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Milkha Singh: The ‘Flying Sikh’ no one could catch

New Delhi: A glimpse into the stupendous athletics career of legendary Milkha Singh, who passed away aged 91, can be had from this mind boggling fact: his 400 metres Indian national record stood for 38 years and the 400m Asian record for 26 years. In 1960 in Rome, he came closest to winning an individual Olympic Games medal as an Indian, in 400m, eventually finishing fourth in a photo finish.

Milkha was one of the favorites to win the 400m gold in Rome. It was probably natural, too, as going into the Olympics, he is said to have won 77 out of 80 races, including the 1958 Commonwealth Games gold in 440 yards.

But one shortcoming probably cost Milkha an Olympic medal. He had a habit of looking at his opponents over his shoulder while running races, and when he did the same in Rome it was decisive, though he had led the race until 200m. Later he admitted that he had paid a heavy price for his habit.

Interestingly, Milkha broke the existing world record of 45.9 sec in Rome, and so the three who finished ahead of him. He finished fourth with a time of 45.6 seconds, as per a hand-held device, while an unofficial electronic timer at the games clocked him at 45.73 sec. This has been a point of contention, though.

Whatever the reality, Milkha emerged from Rome as the ‘Flying Sikh’. A legend was born.

Until Rome 1960, no Indian had come so close to winning an individual Olympic medal; in hockey, though, India had been a dominant force.

Milkha’s 400m Asian record of 45.63 seconds stood for 26 years, before being broken by Susumu Takona of Japan.

Milkha was born in Layalpur, in the undivided India, and now in Pakistan. His love for athletics began after he enrolled himself with the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of the Indian Army in Delhi.

His talent blossomed while being with the Army. Fortunately for him, his officers encouraged him, and that would have played a role in him winning the 200m and 400m races at a Services Athletics Meet in 1955.

Milkha practiced on his own while with the Army and clinched gold medals in both 200m and 400m at the 1956 National Games in Patiala, and two years later at the Cuttack Nationals, setting national records in both races.

His sporting achievements won him kudos from the Army, and the Indian government awarded him the Padma Shri in 1959. The same year, he was awarded the prestigious Helms Award.

Milkha took premature retirement from the Army and took up the post of Deputy Director of Sports with the Punjab government.

Decades later, a Bollywood film was made on Milkha Singh, starring Farhan Akhtar.

Milkha died at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research in Chandigarh, where he was being treated for Covid-related complications. 

Six days before he passed away, his wife, Nirmal, had died on June 13. A former India volleyball captain, she was 85, and she too succumbed to Covid and related complications.

Milkha Singh was cremated with full state honors at the Sector 25 cremation ground in Chandigarh with a police contingent according gun salute by reversing arms and sounding the last post to the legendary athlete, who held the 400m national record for 38 years, while his Asian record in the same event remained unmatched for 26 years.

The Punjab government had earlier declared one-day state mourning and a public holiday as a mark of respect to the legendary athlete.

The legendary athlete Milkha Singh. (khelnow and DNA)
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Nearly 10,000 Olympic volunteers quit over pandemic

Tokyo: Around 10,000 volunteers for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have quit, partly due concern over coronavirus infections, Japanese organisers said.

“There is no doubt that one of the reasons is the concern over coronavirus infections,” organising committee chief executive Toshiro Muto told reporters in Tokyo.

Olympic organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have pledged to stage safe Games through a strict hygiene protocol. But despite all the assurances, doubts and worries persist, reports DPA.

Volunteers, who make up the largest group of participants, don’t know whether they will be tested, let alone vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“There is zero information about that,” Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, said in an interview. She has signed up as a volunteer for the Olympics.

Another reason pointed out by the organisers for the withdrawal of so many volunteers is the Games’ postponement by a year, now set to start on July 23.

Around 1,000 volunteers have also withdrawn in protest against the sexist comments by former organising committee president Yoshiro Mori, who resigned following the scandal.

The 10,000 withdrawals are from the 80,000 volunteers for the competition sites, but organisers say they don’t expect any problems because of that due to the absence of foreign fans.

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Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar sent to police custody

New Delhi: A Delhi court has sent wrestler and two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar, arrested in connection with his alleged involvement in the death of a 23-year-old old wrestler at the city’s Chhatrasal Stadium, to six days police custody.

