Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Indian runners Mandeep and Murmu suspended after failed dope test

NEW DELHI: Two top Indian athletes - Mandeep Kaur and Juana Murmu - were on Wednesday suspended and faced the prospect of a two-year ban after flunking an out-of-competition dope test.

The 'B' samples of both the athletes returned positive for anabolic steroids in the tests conducted by International Association of Athletics Federations.

Mandeep, who had won gold in Commonwealth and Asian Games 4x400m relay and Juana, who finished fourth in the Asian Games, were suspended immediately after the reports of the 'B' samples were known this evening.

Mandeep and Juana's 'A' samples were taken by an international agency - International Doping Tests and Management of Sweden - on behalf of the IAAF at NIS Patiala and tested at National Dope Testing Laboratory.

The samples were taken out of competition at NIS Patiala on May 25.

Mandeep's 'B' sample had adverse analytical findings for epimethandiol, metabolites of methandienone and stanozolol while Juana's had epimethandiol and metabolites of methandienone.

The duo have been provisionally suspended by Athletics Federation of India till the hearing by a NADA panel is completed. The NADA panel will hand the punishment after the hearing.

Since it was the first dope offence for the two athletes, their punishment would range from a warning to a two-year ban.

AFI sources said that the two athletes have told the officials that their positive result could be due to food supplements they had taken from outside the NIS where they had been training.

The development is a huge setback for the country as both were in the yet-to-be-announced Indian team for the Asian Athletics Championships to be held in Kobe, Japan from July 7.

The duo are certain to be dropped from the team as now their 'B' samples have returned positive.

Moreover, it could be difficult for India to qualify for the London Olympics in women's 4X400m relay race as Mandeep has been an important member of the quartet for some time.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Venus' sixth sense saved Serena's life

EASTBOURNE: Venus Williams has always taken her role as big sister to Serena very seriously but never before had she thought a bit of family intuition would end up saving the life of the 13-times grand slam champion.

Serena, who once starred in the American medical drama ER, found herself in the centre of her own health scare in February when she had to undergo emergency treatment after a life-threatening blood clot was found in one of her lungs.

Had it not been for a tip off from Venus, Serena may have been prevented from making her long-awaited comeback to competitive tennis this week in the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in the British seaside town of Eastbourne.

"I remember I was in the gym and Serena called me and said 'my foot's swelling'," Venus, who is celebrating her 31st birthday this week as she too makes a comeback, said in an interview.

"My physio and I were both there and I said 'you need to look up online on symptoms of blood clots'. So she did and our physio went back and what do you know, it was.

"She had lot of the symptoms and thank god she did not ignore it because that could have been dangerous.

"I wasn't with her so it wasn't like I could do anything... but I just suggested because it was one of the symptoms. I did not believe this could even happen to her."

Already known as a tennis champion, fashion designer and interior designer, Venus never thought her limited medical knowhow could prove so crucial.

"Someone like Serena, who's a champion and a legend and has spent her whole career and lifestyle being healthy, it's hard to expect her to have a health problem like she did," added five-times Wimbledon champion Venus, who is making her own comeback after missing six months with an abdominal injury.

"Everyone was surprised, including us. "Thankfully we were able to recognise it and help her to get treatment right away. A lot of things you can think 'gosh, this is not really happening to me as I'm super healthy' and it can happen to anyone."

Like Serena, Venus also had to bide her time on the sidelines as she allowed her battered and bruised body to recover from a series of injuries that have limited her participation to just the grand slams over the past year.

This week, she seemed to lap up the atmosphere at the picturesque setting of Devonshire Park, where her face was plastered across dozens of billboards and hoardings dotted around the tennis complex.


Dressed in a white tracksuit over a bright pink tank top, she did not appear to have a care in the world as she strode purposefully into the ground's Champagne Bar area, only stopping once to sign a giant tennis ball for a young boy.

Venus, a keen historian of tennis, knows that no woman over 30 has won a grand slam trophy in over two decades.

But such a statistic does not concern the statuesque American, especially since recent trends show that those aged around 30 are most likely to succeed.

Over the past 13 months, Li Na and Francesca Schiavone have won French Open crowns aged 29, while 28-year-old Kim Clijsters is the U.S. and Australian Open champion and Serena, 29, is the Wimbledon holder.

"Tennis has changed a lot. People are now trying to be healthier and everyone's believing they can play longer. I think the days of retiring at 27 are over," explained Venus.

"By the time you get to the age I am, that's when you really start to understand the game and you can take advantage of that. So I'm going to stay and take advantage of all my experience."

Her vow to play on will strike fear into rivals, especially since the Williams sisters have ruled Wimbledon in nine of the past 11 years.

Critics have been laying into the women's game in recent weeks, saying it is suffering an identity crisis as the public at large can barely recognise any of the current top 10.

Should either of the Williams sisters triumph at Wimbledon on July 2 after barely playing any match for months, it will again raise questions about the strength of the women's tour.

Venus, however, dispelled suggestions that a Williams' victory will only highlight the poor state of the women's game.

"If we come back and play well, that's credit to our games. It's not easy to win majors because if it was, everyone would be doing it," said Venus, who expects a low seeding at the grass slam since injury means she is ranked outside the top 30.

"We have dropped ranking points and that's part of being off but at this point we're happy to be back, we're here to play, we're in the draw and that's what matters."


