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Imran Khan: Fairy tales


“We grow up with fairy tales,  but in life there is no happily ever after. And if there were,  I would get bored of life. To me,  life is interesting when one is struggling.” 

—Imran Khan,  cricketer and politician. 

Roger Federer almost pulls off another miracle


He almost pulled off another miracle,  didn’t he? 

After coming back from the dead against Marin Cilic in the quarters, Roger Federer was leading 2-1 against Milos Raonic only to lose his bearings—figuratively and literally—failing in the last two sets in yet another gruelling five-setter. 

The Swiss missed the French Open this year—his first Grand Slam since 1999,  ending an unbelievable streak of appearances. 

With Novak Djokovic knocked out early,  die-hard Fed fans believed this was his best chance to clinch his 18th Slam. But it was always going to prove an uphill battle for a 34-year-old. Realists would not begrudge another championship for the great but their expectations are always tempered and tinged with a healthy dose of skepticism. 

In the end, it proved to be too much even for the tennis machine. The cracks and the strain were visible towards the end of the fourth set with Roger dropping his serve in the final game to lose the set without taking it into another nail-biting tie-breaker. 

But he had done enough to revive Wimbledon out of its stupor. 

Britain’s favourite son,  Andy Murray,  might clinch yet another title on the hallowed grass of the All-England Championship. 

But for many,  this Wimbledon is simply to be Federer’s thing of beauty—forever. 

Bhaag, Milkha, Bhaag: Biopic for masses and classes


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Language: Hindi

Directed by:
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Produced by:
Rajiv Tandon
Raghav Bahl
Maitreyee Dasgupta
Madhav Roy Kapur
Rachvin Narula
Shyam P.S
Navmeet Singh
P. S. Bharathi

Written by:
Prasoon Joshi

Based on
The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh and Sonia Sanwalka

  • Farhan Akhtar as Subedar Milkha Singh a.k.a. The Flying Sikh
  • Japtej Singh as young Milkha
  • Divya Dutta as Isri Kaur, Milkha’s elder sister
  • Meesha Shafi as Perizaad
  • Pavan Malhotra as Hawaldar (Constable) Gurudev Singh, Milkha’s coach during his days in the Indian Army
  • Yograj Singh as Ranveer Singh, Milkha’s coach
  • Art Malik as Sampooran Singh, Milkha’s father
  • Prakash Raj as Veerapandian
  • K.K.Raina as Mr. Wadhwa
  • Rebecca Breeds as Stella
  • Dalip Tahil as Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Dev Gill as Abdul Khaliq
  • Nawab Shah as Abdul Khaliq’s coach
  • Jass Bhatia as Mahinder
  • Sonam Kapoor as Biro, Milkha’s fleeting love interest 

The movie begins with the Flying Sikh’s heart-breaking loss at the Rome Olympics in the 400 metres. Milkha Singh is far ahead of the field but turns his head to see where his rivals are and loses vital seconds. The result is a fourth place finish; yet, he too breaks the Olympic record along with the medallists.

Milkha is haunted by ghosts of his childhood past from Govindpura, in the then Punjab Province, British India—now Muzaffargarh District, Pakistan.

Milkha’s parents, a brother and two sisters were slaughtered before his eyes in the violence that ensued following the partition of British India. 

The film takes off with Milkha’s return to India and his refusal to lead a contingent of Indian athletes to Pakistan to race against Abdul Khaliq—-the fastest man in Asia.

Milkha’s back story is narrated by Pavan Malhotra as Hawaldar Gurudev Singh, Milkha’s initial coach,  and how he made the journey from a refugee camp to becoming the foremost Indian sportsperson of his generation and arguably of all time.

The movie is gripping while depicting life in a refugee camp, Milkha’s initiation into a life of petty crime but meanders in the scenes portraying his first love Biro and his moments with her.

To prove himself worthy of Biro, Milkha quits his criminal ways and joins the army.

The young Sardar starts running to gain an extra glass of milk, two eggs and to be excused from regular drill.

Milkha is soon on his way to becoming one of India’s top athletes and makes the cut for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

There he meets and falls for Stella, played by Rebecca Breeds, the grand-daughter of his Australian technical coach. Breeds is charming, delightful and lights up the screen with her cameo.

The Games, however, are a disaster for Milkha on the field. He loses his race and vows to make good by breaking the existing world record of 45.90 seconds.

He trains hard over the next four years with unyielding determination and even rejects a romantic overture from Indian Olympic swimmer Perizaad.

Milkha takes the world by storm in the run-up to the Rome Olympics and is one the pre-Games favourites for the 400 metres.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Milkha makes the journey across the border for the Friendly Games against Pakistan after being persuaded by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The highlight of the movie is his visit back to his village Govindpura where he exorcises demons of the past and is reunited with his boyhood friend Sampreet.

The Friendly Games race against Abdul Khaliq is a formality with Singh much too strong and powerful for his opponents.

The film ends with an adult Milkha Singh completing a victory lap visualizing his boyish self running alongside him.

