From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.33 :: Aug. 15, 2009

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CITY LIGHTS

Changing lanes

“I might not be swimming in National meets, but international meets are very much on the radar,” says Shikha Tandon (in pic), who is leaving for the US to pursue a Master’s degree in Bio-Genetics.

K. MURALI KUMAR

Shikha Tandon is all set to switch lanes. The 24-year-old swimming ace from Bangalore, after a decade long domination of Indian aquatics, is leaving for the US to pursue a Master’s degree in Bio-Genetics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The Olympian, though, said she wasn’t calling it quits.

“I might not be swimming in National meets, but international meets are very much on the radar, like the Commonwealth Games next year, the Asian Games later and the Olympics in 2012. Even in the US, I won’t be out of swimming; as I understand there is a swimming team in the University, I should be competing there also.”

Swimming for India, according to Shikha, has given her a lot of pleasure and pride. She has had several highs in her career. She has competed in the Asian Age Group, the Asian Championships, the Asian Games, the World Championships and the Olympics. Shikha currently holds six National records (50m, 100m and 800m freestyle, 50m butterfly, 100m and 200m backstroke). She was adjudged the ‘Best Swimmer’ in five Nationals.

“It has been a long and emotionally rewarding career. Every time I won a medal, it was a special moment for me and I was thrilled when I qualified for the 2004 Olympics. But winning 10 events, all in record times, in the Junior Nationals in 2000 was something very special,” Shikha said.

Shikha had trained under Nihar Ameen at the KCR Swim Centre in Bangalore right from her childhood and she acknowledged his contribution in her career. “He was a dedicated coach and my rise in the sports was due to his guidance.”

Another person who has been a source of inspiration for her was her mother Bindu. “My parents sacrificed a lot for my swimming and they spent a lot for my trips. My mom was with me during every practice session, getting up at crazy hours like 3 a.m. and getting me ready for training,” Shikha recalled.

Though she won the Arjuna Award in 2005, Shikha felt that the returns for a swimmer, when compared with a few other sports, were very negligible in the country. “There is hardly any scope for endorsements, incentives and employment opportunities are scarce. That’s why I never neglected my academics though I spent close to 10 hours a day in the pool,” Shikha said.

The biggest lesson that Shikha learnt from being a swimmer is time management. “In a sport where even a fraction of a second can make or mar your chances, you get to learn about the value of time. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learnt from swimming and it has helped me to successfully manage both my careers, swimming and academics,” she said.

“It is hard to say good bye. Sure I will be out for two years, but don’t count me out, I will keep swimming as long as I have the passion,” said Shikha before signing off.

* * *

DARSHAN TRIUMPHS

K. V. SRINIVASAN

Darshan Veeraraghavan clinched the Sportstar Open title at the Madras Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe recently, carding 140 over two rounds to finish eight strokes ahead of his nearest rival C. V. Yudhvir. This was the 22-year-old golfer’s second title at the event, his maiden win coming in the 2007 edition.

The backbone of Darshan’s dominance was his driving off the tee; he had spent all of last year remodelling his swing, and the results were clearly seen. In round two, almost all his drives, save for one pulled wide into the rough at the 10th hole, landed in the middle of the fairway.

“Last year was a major struggle for me,” he said, referring to the slow progress he made with his re-calibrated swing initially. “But now, I’m beginning to strike the ball really well.”

While his putting wasn’t as consistent, he still managed sparks of brilliance, notably a birdie putt in the par-three second which made light work of the irregular gradient of the green. He even sank a 15-yard chip from the edge of the green at the sixth, for another birdie.

In contrast to Darshan’s breezy progress, little went right for Yudhvir, who started the second round only three strokes adrift of Darshan, but fell out of the reckoning rapidly, starting with a bogey at the very first hole.

Darshan’s younger brother and defending champion Tarun Veeraraghavan put a disappointing seven-over-par first round behind him and carded a three-over-par 73 on day two to finish third.

* * *

IOB UNDERLINES ITS CLASS

K. PICHUMANI

On a roll... the IOB team which completed a hat-trick by winning the Finpro tournament.

A third trophy in less than a month for Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), perhaps, confirms the stature of this hockey outfit. As the Chennai League champion, IOB has not much of a competition in Tamil Nadu. The team’s victory sequence began in the Syed Ahmed Memorial tournament in Chennai. This was followed by the triumph in the Reserve Lines event in Madurai. IOB then went on to complete a hat-trick of victories by winning the title in the Finpro Sports Management tournament in Chennai recently.

For a city starved of hockey activities for sometime now, the tournaments conducted by private units like the United Gymkhana and Finpro Sports Management came as a breath of fresh air to the aficionados who filled the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium with palpable fervour. Former Tamil Nadu centre-half and a Railway star, Reehan Ahmed was the man behind United Gymkhana’s tournament, conducted in memory of his father Syed Ahmed, who was also a hockey stalwart. If this tournament put hockey back on the rails here, the Finpro Sports Management put on board a state level competition for the V. J. Peter Memorial Trophy, thanks to the initiative of former Olympians V. J. Philips and Thirumalvalavan and backed by the support of the Finpro Director, Bhaskar Saravannan.

These tournaments brought to fore the strength and power of IOB. Undoubtedly, IOB is the most balanced combination in the state with an array of international players, including Olympian Adam Sinclair. At no point in these three tournaments did IOB face any meaningful opposition.

Adam Sinclair was the hero in the Syed Ahmed tournament although he got himself involved in a needless fracas with the TN Special Police in the final and was red-carded. Apart from this, his class was never in question.

If Sinclair sizzled for IOB in the Syed Ahmed Memorial tournament, it was Iyappan who shone in the Finpro event. The inside-forward figured prominently in every match and scored goals that had class written all over them. In the final against Southern Railway he scored a gem of a goal as IOB won 3-1. In the semifinals against Indian Bank, he scored twice.

IOB’s inspiration is not merely in having a well-balanced outfit, which is benefiting from former player and international coach C. R. Kumar, who is now the team’s technical advisor, but also the support and encouragement of its General Manager, V. Krishnaswamy. A former Ranji Trophy opener, Krishnaswamy knows more than anyone else what motivates a player. Interestingly, it was IOB which sponsored the prize money of Rs. 1.25 lakh for the Finpro tournament.

By Kalyan Ashok, S. Thyagarajan & Karthik Krishnaswamy



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