Friday, June 3, 2011

Sania-Vesnina lose French Open doubles final

BANGALORE: The Czech combine of -- Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka -- made it a payday to remember in Paris. The unheralded pairing, who became only the sixth unseeded team in 30 years to win a major title when they clinched the French Open women’s doubles crown on Friday, took home the euros 330,000 purse, up for grabs at Roland Garros.

India's Sania Mirza and Russian Elena Vesnina, the seventh seeds, picked the wrong day to go off colour, going down 4-6, 3-6 in the title round. The Indo-Russian pairing, who dropped a set for the first time this fortnight in the semifinal on Wednesday, had to settle for euros 165,000.

The opening set was a sea-saw contest. The Czechs broke Sania's serve in the third game and Vesnina's in the fifth to run up a 5-1 lead. In the seventh game, on the Indian's serve, the Czechs had two set points at 15-40 and a third at advantage, but the Indo-Russian pair battled hard to push the game to deuce before holding serve. They broke Hlavackova at love in the next game to narrow the lead to 3-5. Vesnina then held serve to make it 4-5.

In the tenth game, with the big-hitting Hradecka serving for the set, the Indo-Russian team pushed hard, taking the game to deuce but the Czechs closed out on their fifth set point on the back of a 189 kmph serve.

Vesnina, who finished runners-up in the French Open with Victoria Azarenka in 2009, struggled with her serve on Friday. She was broken in the opening game of the second set, but the seventh seeds fought back breaking Hlavackova in the fourth game to level at 2-2. Vesnina, however, was broken in the fifth game and the Czechs did well to hold on to that.

In the eighth game, the favourites had a chance to break Hlavackova, they even had a breakpoint, but the 24-year-old held out to give her team a 5-3 lead. Hlavackova and Hradecka then broke Vesnina in the ninth game, closing out on the second match point after 81-minutes of play.


Federer shatters Djokovic streak to reach French Open final

PARIS: Roger Federer brought Novak Djokovic's 41-match winning run since the start of the year to a sensational end Friday as the Swiss legend reached a fifth French Open final and a fourth Paris title showdown with five-time champion Rafael Nadal.

Federer, the 2009 winner, stunned the world number two Serb 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), a victory which not only shattered Djokovic's hopes of making a first Roland Garros final, but also stalled his bid to take over as world number one.

World number three Federer, whose last Grand Slam final had been at the 2010 Australian Open where he wrapped up a 16th major title, sealed a memorable win with his 18th ace in a tie which finished at 2135 (1935GMT) in gathering gloom.

Having reached his sixth Roland Garros semifinal playing a carefree brand of no-pressure tennis, he also left Djokovic one win short of matching John McEnroe's 1984 record of a 42-match unbeaten start to a season.

In a rollercoaster of a first set, Djokovic was surprisingly broken in the first game, distracted by the commotion in the crowd behind him caused when a spectator collapsed.

But the Serb was back on level terms for 1-1 with a break back before fighting off four break points on his next serve to hold for 2-1.

A huge inside-out backhand gave Djokovic another break for a 4-2 lead but Federer, with a roar of emotional support behind him, stormed back, retrieving the break and holding to love for 4-4.

Federer saved two set points in the 11th game before Djokovic, furious at being handed a time violation by French umpire Damien Dumusois, got the better of a gruelling 27-shot rally to hold and lead 6-5.

The Swiss, who had converted just two of 10 break points in the opener, held to send the set into a tiebreak which he claimed when Djokovic netted a forehand after 70 minutes on court.

Federer fought off two break points in the first game of the second set and broke Djokovic to lead 3-1 when the Serb, clearly unsettled and distinctly under par, ballooned a forehand long.

A rattled Djokovic soon trailed 4-1 and then needed to fight off four break points in the sixth game to keep his campaign on track before Federer, nerveless on serve, stretched his advantage to 5-2.

The world number two was close to breaking point and fought off five set points in the eighth game.

But the 29-year-old Federer was soon two sets to love ahead when a weary Djokovic netted.

Under siege, Djokovic had given up a further 12 break points in the second set with Federer crucially converting the only one he needed to do in the fourth game.

However, showing the fight which has brought him seven titles in 2011, Djokovic carved out the only break of the third set in the second game on his way to cutting the deficit.

Serve dominated in the fourth set as the sky over Paris became increasingly darker, before Djokovic unleashed a brutal service return to break for a 5-4 lead.

In an enthralling conclusion, Federer hit back for 5-5 and fought off two break points to nip ahead at 6-5 before Djokovic held for a tie break.

The Serb saved two match points but was powerless to keep out the Swiss star's 18th ace which sealed the semifinal after 3hr and 39mins of enthralling action.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Miami triple threat strikes first in NBA finals

MIAMI: There might be a new sheriff in town, but this is still Wade County.

Dwyane Wade erupted for 15 points in the second half - including a late 3-pointer that put the game out of reach - as the Heat won Game 1 of the NBA Finals over the Dallas Mavericks, 92-84, at the American Airlines Arena in Miami.

In his first Finals game since earning Finals MVP in 2006, Wade finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate LeBron James led the Heat with 24 points - the final two coming on a booming alley-oop from Wade with 40 seconds left in the game. Miami nearly had three double-doubles, with James and Chris Bosh (19 points) each pulling down nine rebounds.

But after struggling to find his game through most of the Eastern Conference Finals - a and although James proved yet again just how limelight-ready he is -- it was Wade's late trey and overall play that delivered the biggest surge of electricity through a team and a town.

"Once that three went down," James sadi, "I knew he was feeling really good."

