Shabana in a class of his own

V. GANESAN

On his first visit to India, Amr Shabana, the newly crowned World champion (Bermuda), preferred to take a long rest after landing in Chennai for the World men's team squash championship. Playing one World championship after another should be tough on his physique.

Expectedly, the world No. 1 ranked Egyptian was the cynosure of all eyes in Chennai.

Squash observers who had seen Shabana in action vouch that he is a magician with his racquet. His impeccable display in the final against France's Gregory Gaultier, the world No. 3, at the Fairmont Southampton Resort in Bermuda, mesmerised the audience. This was his third World Open title and he was only the fourth player in squash history to have achieved this distinction.

The triumph also was the Egyptian's 20th PSA Tour title and fourth successive PSA Super Series trophy in under five weeks. The win also extended his unbeaten run to 20 matches.

In fact, the second seeded Gaultier was in good touch right through the championship. Gaultier had accounted for England's world No. 5 Nick Matthew in straight games in the semi-final. The 24-year-old Frenchman dictated terms initially, but that was a passing phase before the left-handed Shabana took control to record a 11-7, 11-4, 11-6 victory in 42 minutes.

A Crestfallen Gaultier, having missed the title for the second time in a row, struggled to find words to describe his feelings: "I am very disappointed, to be sure," he said. Gaultier who celebrated his 25th appearance in a PSA Tour final, was confident though that he would one day win the title.

S. R. Suryanarayan * * * Dola felicitated

S. PATRONOBISH

World champion archer Dola Banerjee was felicitated by the West Bengal sports department and Bengal Olympic Association at a well-attended function in the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata.

Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty presented a golden crown and a purse of Rs. 2 lakh to Dola for emerging victorious in the women’s individual recurve competition in the World Cup final in Dubai last month.

This was the first occasion that an Indian had claimed the coveted title.

“This sort of recognition from people helps me to resolve to do better in coming meets. My main aim is now to do well in the Beijing Olympics.

“I will definitely try my best to live up to the expectation of the people at Beijing,” she said.

Olympian footballer Chuni Goswami also congratulated Dola for her performance.