Overall,  an enjoyable movie especially for sports fans and a ‘Don’t miss’ if you’re a follower of Indian athletics. 

I M Vijayan: National teams and club football 


“National teams depend a lot on the professionalism of their footballers to perform well in major tournaments. And, that professionalism owes a lot to club football.” 

—I M Vijayan. 

Marcus Willis’ fairy tale at Wimbledon ends with Roger Federer


Marcus Willis will have that beer.

He’s earned it.

Capturing seven games in his second round match against Roger Federer he surely deserves one.

The man owes it all to a girl—a girl he met this February, a dentist named Jennifer Bates.

He fell in love, turned himself around and found himself in round two of this year’s Wimbledon earning himself 50,000 pounds.

Brexit might have taken its toll on the UK’s currency but that could not dim the

£30-an-hour part-time Wokingham tennis coach’s joy.

Beating Ricardas Berankis, ranked 54, in the first round was unexpected.

But qualifying for Wimbledon proper required him to win six gruelling matches.

As Goran Ivanisevic, his idol, put it:

“I love this story. This is great.

Pre-qualifying, then qualifiers, winning the first round against a not easy player. Berankis can play.

It’s just great. Perfect. He will go on Centre Court or Court One.

The biggest match of his life and he has won already. For him he is a winner. He is the story of Wimbledon and it cannot get better than this.

He cannot beat Roger Federer, no chance but he does not care. He has won already seven matches and he won Wimbledon for him. This is it.

He will go on Centre or Court One. He is the happiest man, whether he comes to the match sober or drunk it doesn’t make any difference.

Everyone will love him and support him and Roger will be nice to him.

Eventually maybe not but it’s going to be great. I think he should quit after this. Retire. Because this is it.

It does not get better than this. Great, well done, I’m really so happy for the guy.”

Roger Federer had nothing but respect for Willis. He treated him as a top-50 player because “because that’s the level he was playing at”.

Willis sounded both disappointed and upbeat after his loss.

He said:

“It sounds funny, but I’m disappointed to lose. I went out there trying to win.

I’ve had a fantastic few weeks, and this has been great, but there’s life after Wimbledon, and I want more. More experiences like this. I have to knuckle down and work harder.

I’m absolutely exhausted. I might wait and calm down. But I’ve earned myself a beer, I think.

I haven’t thought (about marrying Jennifer) , to be honest. This whole few weeks have been a bit of a blur. But I do like her quite a bit.

Amazing. It’s not my standard Wednesday.”

Has he seen Wimbledon, the movie?

“I haven’t. People are telling me about it, but I’ve never seen it, really. I’m not a massive film watcher. I’m quite fidgety. I’m more of a doer than a watcher.”

Andy Murray, his fellow countryman, batted for Willis insisting that journeymen deserved more money.

He said:

“The first thing is we need to improve the prize money at Futures level. I think it’s stayed the same since the 1980s. The cost of everything has gone up massively since then so it’s impossible to stay at that level for more than a couple of years.

Someone like Marcus, if he had lost in the pre-qualifying at Wimbledon, we wouldn’t have this unbelievable story and he might not be coming back to play in January. You never know. There has to be more money at the bottom of the game.

It’s a difficult one.Because now players are breaking through later than they ever were before so they are obviously finding ways to hang around. A lot of the guys play club tennis to try to make some extra money, which helps. We don’t have that in this country. You can travel to Europe and do that. In Spain they have a few more money tournaments.”

Willis is ranked 772 in the world.

But for the match against Federer he dressed up wearing not just  Roger’s classic white Nike bandana headband but an R.F.-branded shirt as well.

At the end of the match, he was not just another pretender but Marcus WillisWillis,  a 25-year-old from Slough,  able to trade blows with the best in the business.

For most people, the story will be about Marcus’ two magical weeks at Wimbledon.

But Willis knows better.

It started earlier, much earlier, with a girl named Jennifer.

Leander Paes: Parents and champions


“Parents who wish to mould their kids into champions must recognise that the support system of the family is essential for an athlete’s success. Without your support, your child’s dreams will never grow wings.”

—Leander Paes.

Ashutosh Pednekar, racketlon and gold medals


You’re aware of decathlons, pentathlons and triathlons.

But what do you know of racketlon?

Racketlon is a combination sport where you play four racket sports in sequence from the lightest paddle to the heaviest: table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis.

A match consists of four sets running to 21 points in each sport. A two point margin is needed to secure a set.

Each player serves two points at a time from each side of the court—except in ping-pong.

The winner is the player who secures the most points—in total.

The Racketlon website elaborates on the more interesting aspects of the sport:

“The fact that in each individual sport a mediocre player can challenge a top player – on equal terms! The guy may even be on the world ranking in one of the sports – as long as the outcome of the overall match is unclear that set will still make up an interesting game! And this has significant implications for the tactical aspects of the game; It is one thing to play well against a player that is your equal but it is an entirely different matter to deliver a top performance against someone who is far below (or above) your own standard.