"Understanding that Dallas is a great offensive team, I thought we played well defensively," Wade said. "That allowed us to get out and get some good shots on the other end. Obviously I made some shots tonight. But we all made plays down the stretch that helped us win the ballgame."

Dirk Nowitzki led the scoring for the Mavericks, who shot just 37.3 percent from the field. Nowitzki finished with 27 points, including another perfect night at the line, going 12-for-12 in free throws.

Wade's performance keyed a dominating second half by the Heat, who out-scored the Mavericks, 49-34, in the final 22 minutes to pull away late.

Neither team shot well (38.8 percent for the Heat, 37.3 for the Mavs), but the Heat hit 41 percent (16 of 39) in the second half, compared to just 36 percent for the Mavericks.

"They have two very good closers, two of the best in the game," Nowitzki said of Wade and James. "Dwyane made some big shots there in the fourth quarter, and LeBron has been shooting the ball really well this Playoffs. [Wade] had some open looks and really made some tough shots."

"I think in order for us to win basketball games, we have to defend, and we have to get stops," James said. "And our offense will speak for itself when we continue to get stops."

Outside of rebounding (46-36 over the Mavs), the Heat's most unlikely advantage came in bench scoring, where they held a 27-17 edge over the usually potent Mavs reserves. Of Dallas' 17 bench points, 12 came from Jason Terry. Cumulatively, the reserves shot 4-of-22, including a 1-for-8 performance from backup point guard JJ Barea.

"I thought we rushed some shots," Nowitzki said. "We just got to finish."

The shooting woes kept the game close until the Heat pulled away in the final minutes. Until Wade's dagger of a 3-pointer from the top of the key put the Heat up, 82-73, with just over three minutes left, neither team had led by more than eight points.

But until Wade took over, the Mavs looked to be the ones headed for the win.

Shawn Marion hit a jumper to put Dallas up, 46-43, to open the second half. Nowitzki followed a 19-footer after a Chris Bosh miss on the inside. A possession later, DeShawn Stevenson hit a 3-pointer from the corner with no one within 10 feet of him to put Dallas up eight points with 10:03 left in the third.

"He checked for the wind," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "He had three days to shoot that. And we didn't get anybody near him."

Down eight, the Heat called timeout.

"We needed to lock in," James said. "We just weren't paying attention to detail about how we were going to defend this team coming into the game."

From there, Wade took over.

First came a reverse lay-in on the ensuing Heat possession. Then, after a steal by Mike Bibby and an assist from LeBron James, came another finish at the rim for Wade, who'd spent most of the first half on the outside.

"They answered. They responded well," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. "During that period they were making a run at us. I thought we did a good job of hanging in. And again, I thought there were some critical situations where we needed to somehow come up with one loose ball here or go make a shot there that would have made a big difference. But it didn't happen."

Over the course of the next 10 minutes, the Heat went on a 22-10 run to close the quarter and turn the tides of the game. James and Wade scored nine and eight points, respectively, over the run.

But every time the Heat would threaten, the Mavs would answer. Turnovers traded hands, shots clanged off metal. But with 1:12 left in the third, James strode to the top of the key, pulled up and hit a three.

Miami would never trail again. Then, as if to underscore that this was the Heat's game, James hit a fall-away three at the buzzer that carried him far out of bounds to put Miami up, 65-61, heading into the fourth.

"Daring me to shoot, that's pretty much gone," James said. "I think people will still live with keeping myself and keeping D-Wade on the perimeter, but it's just my confidence. I put a lot of hard work into it, and understand that you have to be a two-way player in this league. .... Tonight once again I shot the ball extremely well from the outside, but more importantly, it helped our team get a win. That's what it's all about."

True to form, both teams started off slow, with the Heat taking an 11-5 lead after the first 6:30 of the game. But after Jason Kidd hit two threes on two straight possessions after a Mavericks timeout, the three-point barrage began.

As both defenses clamped down on the lane, the teams combined for 12 threes over the final 17 minutes of the first half, with both shooting 6-of-14 from behind the arc.

Mario Chalmers had a big second quarter, hitting three 3-pointers - two of them from the exact same spot on the baseline - after missing his first three shots of the game. Chalmers keyed an uncharacteristic quarter for the Heat, one in which they settled mostly for shots from long range, going 5-for-8 from behind the arc with Wade and Mike Miller both hitting threes.

"I feel like after I hit the first one I hit two more, and I wanted to keep going, but the quarter ran out," Chalmers said.

Neither team shot particularly well from the field in the first half, though, with the Mavericks posting a 38.2 shooting percentage and the Heat firing at 36.6 percent.

Wade's first half did nothing to dispel the rumors that he might be at least slightly injured, with only two points in the first quarter and seven for the half on 3-of-10 shooting.

"Maybe this will be something that will spark him," Spoelstra said. "All I care about was he made a lot of winning plays on both ends of the court there in the fourth quarter. I'm not going to over-analyze his first half."

The Heat held a 22-19 edge in rebounding before the break, but had a 9-5 edge on the offensive boards - including one massive two-handed put-back by Bosh early in the second quarter that fired up the crowd.

Pargat Singh threatens hunger strike

NEW DELHI: Former hockey captain Pargat Singh wants a movement on the lines of 'Save the Tiger' campaign to save hockey, the 'national game'. This is one of the many plans the former Olympian revealed on Wednesday in his bid to help India regain the old glory.

