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‘Missing Olympics by a whisker was terrible’

Anish Bhanwala, a 17-year-old promising shooter, talks to The Daily Guardian about his successes and failures in life.

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Shooter Anish Bhanwala.
Shooter Anish Bhanwala.

Q. You are from Haryana where wrestling and boxing are celebrated by the people, why did you pursue shooting?

A. Well, I picked swimming first. Later I started running and added shooting after a while. With the pack of sports, I participated in Pentathlon. I did fairly well there. But the pressure of study and involvement in so many sports took a heavy toll. So I sacrificed swimming and running. From the early days of 2014 onwards, I decided to push my limits in shooting only.

 Q. Tell us something about your family?

A. My father is in agriculture and also an advocate. My sister was a well-known shooter. She fetched a lot of medals from various ranges around the world. Right now, she is pursuing her MBBS degree.

 Q. You focus on 25m rapid fire pistol. Why?

A. Actually, it’s an Olympic event and this category is a constant in all major international competitions. So, to bring the big medal, I focus on the rapid-fire mostly.

Q. Can you tell our readers about your sweetest and saddest moments of life?

A. My best moment came when I broke the World record in my first international competition. It happened at Suhl in the 2017 World Cup. I crashed a 15-year standing record of 574 and took the mark to a new height of 579. I also felt equally happy when I stood in the middle of the podium in the Commonwealth Games. I was only 15 then.

 I was at my lowest when I missed the ticket to Tokyo 2020 by a whisker. I participated in the Asian championship in Doha. Top 10 was getting a place for the Olympics. I finished 11th.

 Q. When did you feel the most intense amount of pressure in your career?

 A. During the whole period of the Commonwealth Games, I underwent this phase. That was my biggest competition and maximum eyes were on my performance. I am happy that I came out with flying colours.

Q. Where do you perceive yourself 10 years from now?

A. I am only 17. So, it’s too early to judge the course of my career. But yes, I want to continue shooting and bring more glory to the nation.

Q. How are you practising amidst the lockdown?

 A. I have made a makeshift range of 10m at my residence. On it, I am maintaining my rhythm. I am leaving no stone unturned as far as practice is concerned.

Q. Shooting is the most demanding game when it comes to the aspect of mental toughness. What special you do for focus and concentration?

A. Meditation and yoga (especially Pranayama) are well-known methods. If I say it helps then I am partially correct. The pressure is bound to come into tournaments. The guidance of coaches, confidence, and experience is of more importance there.

Q. How will you connect the relationship between physical workouts in a mental game like shooting?

 A. It’s vital. A healthy mind lives in a healthy body. To hold the weapon, maintain grip, and confidence you need a solid frame. That’s why I hit the gym for about an hour daily.

Q. Anything else you are doing in these homebound hours?

A. Well, I am following a tight routine and focussing on shooting as usual. I am spending time with family, which earlier was a tough call.

Q. Finally, something do you want to convey to the youth?

A. A combination of sports and study is necessary for life. Sports teach many aspects of life. But it is a very risky business. The study gives you a backup.

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BCCI issues SOPs to franchises for IPL 2020

Breach of any bio-secure environment protocols by players and team support staff will be punishable under the IPL Code of Conduct Rules.

Aishvarya Jain

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With Indian Premier League 2020, scheduled to be held in the UAE from September 19 to November 10, the BCCI has issued some stringent Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) drafted by the board and shared with franchises.

A 16-page document accessed by The Daily Guardian has in detail guidelines to ensure the safety and health of all players and stakeholders involved during the tournament. According to the SOP, “The Bio-Secure Environment means only essential staff will be on site and no members of the public will be allowed. Therefore there will be more vacant areas at the stadium and hence the dressing room does not have to remain within the traditional area.”

 The SOP also states, “The health and safety of all players and staff is paramount and these set of preventive measures are planned in order to minimise the risk of entry and transmission of Covid-19 infection within the cricketing setup. The guidelines will evolve depending on changes in the COVID-19 situation and latest guidelines issued by the local Government. The Bio-Secure Environment measures will be in place throughout the IPL 2020 season and cover the following environments Hotels, Training sessions, Matches and Transportation.”

 Further, within the Bio-Secure Environment, a zoning principle will be applied to further reduce interactions and hence reduce the risks of cross infection. The stadium Bio-Secure Environment will be divided into the following zones: Zone 1 – Players and Match Official Area (PMOA) and Field of Play (FOP); Zone 2 – Inner Zone – All operational areas within the stadium complex; Zone 3 – Outer Zone – The area outside the stadium complex but within the boundary walls.