The police questioned Sushil Kumar inside the court and then sought his custody for 12 days for further interrogation in the matter. Duty Metropolitan Magistrate Divya Malhotra, however, granted six-day custody of him, along with co-accused Ajay.

Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, representing Delhi Police, submitted that some CCTV footage, the alleged weapon used for committing the offences and also the mobile phones are yet to be recovered by the police as he sought 12 days custody.

Sushil Kumar was evading arrest and he has been on the run for close to three weeks. According to the police, he and his associates allegedly assaulted fellow wrestler Sagar Dhankar and his two friends Sonu and Amit Kumar at the stadium on May 4 night. Dhankar succumbed to his injuries later.

In a major breakthrough in the murder of Dhankar, Delhi Police has arrested four associates of Kumar. All the arrested are members of Kala Asauda and Neeraj Bawana gang.

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Corona ruined plans to train Indian athletes for Olympics

New Delhi: The second wave of Coronavirus in India has ruined plans to prepare top athletes for the Tokyo Olympic Games, says Adille Sumariwalla president of Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

However, Sumariwalla points out that the top athletes gave a good account of themselves during the Federation Cup Athletics Championships in March.

“It raised hopes of a good season ahead, but AFI’s road map for the Tokyo Olympics got disrupted due to a surge in pandemic in India. Foreign exposure tours for top athletes didn’t go as planned due to travel restrictions put in place by several European nations for Indians and it made things more challenging to send the athletes abroad for training,” Sumariwalla said in the latest AFI newsletter.

Ten individual athletes, including javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh, have achieved quota places for the Tokyo Olympics. The national mixed 4x400m relay team, by virtue of being finalist at the 2019 Doha World Championships, has also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

Last week, the national relay team was unable to go to Poland, via the Netherlands, to compete in the World Relays and it was a big setback for AFI to prepare athletes for the Olympics.

The World Relays competition was a qualification event for the Olympics. The AFI was hopeful of the women’s 4x100m relay team earning a berth for the Olympics.

“In these challenging times when summer heat is soaring in Patiala and European countries having 15-day quarantine rules in place for the Indians, it is tough to find the right place to train. With Olympics around the corner undergoing quarantine for 15 days would completely spoil the show,” Sumariwalla said.

Despite setbacks, Sumariwalla is hopeful of a solution. “The AFI is working to find the best place to train in Europe ahead of the Olympics,” he said.

The Olympic Games are scheduled to be held in July-August.

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Tokyo marks 100 days to go until Olympics amid Covid spike

Tokyo: Tokyo marked 100 days to go until the postponed Olympics amid lingering uncertainty over whether the Games can be staged safely amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The Olympic host city has been under a month-long semi-state of emergency over the pandemic amid a growing number of new infections.

 

“During this period, we will put our efforts to prevent the spread of infections and beat the coronavirus, and would like to be able to hold the Games with everyone,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at an event marking the occasion, DPA reports.

 

Tokyo confirmed 510 new daily infections on Tuesday, exceeding 500 cases for the first time in three days, while the western prefecture of Osaka reported a record 1,099 cases amid the rapid spread of new variants of the virus.

 

Speaking at a lower house committee, Shigeru Omi, who chairs the government’s coronavirus advisory panel, confirmed “the fourth wave” of coronavirus infections.

 

The roll out of Covid-19 vaccines has been extremely slow since its start in mid-February. Only 0.4 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

 

Despite the pandemic, the Olympics “certainly will happen,” John Coates, Tokyo 2020 coordination commission chair said in a video message.

 

“They will commence the Games on the 23rd of July,” Coates said.

 

In March 2020, the pandemic forced the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers to delay the Games by one year in an unprecedented move.

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Sailor Kumanan makes history, qualifies for Tokyo

Mussanah (Oman): Chennai-based Nethra Kumanan created history, becoming the first Indian woman sailor to secure an Olympic quota place by taking an unassailable lead in the Laser Radial event in the Mussanah Open Championship on Wednesday.

Thanks to Kumanan’s massive 21-point lead over her closest competitor, all that the 22-year-old needs to do on Thursday is just complete the Medal race without any incident.

Kumanan was in sublime form, finishing Race 9 and 10 in first and second positions, respectively. The first Indian woman to win a sailing World Cup medal last year has 18 net points, while her nearest rival, Hong Kong’s Stephanie Norton, is placed fourth with 41 points going into Thursday’s Medal race.