Pargat is also contemplating a hunger strike on National Sport Day, August 29, to draw the attention of the people to hockey's plight.

"We should stand up and do everything for hockey and should not spare anyone who's mediocre," he told reporters here, taking a dig at some of the administrators running the game in the country.

"I request the honourable Supreme Court to resolve the pending issues in the best interest of the game and the players." He also said that the mechanism of coaching in the country needed serious attention. "We don't have a single coach of international repute," he said, adding that the country also required at least 500 artificial turfs to draw people back to the game.

"A country like India needs at least 500 artificial turfs in the next five years in order to beat international teams. And to put the plan into effect, we need a 100-day action plan under the aegis of the sports ministry."

He urged the government that hockey be accorded a special status like the National Emblem or the National Anthem. "The sports ministry should also think of a special National Game code to help the sport attain special status for development."

He also appealed for at least 10 lakh people to register for the signature campaign at which he plans to take to the Prime Minister on August 29.

"I also appeal to my fellow Olympians to come forward and save the game. I appeal to them to adopt their districts and write to the sports minister to become a part of the National Game movement. We need vision, leadership, money and infrastructure and there should be no room for petty politics in sports. We need to put up a united front for the sake of the game and ensure that we win again at the Olympics."

Pargat, who is was on Tuesday named in a Hockey India panel to find foreign experts for the national team, criticised the national body for its approach. "Till date, my proposals tabled in December last year haven't been implemented. There is total chaos. I still don't know whether we will get a foreign coach or an advisor on time but I will try my level best," he said.

While admitting that it may be difficult to identify quality experts in 15 days, Pargat said India might find it very difficult to qualify for the London Olympics given the way things are. "In the current set-up, it is highly unlikely that India will qualify for the Olympics. I am not very optimistic. All I can say is that it will be a big challenge for the team."


Sania-Vesnina beat Huber-Raymond to enter French Open finals

PARIS: Sania Mirza stormed into her first Grand Slam doubles final as she and her Russian partner Elena Vesnina defeated American duo of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond in a thrilling three-setter in the semifinals of the French Open on Wednesday.

French Open 2011

Seeded seventh in the tournament, Sania and Vesnina beat their fourth seeded opponents 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in 105 minute semifinal contest at the Roland Garros.

In the final, the Indo-Russian combo will face the unseeded Czech duo of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka who beat third seeded pair of Vania King of United States and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3 in another semifinal.

This is Sania's third Grand Slam final appearance in her career - the first two being in the mixed doubles in the Australian Open.

Sania and ace compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi had won the Australian Open mixed doubles in 2009 while they were the losing finalists in the same Grand Slam tournament in 2008.

Sania, who paired up with Vesnina only in February, had a strap around just below her left knee but did not show any apparent problem as she played some superb winning shots across the net.

Sania and Vesnina broke their opponents early in the first set to race to 4-1 ahead before pocketing it 6-3 in 30 minutes.

The second set was a longer affair with both sides breaking serves though Sania and Vesnina were broken thrice in their serves to lose it 2-6 in 38 minutes. In the deciding set, Sania and Vesnina broke their opponents' serve in the first game itself and held theirs to take a 2-0 lead.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kolkata Knight Riders thrash Pune Warriors India by 7 wickets

NAVI MUMBAI: A challenging wicket provides a gripping contest. Not necessarily between the teams but at least between the bat and ball. This was on display when Pune Warriors tried to spoil Kolkata Knight Riders' party at the DY Patil stadium on Thursday night.

The 'contest' was largely limited to first innings only. And it meant Pune's aspiration to beat the Big Brother remained just a wish.
Kolkata Knight Riders hammered them by seven wickets with more than three overs to spare. The win gives them a remote chance to finish in the top-two and qualify for the 'soft' semifinal (winner goes to final, loser plays the quarters) if Mumbai lose to Rajasthan.

Pune will visit Delhi for the Saturday game in a match to avoid wooden-spoon while Adam Gilchrist's Kings XI Punjab are almost out of play-off contention due to their inferior net run rate.

Yusuf Pathan made use getting promotion despite being clueless on many occasions. Batting at No. 4, he made 29 off 25. Surprisingly, the fours came behind point before a trademark six off Bhuvnesh Kumar over long-on.

Captain Gambhir (54, 46b, 7x4s) was his usual self: crafty yet quiet; effective but not belligerent. The target of 119 was a child's play for his team. Pune's sloppy fielding came as unwanted bonus and without enough runs on the board, leggie Rahul Shrama wasn't a big weapon.

Kolkata won the toss, opted to bowl and restricted Pune Warriors to 118 for seven. Yuvraj Singh batted at No. 6 and top scored with 24 off 26 with two fours.

The wicket unexpectedly behaved a bit differently and assisted the spinners more. And that led to some odd happenings. The spin troika of Yusuf, Shakib Al Hasan and Iqbal Abdulla bowled 11 overs between them and conceded 51 runs for five wickets.

KKR's specialist paceman L. Balaji was 'introduced' to the attack in the 20th and last over and took two wickets. Gambhir, who rotated his bowlers superbly, gave two overs on a trot to his pacemen just once despite having the likes of Balaji, Brett Lee and Jacques Kallis in his ranks.

When Robin Uthappa came in to bat, he faced a slip and silly point. Even his 'dot' ball (immediately after Balaji failed to judge his catch at deep mid-wicket) was applauded by non-striker and former KKR captain Sourav Ganguly.

