"I often dreamt of Asian Games gold"

PTI

Bajrang Lal Takhar often dreamt of winning gold at the Asian Games and he couldn't be happier after he got India its maiden rowing gold medal.

Indian rowers have achieved their best performance in the Asian Games with five medals in the event. Apart from Takhar's gold in men's single sculls event, India won a silver and bronze on the final day of the competition at the International Rowing Center.

“This is a result of our four years hard work, where we had planned to compete in the races. I won the Asian Championship in 2007 and 2009. So, I had competed against most of these rowers before and had an idea about them.

“I topped my heat and that gave me a lot of confidence to go for the gold. I used to dream about the gold medal and I am glad that I was able to win it,” Takhar said.

“I always make a fast beginning. No one can come near me at the start. During our training, the coach taught us how to remain calm and deal with the pressure. I remained cool and enjoyed my race.”

Takhar, who also gave India its first silver medal at Doha, clocked seven minutes 4.78 seconds to win the second gold for India in the 2010 Asian Games after cueist Pankaj Advani.

Takhar, an Arjuna awardee, led the 2,000 metres race right from the start and won the gold comfortably. He finished the first 500 metres in one minute 39.82 seconds, covered 1,000 metres in three minutes 26.32 second and 1500 metres in five minutes 13.56 seconds.

The silver went to Chinese Taipei's Ming Hui Wang with a timing of seven minutes 7.33 seconds while Iraq's Haeider Hamarsheied clocked seven minutes 10.10 seconds to settle for the bronze.

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Ronjan Sodhi brings cheer to shooting contingent

Ronjan Sodhi finally brought an end to the shooting contingent's gold drought by taking the honour in the men's double trap event as India added three more medals to its kitty on the ninth day of competitions.

The 31-year-old Sodhi, the world record holder in shotgun, made amends for his colleagues' miserable campaign and provided the first gold medal from the shooting range, which has not been too productive for the Indian shooters.

Sodhi teamed up with Asher Noria and Vikram Bhatnagar to claim the bronze in the double trap team event.

Sodhi clinched the top honours with a score of 186 after being second behind China's Pan Qiang at the end of the qualification stage.

Sodhi, part of the silver winning squad in the same event four years ago at Doha in Qatar, also reeled in the team bronze for India with his stupendous effort at the Guangzhou Shotgun Centre.

Sodhi shot 139 (47, 44 and 48) and was four shots behind China's Qiang going into the finals competed by six men and shot 47 in the final while the host nation shooter flopped with a 38 for an overall tally of 181.

This was the first gold from the much-heralded shooting squad after they started competing on November 13 and it was also the eighth medal hauled in by the marksmen and women who have so far won one gold, three silver and four bronze medals.

Sodhi, whose best this year has been the 195 he made in the World Cup in Italy, and is the joint holder of the world record of 196, said the medal round was tension-packed.

“The final was very, very close. In the final, it's a different ball game. People start missing and that happened (today)," he said.

* * * Taiwan wants an apology from ATU

Taiwan hit back at the Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU) over accusations of cheating at the Asian Games, calling a statement from the sport's regional governing body “highly unacceptable.”

The ATU had criticised Chinese-Taipei, the official title of Taiwan in the Asian Games, for engaging in a “shocking act of deception” which led to the disqualification of a Taiwan female taekwondo athlete.

Vice-Premier Sean Chen said Taiwan wanted an apology from ATU.

“It is highly unacceptable, highly improper for an international organization like this to issue such a statement, suggesting that Chinese-Taipei cheated in the Asian Games,” he said.

Taiwan's Yang Shu-chuan was leading Vietnam's Thi Hau Vu 9-0 when she was removed from the ring towards the end of the first round in the women's under-49 kg division.

Ethnic South Korean Philippine referee Stephen Fernandez stopped the game and pulled Yang off the ring, accusing her of using more an extra pair of sensors to try to manipulate scores.

Yang burst into tears and denied cheating, while her coach in protest refused to leave the ring. They were both disqualified, and the referee gave Thi Hau Vu a 12-0 victory.

Yang later said she already removed the extra sensors as instructed before the Games, but ATU officials insisted that she still had them during the match. The Taiwan government broadcast video footage obtained from a sports television channel, which showed Yang had removed the extra sensors and given them to her coach before returning to the competition.

The incident has revived old sports and political grudges, with both ATU and the World Taekwondo Federation controlled by personnel from South Korea.

Angry residents burned Korean flags and called for a boycott of South Korean products, while the ATU website was hacked and its homepage replaced with scornful remarks.

Chen said Taiwan had no intention of turning the incident into a diplomatic row or targeting South Korea, but the statement from ATU contained “a serious accusation which deeply harms our national dignity.”