A second special characteristic of racketlon is the fact that all points count equal. In any of the individual sports, say tennis, you can afford loosing some points at some stages with no implications for the overall match whereas other points (e.g. set or match points) carry much more weight. A clear indication of this is that a tennis player may well win less points in total and still win the match. In racketlon all points are – to a much greater extent – equally important. Most racketlon players would agree that this has clear implications for how each of the games are played. ‘Racketlon badminton’, for example, seems like a whole different ball game compared to normal badminton not to mention ‘racketlon tennis’. If this is a pure psychological or, in additition, a mathematical consequence of the racketlon counting I leave open at the moment but it is beyond doubt, however, that a tennis gummiarm (Swedish for ‘rubber arm’ referring to the behaviour of the arm holding the racket at the time of ball impact) and accompanying ‘chicken’ play is a surprisingly common sight in racketlon contexts. In a tight match the concluding tennis event is often a matter of extremely tightly strung nerves. A lost point is a lost point and can never be compensated!”

India has a champion navy officer, Ashutosh Avinash Pednekar, who won medals in the over 45 and men’s amateur category at the Nordic Racket Games held at Vejen, Denmark on May 28 and 29 and at the Super World Tour – King of Rackets tournament held at Oudenaarde, Belgium from June 3 to 5.

He won gold at Denmark in both categories and gold and silver in Belgium.

The Commodore is looking forward to being the first Indian to win gold at the World Racketlon Championships scheduled later this year in November at Germany.

Pednekar was introduced to the sport by a fellow squash player Abhinav.

Speaking to SportsKeeda, he said:

“He gave me the interesting aspects of this sport and I got all the details through internet.I realised if I had to take part I need to have some strength in table tennis, a sport which was new to me. I gave myself six months to train hard and when I was confident I had touched reasonable level thought of my next step of participation.”

Ashutosh was already a keen squash and badminton player.

Can Ashutosh deliver on his promise of gold at the World Championships?

He replied:

“I have planned to sharpen my table tennis skills with a professional trainer and keep in good touch in the other three.”

Go well, Ashutosh, Lone Ranger of Indian Racketlon!

Lionel Messi retires from international soccer: Will he return?


What do you say to Lionel Messi when he loses yet another final and announces his retirement from internationals?

Are his fans to cry, “Come back, Messi, we’ll always love you, come what may”?

Or to join his plaintive chorus to ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’.

“Don’t cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don’t keep your distance.”

Truth be told, my first reaction to Messi’s missed penalty was the demoralising effect it would have on his teammates. To see their skipper miss his shot by a mile could only create more flutters and nerves in their midst.

And sure enough, his teammates missed another and that was the end of Argentina’s Copa America Centenario dreams.

That Messi would take this loss to heart and view it as a personal failure could only be foreseen in hindsight.

Will Messi be back?

The magician with the ball does know that soccer is a team game and that he’s not expected to shoulder the blame for his team’s inadequacies. And it’s not as though there isn’t a blueprint available on how to nullify the Messi threat personified by an Argentinean side. Germany have done it before and Chile did it to them twice.

Messi is hardly the first high-profile player to miss a crucial penalty. His Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo missed one in this year’s Euro. Roberto Baggio and Michel Platini are on that unfortunate list too.

Time is a great healer and it’s possible that the lure of another World Cup could draw the mercurial forward back.

Yes, it’s possible, and we certainly hope to see him back in national colours.

Until then, we’ll continue to enjoy his exploits with Neymar and Luis Suarez for Barca.

Venus Williams: Fashion and function


“Fashion is very important for me, so (whatever I wear or design) always has to be fashionable. But clearly it also has to be functional. They go hand-in-hand. I wouldn’t pick one over the other. But it’s easy to design something functional without being fashionable. It’s about challenging yourself to push it a little bit.”
—Venus Williams.

Harvard Business School has a celebrity student—Maria Sharapova!


Maria Sharapova is full of surprises.

Just when her detractors and critics believed that she must be moping around waiting and hoping for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to reduce or revoke her suspension, Sharapova—the magician—pulled out a rabbit from her proverbial hat.

The long-legged Russian beauty is going to school at Harvard.

The shrewd businesswoman that she is, Maria probably realised that time spent away from the court can be best utilised learning how to run her Sugarpova business better.

While it sounds like a wonderful idea, it’s also an opportunity for her to reflect on her particular situation.

James Blake who spent two years at Harvard but dropped out to pursue his tennis career had some advice for the suspended player.

 

Sharapova is the not the only woman player to opt for Business Administration when returning to studies.

Venus Williams is a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Indiana University East.

The tuition fees and living costs is small change for Sharapova who presides over a multi-million dollar empire.

The DNA India titled their report on the news flash:

Real woman of substance: Maria Sharapova to go to Harvard Business School

That seems a tad overdone but there are worse things Maria Sharapova could do away from the sport.

Update: Sharapova will be attending a two-week executive education program at Harvard—not the full-fledged MBA. 

Her agent, Max Eisenbud, told The Associated Press that it involves just two classes on campus.

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