Ganguly took 19 balls before hitting his first boundary. He ran 12 singles of his own and ran his partners' 12 runs too.

During the drinks break, KKR bowling coach Wasim Akram was seen inside the ropes having a chat with his wards.

Though off-spinner Yusuf gave KKR the first wicket (Jesse Ryder playing amateur dolly to long-off), it was the 'visitors' left-arm spinners Abdulla and Shakib who were a treat to watch.

Abdulla's first ball turned sharply as Manish Pandey tried to search for it. A ball in the same over held its line and had him lbw. Shakib bowled tight line and had Calum Ferguson stumped with a ball that dipped in and turned away sharply. Despite all this, the batsmen had their moments.


Indian Grand Prix could be moved to December

NEW DELHI: If Bernie Ecclestone manages to have his way, the Indian Grand Prix, scheduled for October 30 as the second-last race of the 2011 season, might be moved to December 4, the Formula One season's finale.

Keen to let Bahrain Grand Prix back into the schedule after protests in the kingdom made racing action impossible earlier in the year, F1 boss Ecclestone, world body FIA and Bahrain officials are in discussions and according to Autosport, a motorsports website, Indian officials have been asked to look at a race date change to help accommodate the race at Sakhir.

Jay Pee Sports International, which is developing the 5.14 km-long Buddh International Race Circuit, has not been informed officially. "We've also just read online reports regarding this development.

"We haven't heard anything from the FIA till now. As far as JPSI is concerned our homologation is on August 1 and race is on Oct 30," said the spokesperson.

A decision on Sakhir race will be taken on June 3 but the big bosses want the end of season schedule reshuffle sorted out before that.

If the race at Sakhir happens, there would be a two-week gap before the Abu Dhabi GP on November 13, after which the young driver test would take place from November 15-17. Brazil would then keep its current November 27 date, with India hosting the race on December 4.

FIA president Jean Todt said at the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago that he was happy to give Bahrain more time.

"We completely sympathise with the problems that are happening, and we all understand that it would not have been possible to keep the Sakhir Grand Prix as the first race of the championship," he said.

"I think if you are in a difficult situation, you need support. That is our responsibility. We need to give some support and it will penalize nobody to have a final answer by June 3."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tiger Woods still remains biggest sports celebrity: Forbes

MIAMI: Tiger Woods has not finished a tournament atop the leaderboard in 18 months. Nonetheless, Forbes says the world's former No. 1 golfer remains the biggest celebrity in the sports world.

Woods is No. 6 on Forbes' annual "Celebrity 100" compilation of the most powerful people or groups in the entertainment business, the highest rank of any of the 19 athletes who made the list.

Miami Heat star LeBron James is 10th, up 18 spots from a year ago, and the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant was at No. 14 for the second straight year.

Lady Gaga tops Forbes' overall rankings, followed by Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, U2 and Elton John.

Woods will fall out of the top 10 in golf's world ranking next week, the first time he'll be 11th or lower since 1997. His last tournament win was at the 2009 Australian Masters.

His star power apparently remains nearly as bright as ever.

Woods was No. 5 on Forbes' list in 2010, when the magazine estimated his annual earnings at $105 million - $30 million less than what it estimated him to make over the most recent 12-month period. Even after taking major endorsement hits following the scandal that ended his marriage, Woods still made $22 million more than Bryant in the past year, Forbes said.

Forbes listed James' earnings at $48 million, up $5 million from the previous year, and ranked him No. 2 behind only Winfrey in terms of media visibility. Forbes said its formula includes pretax income for the year ending May 1, media visibility and social media power through Facebook and Twitter.

Tennis star Roger Federer was 25th on the list, placing him fourth among athletes.

The Heat had two of the top 100, with Dwyane Wade (No. 57) joining James. And the New York Yankees also had two mentions, with Alex Rodriguez at No. 49 and Derek Jeter at No. 69, tying him with actress Julia Roberts.

Other sports figures on the list: David Beckham and Phil Mickelson (tied at No. 35), Cristiano Ronaldo (No. 43), Rafael Nadal (No. 46), Tom Brady (No. 55), Dwight Howard (No. 59), Lionel Messi (No. 62), Peyton Manning (No. 72), Maria Sharapova (No. 80), Serena Williams (No. 84), Venus Williams (No. 86) and Danica Patrick (No. 96).

Combined, Forbes said the 19 athletes on the list this year earned a combined $647 million.

Among those from the sports world who were ranked in 2010 but fell off the most recent Forbes celebrity list were Michael Jordan (20th in 2010), Floyd Mayweather (31st), Shaquille O'Neal (52nd), Manny Pacquiao (55th) and Lance Armstrong (65th).


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vijender to tie the knot with Delhi girl Archana

CHANDIGARH: This is one news likely to break a million hearts. Olympic bronze medallist boxer Vijender Singh, known as much for his powerful punches as for being a heartthrob, has been knocked out by love. After a series of denials, Vijender has finally admitted he is all set to marry "long-time friend" Archana Singh, who is Delhi-based, at his village Kaluwas in Bhiwani on May 17. Arrangements for the wedding are already underway and the reception is scheduled for May 18.

The 25-year-old Vijender, known as 'India's David Beckham' abroad, returned on Sunday after winning a bronze in the Arafura Games, and says he and Archana, 23, decided to take the plunge just a few days back. "It's a new chapter of my life and I am obviously excited. It's a bout in which loss is victory. After thinking over it for a long time, both of us decided to get married. It is a private occasion and I hope my privacy is respected," Vijender told TOI on Sunday. His father Mahi Pal Singh, agreeing that the match was a "hush-hush" affair, added: "Both have been friends for quite some time now. In keeping with his wishes we have given our consent to the love marriage."