Breach of any Bio-Secure Environment protocols by players and team support staff will be punishable under the IPL Code of Conduct Rules.

The guidelines also state that franchises are not allowed to leave before 20 August, and have been advised to use chartered planes to get the players to the UAE, if possible. All Indian players and team support staff must undergo two Covid-19 PCR tests, 24 hours apart, in the week before assembling in the franchises’ city of choice. And once in UAE all support staff and players will have to be tested three times in the span of 6 days. They will have to remain under quarantine for this period in their hotel rooms. And once all three tests turn negative they are allowed into the bio-secure environments for regular training and practice. Franchises will also have to appoint their team doctors who’d be in charge of ensuring that all medical guidelines are followed.

The SOP also states that all “franchise teams will be put up in different hotels.” “Team members must be allotted rooms in a separate wing of the hotel that has a separate centralised air conditioning (AC) unit than the rest of the hotel. As per the guideline’s teams will be required to order food in individual rooms and avoid use of common dining areas “to prevent cross infection and coming in contact with other hotel guests.”

 The SOP also states that franchises might install “Scalene Hypercharge Corona Canon (Shycocan), a device that has the ability to neutralise 99.9% of the coronavirus that might be floating in the air in closed spaces”.

Each IPL team will be given an electronic team sheet which will be handed over before each IPL game. BCCI has also directed the franchises to do team meetings virtually. This means while staying in the same hotel, physical contact will be minimized between the players. All team meetings will be conducted virtually. The other recommendations are mostly those which ICC has already stated in its SOP published earlier, including the ban on saliva to shine the ball.

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‘Saint Iker’ retires, leaves behind rich soccer legacy

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Hardly anyone can forget the Spanish national football team that won the 2010 World Cup. For most Indian football fans like me, this was the team that introduced dominance in international football to us. They had won the Euros in 2008, World Cup in 2010, and the Euros again in 2012. Most of the legends that played for this side then played for elite Spanish club FC Barcelona. Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, Puyol, Fabregas, David Villa, all the talismanic feet would conjure victories with magical game play.

Most Indian football fans remember this side as a mirror of the great Barcelona team. The way they played, the players — all just too similar. But a face that featured in every single match was their captain Iker Casillas. To better remember his contribution to their success, we will have to rewind to the 2010 World cup final. Spain was playing against the Netherlands. Arjen Robben beat Puyol and Pique to the ball and was through on goal. The entire Netherlands team was ready to celebrate but Casillas pulled off a magical save with his legs. “Casillas saves Spain again,” the awestruck and perplexed Commentators said. Robben couldn’t believe what had just happened. Spain won the game 1-0. Casillas won 24 titles in a 21-year long career, where he played for Real Madrid and Porto.

He is the youngest ever goalkeeper to play in the Champions League, debuting as an 18-year-old in September 1999 when Madrid’s two ace goalkeepers were injured. He soon became a regular at Real Madrid, winning 2 Champions League titles in three years and establishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

Casillas has won it all, 5 La Liga titles, 4 SuperCopas, 2 Copa Del Ray titles, 3 Champions leagues, 2 Uefa Super Cups, one Fifa Club World Cup and one Intercontinental cup. He holds the record for the most number of clean sheets in the UEFA Champions League, as well as for Spain. He has also featured in the Best World 11 a record 5 times for a goalkeeper.

Casillas is Real Madrid’s greatest ever football player. He spent 25 years at Real Madrid right from the age of 9. The man was Madrid through and through. Casillas signed for Porto in 2015, ending a 25-year-old career. He was given the title Saint Iker for his performances for the country.

Sadly Casillas’ career did not end on an energetic note after he suffered a heart attack at Porto training on May 1st, 2019. He recovered but couldn’t really get back to the field and officially retired on 4th August 2020.

His stature for Real Madrid is unmatched and which is why there is speculation that he will return to the club as an advisor and could very well go on to play a larger directorial role for Los Blancos.

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Eagerly waiting for reopening of swimming pools, says Kushagra

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Kushagra Rawat of Delhi needs no introduction. He has earned himself a reputation of being one of the leading Indian swimmers. He is the only Indian swimmer to have qualified “B” cut timings in three swimming events for upcoming Tokyo Olympics. With the swimming pools continuing to be shut because of the pandemic, Rawat is out of water since his return from Sydney after his competition there in March. But undeterred by these hurdles resulting from pandemic, the 20-year-old swimmer continues to workout outside water on dry land. He hopes to fulfill his dream to represent India in the Tokyo Olympics.

