of Ishtiaq Ahmed at 69.58 metres.

Mail Sports Editor