Wedding cards have already been sent out to "very few near and dear ones". Vijender's coaches and fellow campers at NIS Patiala got the invite only on Sunday after Vijender's return from Australia, where he won in the 81kg category for the first time.

Presently working in the British Embassy in Delhi, Archana is the daughter of a Congress activist, Surinder Singh, from Muzaffarnagar in UP. Coach Gurbax Singh said, "Vijender called up today morning to invite me for the wedding. His friends and fellow boxers are eagerly waiting for the party. I wish him all the best in a new phase of his life."

"We want to keep it a low-key affair," Vijender's father said.


Olympic marathon champion Wanjiru dies after jumping from balcony

NYAHURURU: Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru was killed when he jumped off the balcony of his home late on Sunday, police said on Monday.

Police said they were trying to ascertain whether the 24-year-old - the first Kenyan to win the Olympic gold in the marathon at Beijing in 2008 - had deliberately killed himself by jumping off the balcony at his home in Nyahururu, a town in the Rift Valley, some 150 km (94 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi.

Jaspher Ombati, the regional police chief for the area, said Wanjiru appeared to have suffered internal injuries after the fall and was confirmed dead by doctors at a nearby hospital.

"I can confirm that Wanjiru is dead. It is not yet clear whether it was a suicide or if he jumped out of rage, or what caused him to fall to the ground," Ombati said.

"He jumped from his first floor balcony to the ground. He was bleeding from the nose and the mouth, and may have suffered internal injuries," the police chief said.

Ombati said police were investigating a possible love triangle that could have been behind the death of Wanjiru, a former winner of the Chicago and London marathons.

Ombati said the athlete's wife Triza Njeri had come home to find Wanjiru in bed with another woman, had locked the couple in the bedroom and ran outside.

Wanjiru then leapt from the balcony, he said. Ombati said Njeri and Wanjiru's female companion are assisting police in investigating the death.

Last December, Wanjiru was charged in court with threatening to kill Njeri and illegal possession of an AK-47 assault rifle.

Njeri later withdrew her accusation of attempted murder against him in court, saying the couple had reconciled.

He also suffered minor injuries from a car crash in January when he swerved to avoid an oncoming truck, hit a pot hole and rolled his car.

Wanjiru defied the heat of Beijing in 2008 to triumph in an Olympic record time at the games held in China.

As a young man, Wanjiru moved to Japan in 2002 to attend high school after winning a cross country selection trial in Kenya.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Swapnali Yadav makes swimming history

MUMBAI: Twelve-year-old Andheri girl Swapnali Yadav created history yet again when she became the youngest-ever to win the women's category in the Kimberley National Lake Argyle Swim in Kununurra, Western Australia. Besides being the youngest, she's also the first Indian to win the event.

The Andheri lass had won the first Kimberley National Lake Argyle Swim that was held on April 30 in Australia's second-biggest artificial lake.

Swapnali was a special invitee for the 20km Open swim in the 80km picturesque lake, which is infested by about 35,000 crocodiles. She took 7 hours, 7 minutes and 24 seconds to finish overall second. "It was a real challenge," said Swapnali of Bombay Cambridge school, Andheri. "But I was confident of completing the swim. My dream is to represent India in the Olympics and swim the English Channel." The feat also earned her a place in the Limca Book of Records. She is being trained by Raju Palkar.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Injury-hit India chase hat-trick of Azlan Shah titles

IPOH (Malaysia): Battling with a spate of injuries and non-selection of two star players - Sandeep Singh and Sardara Singh - double defending champions India will seek to complete a hat-trick of titles at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament that begins on Thursday.

Five-time gold medallists at the Azlan Shah Cup, India were adjudged joint winners along with South Korea last year when the final was disrupted by bad weather.

The Indians had earlier won the cup outright in 2009, and they currently share the tournament record of five titles with Australia, who are seeking to test their new crop of players ahead of next year's London Olympics.

The seven-nation round-robin tournament, which will end with a title showdown on May 15 between the top two placed teams, also feature Asian Games champions Pakistan, Asian Games silver medallists Malaysia, Great Britain, South Korea and New Zealand.

Pakistan and hosts Malaysia have retained the bulk of the Guangzhou Asian Games squad.

Last year's gold medal at the Asian Games has provided a new-found belief to the Pakistan side, which had not won any significant title since the 1994 World Cup, while Malaysia are now reaping the dividends of investing in young players over the past few years.

Injured former captain Rajpal Singh and Tushar Khandekar's absence could affect the Indian team's strike power, while the decision to keep out Sandeep and Sardara will put additional pressure on India's defence.

Sandeep and Sardara were not considered for selection as they did not secure sanction from the national federation before proceeding to play in the Belgian League. The duo also did not report for a preparatory camp in New Delhi ahead of the tournament.

Seasoned striker Arjun Halappa will lead the Indian team, which will be banking a lot on its midfield in the event, which is also seen as a preparatory tournament for next year's Olympic qualifiers to be held on its soil.

The shock semifinal loss to Malaysia in the Asian Games has forced India once again to play the Olympic qualifiers.

In 2008 Beijing Games, eight-time champions India had failed to feature in the starting line-up of the Olympics for the first time in 80 years.