Taiwan will take the case to the court of arbitration for sports if ATU fails to give a reasonable explanation, he said, adding that ATU had agreed to start a review of the incident.

* * * Three Kazakh women thrown out

Three women hockey players from Kazakhstan were ejected from the Asian Games for representing two nations this year.

The trio, Annastassia Chsherbakova, Yuliya Mikheichik and Alessya Pyotukh, admitted to having played for Belarus in the World Cup qualifying tournament in April, officials said.

The Kazakhs will be deemed to have forfeited all five matches they have played so far, with their rivals awarded a 5-0 score-line except for the game against South Korea, which Korea won 10-3.

Kazakhstan had lost 1-4 to Japan, 0-3 to China and 2-4 to Malaysia, while their only win came against Thailand 3-0.

An official said the suspended players may face further punishment, if deemed necessary.

“The decision will be forwarded to the Olympic Council of Asia, the Asian Hockey Federation and the International Hockey Federation for any action that may be deemed necessary,” he said in a statement.

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PTI

A gold against all odds

For long, life has been one long hard road for distance runner Preeja Sreedharan. Her dad died when she was very young and it was a big struggle at home. Her elder brother Pradeep had to stop his studies after the eighth standard and go to work as a carpenter. And her mom had to work in nearby homes to keep the home fires burning.

For many years, there was no power connection at her home at Rajakkad, in Kerala's hilly Idukki District.

Even the Commonwealth Games ended in tears for Preeja, the 10,000m national record holder. She was unwell, severe cold, cough and fever had troubled her, and she finished seventh in Delhi.

But on that Sunday, Preeja shed tears of joy after she gave the country its first athletics gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games, with Kavita Raut's silver making it a memorable day.

And expectedly, the 28-year-old dedicated the 10,000m gold to her mother and brother who had toiled hard and made many sacrifices so that she could run without much trouble.

Preeja's gold was the country's first by a woman in the 10,000 at the Asian Games. It is an event dominated by the Japanese this season, with nine girls from that country faster than the Kerala girl in the Asian list this year.

“She is a very disciplined girl, very hard working,” said athletics coach P.R. Renandran who first spotted her as a sub-junior and coached her at Rajakkad and then at the Muttom Government High School.

“She was a 600m runner first but she used to walk a long distance to school, so I realised she could be a good distance runner, her endurance is amazing. She used to stay at my home those days,” he said.

When Preeja finished school, she moved to the right hands, to coach Thankachan Mathew at Pala's Alphonsa College.

“She is one of the most hard-working girls I've coached,” said Thankachan, who won the Kerala Sports Council's best coach award this year.

“She is a coach's delight. She is a very pious girl too. After her Commonwealth Games disappointment, she went to the miraculous Infant Jesus Church at Cherpunkal, got holy oil from there and prayed for a long time,” said Thankachan.

Preeja's stunning performance, shocked her opponents. For the field included Japan Asiad defending champion Kayoko Fukushi who was ninth at last year's Berlin World Championship, and China's Bai Xue, the World marathon champion who moved down to the 10,000m and won the Asian title last year. Bai Xue, however, was coming back from an ankle injury.

Preeja, who set the national record (32:04.41 secs) in England two years ago, ran the race of her life, giving it her all with a smart sprint on the home stretch, and bettered her own mark by clocking 31:50.47.

Two years ago, Preeja told this writer about a Chennai Marathon that transformed her life. She had won the half marathon in 2008 in a little more than an hour which brought her Rs. 10 lakh as cash prize.

“That one hour in Chennai changed my life in a big way. I got Rs. 7 lakh after paying tax. It's the most precious one hour in my life,” said the Railway employee who is posted at Palakkad. She also revealed that she stopped her mother from going to work after that.

Her surprise gold medal in Guangzhou could make her life a sort of Slumdog Millionaire story, said a report in the Chinese media.

It could well be. Stan Rayan * * *

Sudha Singh (right) winning the 3000m steeplechase gold beating China's Jin Yuan.-PTI

Sudha's grand show

In a sparkling show, Sudha Singh fetched India's second gold medal in track and field events and fifth overall by winning the 3000m Steeplechase with a personal-best timing. Sudha made up for her poor outing at last month's Commonwealth Games, clocking 9:55.67s to take the honours at the Aoti Main Stadium.

Sudha's previous best timing was 9:57.63s which she recorded in the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Yuan Jin of China won the silver with a timing of 9:55.71s while Japan's Minori Hayakari bagged the bronze (10:01.25s).

The other Indian in the fray, Jaisha Orchatteri Puthiya Veetil finished a disappointing fifth in the six-competitor event with a timing of 10:18.97s.