The Rathore row

AP

Olympic silver medallist, Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (above), was in the eye of a storm in Doha. Not too pleased with what he experienced in the run-up to his competition, he aired his views freely to the media. Unfortunately for him, all that he said got twisted so much that his original views were completely lost.

The Asian Games organisers are quite sensitive to criticism. And this was very clear from the time they issued a clarification about a 20-minute delay in the departure of the bus from the Games Village that upset the preparations of the World badminton champion Lin Dan of China before his match against Anup Sridhar in the team competition. It is another matter that the buses never ran on time as the drivers had to wait each time for the green signal from the local officials.

The organisers, quite upset with the way in which Rathore's complaint against the rude behaviour of the hosts was reported in the local media, issued a strong statement, seeking an apology from the Indian shooter. Later, the chef-de-mission of the Indian contingent, Ram Lal Thakur, said that the issue was amicably settled after the Indian Olympic Association wrote to the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee, explaining that it was simply a case of misunderstanding and that Rathore had no intention of hurting the local sentiments.

Despite the controversy Rathore shot one of the best rounds of his career though it was not good enough to beat the two Chinese who pushed him to the bronze medal. The Indian marksman was also not too happy with the machines which, according to him, were not throwing the birds to the specified distance.

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MOHAMMED YOUSUF

"She is a former Asian Games medallist like me,'' said Randhir Singh, the Secretary-General of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) as he introduced tennis player Manisha Malhotra (in pic) to his friends.

He then asked Manisha: "You look very fit. Why are you running around the place instead of playing?''

Well, Manisha had won the silver medal in mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi at the Busan Asian Games in 2002. Mahesh, in fact, won the doubles with Leander Paes then and had a match point in the final of the mixed doubles with Manisha.

Tired of travelling around the world, playing in tournaments round the year, Manisha quit tennis some time back. She even coached the Russian girl, Anastasia Rodianova, for some time to stay in touch with the sport. And more recently, she became an administrator at the Mittal Champions Trust, which supports athletes in a big way to help them excel.

In Doha, Manisha was busy moving from venue to venue, keeping track of her star athletes including World trap champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu. The Trust also has archers and boxers apart from Saina Nehwal (badminton), Joshna Chinappa (squash) and Nitin Mongia (sailor) under its contract.

With the shooters doing well and a couple of boxers making the semi-finals, Manisha was busy counting the number of medals won by the athletes from the Trust. She was hopeful that more medals would come from her athletes.

Sania Mirza signs autographs at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex. She was very popular with the expats in Doha.-PTI

The Sania mania was in full blast at the Khalifa Tennis Complex. Thousands of Indian spectators thronged the stadium and cheered her throughout, often unnerving her opponents.

Sania, of course, did not need much support from the crowd as she was in control. She pounded her renowned opponents such as Tamarine Tanasugarn and Iroda Tulyaganova into submission. Sania made them look very ordinary with her explosive game.

The Chinese Taipei team proved a tough nut to crack. Chia Jung Chuang, who partnered Su Wei Hsieh to clinch the decisive doubles in the women's final, said: "When they cheered for India, we just pretended to believe that they were singing.'' The ploy did seem to work as Sania and Shikha could not win a set in the doubles though they fought hard enough to force a tie-breaker in the first set.

Of course, it was not just Sania mania that swept the Qatar capital. The Indian expatriates reached every venue to watch their favourite players in action. They even ventured out to the Lusail Shooting Range, situated in one corner of the desert city, far removed from the imposing skyline.

Jaspal Rana spent a lot of time with kids and families who congratulated him after he won three gold medals and a silver. Besides, the world record he achieved fetched him a Tissot watch from the famous Swiss company.

Korea's Hyung Chil Kim, a silver medallist at the Busan Asian Games, suffered a fatal fall while attempting to clear a hurdle during the cross-country individual eventing of the equestrian competition in Doha. The horse, Bundaberg Black, astride which he won the silver medal at the last Asian Games, fell on the 47-year-old Kim following an accident and crushed him to death.

A thorough investigation revealed that neither the rain nor the wet underfoot conditions caused the accident.

"Obstacle �8' measured 1.08 metres and was one of the smallest on the course. It was a straightforward ascending fence built of solid material, which is normally considered non-problematic,'' explained Andy Griffiths, the technical delegate for eventing. "The horse approached the obstacle and essentially got too close to the jump before taking off, resulting in a somersault type of fall with the full weight of the horse landing on top of the rider on the other side of the fence. The rider was probably dead on impact. The horse sustained minor injuries. No blame can be assigned to any individual factor. This is just a tragic accident that happens in our sport from time to time,'' he said.

As a mark of respect to the Olympian who died in his fourth Asian Games, the captain of the Qatari Equestrian Endurance team, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad al Thani, suggested the erection of a monument.

"We would like to honour the achievement of Kim, an exceptional rider, by commissioning a monument in the Aspire zone. We hope that it will prove a fitting tribute to a wonderful athlete who so sadly passed away,'' said Ahmed al Khulaifi, the Deputy Director General of the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee.

KAMESH SRINIVASAN