India's chief coach Harendra Singh, expectedly, said the competition here would be tough as most of the teams are looking to fine-tune their line-ups in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

Incidentally, Harendra was deputy to former chief coach Jose Brasa at the Asian Games and was widely criticised for announcing his resignation in the middle of the event after India's semifinal defeat to Malaysia.

Even though Indian hockey officials were reported to be in favour of a foreign coach, Harendra was again put in charge as they could not find a replacement for Brasa.

Warming up for the tournament with a 5-3 victory over New Zealand on Tuesday, the Indians are bracing to take on South Korea in their tournament-opener on Thursday followed by a game against Britain 24 hours later.

Ahead of Thursday's match, the Indians will be taking heart from the fact that they had defeated South Korea to claim the Asian Games bronze in Guangzhou.

Much to the liking of India, the Koreans are persisting with a young team as they are presently in a transition phase with several established players set to fade away soon.

In the warm-up game against New Zealand, India scored from penalty corners through Dhananjay Mahadik (2), Rupinder Pal Singh (2) and Baljit Singh Chandi, while Matt L'Huiller slammed home a hat-trick in his debut game for the Black Sticks.

Among other teams in fray, Britain draws a majority of its players from the England line-up, which won the European Cup two years ago and made the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.

It will be India's first encounter against the British side since the Commonwealth Games semifinals when the Indians fought back gallantly in the closing stages of the match to score a win.

Asian Games champions Pakistan, three-time Azlan Shah winners, are backing themselves to reclaim the title after eight years.

Hosts Malaysia, who have never won the tournament, are looking to improve upon their three silver medals, while Australian coach Ric Charlesworth is hoping to test his second-string side in the absence of half a dozen players from his 2010 squad that became the first team to clinch the World Cup, Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games in the same year.

The Azlan Shah Cup was the only event last year where the Australians failed to emerge on top of the pedestal.

Tournament fixtures:

May 5: Pakistan vs New Zealand, India vs South Korea, Britain vs Malaysia.

May 6: Pakistan vs South Korea, India vs Britain, Australia vs Malaysia.

May 8: India vs Australia, Britain vs Pakistan, South Korea vs New Zealand.

May 9: Australia vs Pakistan, Britain vs New Zealand, India vs Malaysia.

May 11: New Zealand vs Malaysia, Australia vs South Korea, India vs Pakistan.

May 12: Australia vs Britain, India vs New Zealand, South Korea vs Malaysia.

May 14: Britian vs South Korea, Pakistan vs Malaysia, Australia vs New Zealand.

May 15: Final.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bob Houghton likely to 'quit' by weekend

NEW DELHI: Referees and linesmen the world over are subject to the choicest abuse by irate players, coaches and fans. Like it or not, it's part of their job. But seldom would have an abuse saved a football federation like Dinesh Nair's racism charge against India's football coach Bob Houghton has rescued the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

As things stand, a golden handshake between the AIFF and Houghton is now only a matter of time - even as early as this weekend.

Sources within the federation cite that officials are quite keen to leverage the racism charge to get rid of the South Africa-based Englishman with immediate effect, as continuing to foot the coach's $30,000 per month salary until his contract ran out in 2013 was causing a huge dent to their already fragile financial condition. Summarily sacking him would also entail paying the entire amount - something to the tune of over Rs 3.2 crore.

It is likely that the removal of Houghton would be delivered shortly, and the see-off will comprise no more than four month's salary as compensation and no further mention of the charge brought up by Nair during the friendly against Yemen in Pune last October.

While Kushal Das, general secretary of the AIFF allayed any such notions insisting that "Bob Houghton's reply (to the racist abuse charge) was still being examined, and no decision had been arrived at", they are eager to see off the matter before the current month is out, because dragging it until May would mean paying the coach another month's salary. Another reason being cited for the apparent rush is that one of the federation's top officials will be unavailable for the remainder of the month due to personal reasons without whom Houghton's ouster cannot be manoeuvred.

When contacted, Houghton who is currently in Goa, refused to comment.

With the AIFF apparently still awaiting the Rs 7.5 crore second installment of the Rs 31 cr deal with their main sponsors (as per the understanding the first installment amount is being used to conduct the I-League), sources indicate that the mood within the cash-strapped federation is very uneasy.

Secure in the knowledge that Houghton would be worried if the charge showed up in an otherwise impressive resume, and subsequently harm his employment opportunities which centres around Asian and African teams, the AIFF promptly played up Nair's charge.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Houghton may have an offer to coach the Hong King national side, and is keen to get out of the Indian mess as soon as possible. In fact, it is understood that the offer for a negotiated compromise may have come from Houghton's lawyers itself, something that the federation is willing to take up given its precarious financial condition.

On the face of it, it seems another coach has fallen to Indian football's ways. This time the players' favourite Houghton.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Delhi to host hockey Champions Trophy from December 3,2011

LAUSANNE: The prestigious Men's Champions Trophy Hockey tournament will be held in New Delhi from December 3-11, the FIH announced on Friday.

Top eight countries of the world, including Olympic champions Germany and 2010 World Cup winners Australia, will take part in the tournament.

The other countries to participate in the tournament are the Netherlands, England, Spain, South Korea and Pakistan, besides hosts India.

According to the official dates announced by the FIH for nine major events this season and next year, the FIH Women's Champions Trophy will be held in Argentina from January 28-February 5.

The FIH Champions Challenge I will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from November 26-December 4.

New Delhi will also host the first of the 2012 London Olympics qualification tournaments for men and women from February 15-26.