Kushagra can be seen every morning at Rajpath, India Gate doing workout and on the terrace of his home in the evening. The Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) second year student, Kushagra doesn’t shy away from doing the household work. Kushagra swims with Glenmark swimming academy in Delhi.

In an interview, the star swimmer spoke at length about various aspects of his career and ambition. Excerpts:

Q. The current pandemic has led to closure of swimming pools in India, with swimmers like you not being able to do practice ahead of important events like Olympics. What is your take on this?

A. Several countries have opened their swimming pools with SOPs in May and June. However, India’s swimming pools are still shut. I just hope our government reviews and reopens swimming pools so all swimmers get the chance to do proper practice and get trained. During this period of Covid-19 my father played my training partner. He himself has been playing football for State Bank of India since 1981 and has been my biggest support along with my coach who constantly guided me.

Q. When did you plunge into a swimming career?

 A. It was in 2007 when I was introduced to swimming and started taking interest in it.

Q. Who was your first coach?

A. Mr. S K Sharma, Head of Department, Sports at St. Xavier’s was the first coach of mine.

Q. Every sports person does recall a particular incident which at some point of time proved to be a turning point in his life. Do you also revisit such moment that was turning point in your life?

A. When I started my swimming (first time outside my school in the year 2012) at SPM Swimming pool, Tal Katora, one senior coach had denied training me. In the same year I was asked to participate in 50×4 mtrs FS relay and stood 4th. I was selected to reporesent India in SAARC, Sri Lanka in 2016.

Q. Would you like to share the moment of your life that you consider to be the most cherished moment?

A. It was when I won a medal in SAARC Sri Lanka and Asian Age Group Swimming championship, Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2017.

Q. What are the major achievements that you would like to share?

A. Malaysia Age Group Swimming 2019, where I got 2 golds 1 silver. Similarly, Asian age group swimming competition 2017, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where I won 2 silvers, 1 Bronze.

Similarly, I won two golds in SAARC swimming championships 2016. I won five golds in the 10th Asian Age group championship. I was also awarded the best swimmer trophy, 2019. I won 3 Gold medals and one silver in South Asian Games held at Kathmandu, Nepal in 2019. I am holding the best Indian performance title. Qualifying for three events in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics-2021 is also an achievement.

Q. To whom do you give credit for all the achievements you have made?

A. I give credit for my success to my coaches as well as parents.

Q. If you are asked to give suggestions for the improvement and progress of swimming in India, what would be that? A. Catch children at 7 years of age, with a review after every three years upto group one junior.

A programme should be made for updation of latest swimming techniques with coaches should train them to get the results accordingly. For that purpose, swimming camps for the coaches should also be held regularly.

 Q. What all has changed for good in swimming in India, with academies all around in the country?

A. Government has introduced incentive/ scholarship for promotion of swimming. Khelo-India, a National level sports has also been introduced.

Q. Finally, what message would you like to give to those seeking to make career in swimming?

A. Your aim must be high, make your efforts accordingly, you will get your goal nearby. Believe in yourself. Enjoy life by staying positive, happy and healthy.

 (The interviewer is Assistant Professor in LSR, DU and a wellknown swimmer)

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Masood pushes Pakistan forward, hosts lose four early wickets

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Pakistan fast bowlers were all over the England batting lineup as the hosts were reduced to 92/4 at the end of Day 2 of the first Test at Old Trafford in Manchester on Thursday.

Mohammad Abbas took two wickets while Shaheen Afridi struck once after Shan Masood’s 156 off 319 balls helped Pakistan to a first innings total of 326.

Afridi provided the breakthrough off the fourth ball of the first over itself, trapping Rory Burns in front of middle stump.

 The umpire did not raise his finger initially but captain Azhar Ali went for the review. The replays went the visitors’ way. Burns’ opening partner Dom Sibley found it just as difficult to adjust to the fiery spells of Afridi and Abbas and fell two overs later.

This meant that England had Ben Stokes and Joe Root in the middle within the first six overs of their innings.

Even Stokes, who has enjoyed stellar form over the past year and a half, could not survive for long as Abbas’ delivery swung past his outside edge struck the top of his off stump.

 Root hung on with Ollie Pope as the latter finally gave England a steady flow of runs. The pair put up 50 for the fourth wicket before the England captain edged Yasir Shah to wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan.

Jos Buttler and Pope then saw England through to Stumps. Earlier, Shan Masood raced to his 150 and his epic knock was finally ended by Stuart Broad. The ball hit his back pad and while he called for a review, the replays only confirmed the on-field umpire’s decision. Masood walked off to warm applause from his team mates.