An engineering student at the SRM College in Chennai, Kumanan has represented the country at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games in Incheon and Jakarta, respectively.

Kumanan said a one-and-a-half year coaching stint under Hungarian coach Tamas Eszes at Gran Canaria in Spain has made a big difference.

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Fresh Covid cases in Europe hit athletes’ training plans

New Delhi: Travel restrictions and a spike in coronavirus cases across Europe has temporarily halted exposure-cum-competition plan for the core group of Indian athletes, says Adille Sumariwalla, president of the Indian Athletics Federation.

“It’s a worrying factor. We had plans to send Olympic hopefuls to Europe soon after the National Federation Cup athletics meet (that got over on March 19 in Patiala). But a new wave of the deadly virus has put those plans on hold,” Sumariwalla was quoted as saying in media reports.

According to the AFI president, Poland, Czech Republic and Turkey were the three destinations shortlisted for training.

“We are observing things in the coming days. The original plan was to send athletes to Europe for three months soon after the Federation Cup. Since some countries have visa restrictions and 14-day quarantine for foreign nationals, it has become a bit difficult now,” added Sumariwalla.

Avinash Sable, who qualified for the Olympics in men’s 3000 metres steeplechase, was supposed to train in Morocco and compete in Europe to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games starting July 23.

The AFI had also shortlisted members of the men’s and women’s 4×400 metres relay teams and javelin throwers including national champion Neeraj Chopra for European tour.

Nine individual athletes, along with a mixed 4x400m relay team, have qualified for the Olympics. AFI is hopeful more athletes will make the cut.

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Determined to proceed with preparations: Tokyo 2020 chief

Tokyo: Tokyo 2020 organising committee chief Yoshiro Mori promised that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held as scheduled this summer.

Mori made the remarks when addressing approximately 3,500 committee staff members in an online event. “We are determined to proceed with preparations as planned for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer,” the former Japanese Prime Minister said.

He said that even there are “any doubts” in his mind, it will affect everything, Japan’s state broadcaster reported according to Xinhua news.

“We will go through this dark tunnel together with you. Spring will eventually come. The morning will come after a long night. Believe that, do your best to give joy and hope to many people,” he said.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Muto Toshiro said that sports are powerful and can impress people. “It is our duty to think about how we can hold the games instead of wondering what is going to happen to them,” Muto said.

Mori later said on another occasion that the Olympics will never be postponed again, according to Kyodo news agency.

He was quoted as saying that it is “absolutely impossible” to put off the games again because many officials who have played a key role in the preparations are loaned from other organizations.

Mori said that Japan will determine whether to admit overseas fans during the Olympics and Paralympics based on the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming months.

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India men end 2020 at 4th spot in world hockey rankings

Lausanne: The Indian men’s hockey team are placed at the fourth spot in the latest FIH team rankings while the women’s team are placed at the ninth position.

Belgium men and the Netherlands women will finish the year at the top of the rankings, confirmed the International Hockey Federation.

In the men’s rankings, reigning world and European champions Belgium (2496.88 points) sit at the summit in front of Australia (2nd place – 2385.70), Netherlands (3rd place – 2257.96) and India (4th place – 2063.78).

Olympic champions Argentina (1967.39) are in fifth, followed by Germany (6th place – 1944.34), England/Great Britain (7th place – 1743.77), New Zealand (8th place – 1575.00), Spain (9th place – 1559.32) and Canada (10th place – 1417.37).

In women’s rankings, The Netherlands (2631.99 points) are 457 ranking points ahead second placed Argentina (2174.61), with Germany (2054.28) occupying third position, climbing one place following their Pro League results against Belgium in September.

Australia (2012.89) finish the year in fourth place, with England/Great Britain (1952.74) and New Zealand (1818.98) fifth and sixth respectively. Spain (7th place – 1802.13), Ireland (8th place – 1583.09), India (9th place – 1543.00) and China (10th place – 1521.00) complete the top ten.

The Indian men’s hockey team’s campaign in the ongoing Pro League is scheduled to restart on April 10 and 11, 2021 with a tie against Argentina away from home. They will then play Great Britain away from home on May 8 and 9 before traveling to Spain where they play on May 12 and 13. They then face Germany away on May 18 and 19 and will finally play a home tie on May 29 and 30 against New Zealand.

The Indian women’s team is not part of the Pro League tournament.

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