Six men's and six women's teams will battle out for a lone spot each in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Three 2012 Olympic qualification tournaments will have three host nations with a men's and women's tournament running at the same time.

The next Olympic qualification tournament will take place from March 14-25, 2012 in Beerschot, Belgium. It will be followed by the third Olympic qualification tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan from April 25-May 6.

The trio of joint tournaments is the final opportunity for teams to qualify for 2012 Olympic Games with the winner of each men's and women's event earning a place in London.

The teams assigned to the qualification tournaments will not be known until the completion of all of this year's continental championships, which will be after the Pan American Games, scheduled to finish on October 29.

Winners of the five Continental Championships earn an automatic berth to the 2012 London Olympics.

Following the continental championships, teams that do not automatically earn a berth to the Olympics will be placed into one of the three qualification tournaments, depending on where they finish in their continental championships and how many places their continental federation has been allocated for the Olympic qualification tournaments.

"The 2012 season will be one of the busiest and most important in recent history. Our regular schedule will be supplemented with the Olympic qualifiers and of course the Olympic Games themselves, making it non-stop hockey during the year," said FIH President Leandro Negre.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Paes-Bhupathi clinch Miami title, become World No.1

MIAMI (USA): Adding to the joy of India's cricket World Cup triumph, veteran tennis players Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won their second title of the season by clinching the Sony Ericsson Open to become number one in the ATP World Tour Doubles team rankings.

Third seeded Bhupathi and Paes rallied to beat second seeded Belarusian-Canadian pair of Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-5.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

IOC issues a warning

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has cautioned the Union Sports Minister that the proposed sports legislation could threaten India's participation in international events, especially the Olympic qualifiers and Olympic Games, if stipulations being imposed on the National Olympic Committee and National Sports Federations (NSFs) were not modified so as to respect the autonomy of the Olympic Movement.

In a letter to Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge), Ajay Maken, on Tuesday, the NOC Relations Director of the IOC, Pere Miro, stated that it was not the IOC's intention to interfere directly in the process of legislation formulation by the Government of India.

However, he pointed out, organisations of the Olympic Movement in India — the NOC and National Federations in particular — would be “directly impacted and affected by this new sports legislation.”

Miro stated that the internal operations (including the composition of the bodies, decision-making mechanisms, holding of meetings, election process, age limit, if any, number of terms for the elected office-bearers, mechanisms for resolving disputes etc.) should come under the jurisdiction of the sports organisations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ind vs Aus: Sehwag doubtful for quarterfinal against Australia

AHMEDABAD: Uncertainty remained on the availability of dashing opener Virender Sehwag for India's make-or-break World Cup quarterfinal match against defending champions Australia on Thursday, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said on Wednesday.

"We will take a call on Virender Sehwag late this evening or tomorrow morning before the start of the game. All the others are fit and available for selection," Dhoni said at the match-eve media conference at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera.

Sehwag, who lit up the tournament with a breathtaking 175 against Bangladesh in the opening match at Mirpur on February 19, missed India's last Group B tie against the West Indies at Chennai on March 20 after aggravating his old knee problem during the course of the tournament.

He played last against South Africa at Nagpur on March 12, scoring a half century.

Dhoni said the Indian team would certainly miss Sehwag if he is unable to play on Thursday against the world's top-ranked ODI outfit.

"It's really good to have Virender Sehwag opening the innings. He can play an aggressive game. He can change the course of the game in the first five overs, give the team the kind of momentum that is needed," said Dhoni.

On Tuesday, the Delhi dasher did not take part in the warm-up session but later joined the team in the batting practice for half an hour.


Pak vs WI: West Indies blown away by Pak spin

MIRPUR: With every passing game, Pakistan's form is looking more ominous. Their skipper Shahid Afridi has led from the front and been devastating with his leg-breaks, ensuring that from dark horses before the tournament, Pakistan are now one of the favourites.

On Wednesday, they pulverized past a hapless West Indies to sail convincingly into the semifinal, fashioning a 10-wicket win after spinning out Darren Sammy's men for a mere 112 at the Shere-e-Bangla stadium.

They now await the winner of the India-Australia game in Ahmedabad on Thursday. This is the sixth time in 10 World Cup campaigns that Pakistan have booked a place in the last four. A combination of effective spin bowling and dismal technique did the Windies in.

Afridi was again at the forefront, grabbing 4/30 to destroy any hopes of a batting recovery after Mohammad Hafeez prised out two early wickets.

Once Chris Gayle fell early, the Windies fell apart, and it was obvious some veterans in the team were also past their prime. They simply failed to get the scorecard moving after being reduced to 16/3 before Afridi came to the party and wrecked their hopes further.

At one point, Afridi was on the verge of a hat-trick when he dismissed Kieron Pollard and Devon Thomas off successive deliveries. Chanderpaul played a lone hand, remaining unbeaten on 44, but he too did not look his best. The Windies lost out on everything but the toss.

Hafeez followed up his impressive bowling display with a fluent, unbeaten 61 when Pakistan chased, notching up his maiden World Cup half-century and the Man of the Match award in the bargain. The Windies were so dispirited after their batting effort they failed to dislodge Kamran Akmal too.

The West Indies will return with a bagful of worries. Their team composition needs a rethink, and their batsmen must learn to cope with spin. Four of their batsmen were trapped in front of the wicket. Overall, the team struck only seven boundaries while Hafeez himself notched up ten fours.