 Brief Scores: Pakistan 326 (Shan Masood 156, Babar Azam 69; Stuart Broad 3/54) vs England 92/4 (Ollie Pope 46*, Jos Buttler 15*; Mohammad Abbas 2/24)

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Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, US Open reduces prize money by $850,000

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The US Open has slashed its prize money for the singles title winner for the 2020 edition of the tournament by $850,000. This is, however, accompanied by an increase in prize money for the first round which starts on August 31.

Both the men’s and women’s singles champion will earn $3 million, said the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

 The USTA further said that the US Open will offer $53.4 million in total players’ compensation in 2020 with $7.6 million dedicated towards players’ relief from the Covid-19 pandemic.

First-round prize money for men’s and women’s singles increased by 5 per cent over 2019 ($61,000 from $58,000), while second and third-round singles prize money was unchanged. Doubles prize money for the rounds of 32, 16 and the quarterfinals remain the same as 2019.

The USTA will also provide $6.6 million in additional relief grants and subsidies due to the decision to not hold qualifying and the reduction of the doubles draws.

These funds will be allocated equally to the ATP and WTA, which will then make the determination of how to distribute and/ or utilise them to provide replacement playing and ranking-point opportunities.

“We’re proud to be able to offer a player compensation package that maintains nearly 95 per cent of the prize pool from 2019,” said USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Mike Dowse.

 “The prize money distribution for the 2020 US Open is the result of close collaboration between the USTA, WTA and ATP, and represents a commitment to supporting players and their financial well-being during an unprecedented time,” Dowse added.

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How DU excels from academics to Olympics

One of the leading higher education institutions in the country, University of Delhi is also home to 23 Olympians till date.

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Established in 1922, the University of Delhi, informally known as DU, is known worldwide to have produced a galaxy of brilliant minds and luminaries in the fields of science, arts, literature, sports and what not. One of the leading educational hubs of higher learning in India, DU has many achievements to its credit. Apart from having earned the reputation of being an excellent academic hub, DU has another feather to its cap in the field of sports.

The institute has been instrumental in fostering the culture in the country. Ever since its establishment, it has been a perfect platform and conducive environment to many aspiring sports enthusiasts. The environment and support provided by the DU went a long way in developing these sportspersons into high-famed sporting figures of international repute and reckoning.

 Athletic firmament in the world is studded with the stars produced by the University of Delhi. Their talent was identified and promoted by the University in real sense of the term. The record makes us proud of what the DU has given so far. It is most proud of being the home to 23 Olympians till date.

Swimmers, athletes, table tennis and hockey players, shooters, wrestlers, etc. all figure in the list of Olympians from DU. A glance at the list fills us with proud when names like late Ranjit Bhatia, Piyush Kumar, Lalit Mathur, MN Kaushik and Sandeep Sejwal meet the eyes. They represented India in Olympics at one of time or the other in one country or the other. Alumni of DU, they are known by their stupendous performance as well.  

The Olympians

The very first athlete of Delhi University to partake in the prestigious Olympic Games was LateM.N Masud of St. Stephen’s College. He was the Vice-Captain of the winning Indian Hockey Team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Since then, several notable athletes from St. Stephen’s have been representing India in the Olympics. In the 1960 Rome Olympics, Late Ranjit Singh represented India in athletics. Late Karni Singh was a part of the shooting team in five Olympic Games – 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1980. Another student, Raja Randhir Singh represented India in six Olympic Games in Tokyo (1964), Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980) and Los Angeles (1984). Mansher Singh represented Indian shooting team in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Another stalwart of St Stephen’s Arun Sandhi was part of the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. Then in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Piyush Kumar represented India in Athletics. Neha Aggarwal became the first female student of St. Stephen’s to participate in Olympics when she got selected in the Indian table tennis team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

 What is worth mentioning here is that it is quite challenging for the sportspersons to strike a balance between their academics and sporting career. The question how these sports personalities manage to maintain the balance is asked on many occasions as the training sessions and competitions occupy most of their time and leave them with little time to study. However, colleges try their level best to aid the students who excel in sports in whichever way possible.

Most colleges are liberal when it comes to giving attendance and are flexible with the test and assignment dates for the sports students. A majority of the sports students are mediocre but a handful of them have ably kept both academics and sports at par.

With the establishment of institutions like the National Institute of Sports, the Laxmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) etc. today sportspersons have a viable choice of career as these institutions allow them to gain expertise in subjects related to sports and also give them enough flexibility to continue their individual sports career simultaneously. As such, the sportspersons.

 What has come to encourage these persons seeking to be in the field of sports is the Delhi government’s endeavor to establish a sports university where not only students will be trained and educated about particular games but they will be able to get employment in such institutions.

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