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Against all odds, a labourer’s daughter dreams of winning an Olympic medal

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Coming from a small village in Uttar Pradesh and setting a record in long jump for Delhi, the story of Shivani Soam has drama, emotion and the determination to overcome all odds, including the barriers erected by the male chauvinistic society.

Hailing from a village in Moradabad district, choosing sports was not easy for Shivani. From getting flak for wearing shorts to practicing with boys, life wasn’t easy for Shivani in her village.

But her dedication and determination to do something in sports saw Shivani go ahead despite the taunts. The society, which used to berate her and her family, is today lauding her achievements. The mind-set of the people has changed after Shivani won silver in the 30th North Zone Junior Athletics championship, organised by the Haryana Athletics Association at Rohtak in October 2018.

“All this was not easy for me. My parents used to work in Delhi as daily-wage labourers. At the time of the first Covid-19 wave, the financial situation went from bad to worse for us. We had to return to our village from Delhi. There, when I used to go for practice in the morning, I was the target of taunts. Still, I continued my training,” Shivani told IANS.

Taunts were not the only problem Shivani faced. During the lockdown, when her parents had no work, a situation arose when she even though of leaving the sport. However, she continued her passion against all odds.

Shivani concedes that the pandemic period in 2020 was like an ‘earthquake’ situation in her life.

“The lockdown affected us badly. We had to return to our village… we faced a different problem here. There are many problems for girls, but I did not give up and continued my practice. After a few months, when things became normal, we came back to Delhi, where Deepika ma’am (a sports management company head) contacted me. Since then I have not faced any problem. Now I am focusing on my game,” said the 20-year-old, who wants to breach the Asian Games qualifying mark.

Shivani won gold in the Delhi State Athletic Championship in August, 2019, with a record jump of 5.31 metre. The record is still in Shivani’s name. She says that she is putting in a lot of effort to breach the Asian Games qualifying mark of 6.45 metre.

“I made this record (Delhi State) in 2019. Since then, my performance has improved a lot, now I can easily cross 6.50 in training. It is not difficult for me to qualify for the Asian Games.”

Shivani has a dream of winning an Olympic medal. While the athlete is aware that the task is not easy, she is confident that one day she will be good to compete at the international level.

“For a player, the biggest dream is an Olympic medal. I have a dream of winning a medal at the Olympics. But before that, there will be an attempt to win a medal at the Asian Games. My jump is good now, and with a little improvement, I will qualify for the Asian Games. After that I will plan for the future,” Shivani told IANS.

Shivani thanked the sports management company ENGN and its head Deepika Das Pereira, and said that they have helped her a lot by paying for training.

“Shivani is a very talented girl. ENGN focuses exclusively on female athletes and helps them realise their potential and reach their goals. In its endeavour to encourage all women to make health and fitness a part of their life, it has also launched a product line of high quality performance wear at affordable prices. Part of the revenue is cycled back towards supporting the needs of their talent,” Pereira, head of talent and sports, ENGN, said.

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Chennaiyin FC sign Ghanaian footballer Kwame Karikari for upcoming ISL season

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 Indian Super League (ISL) side Chennaiyin FC have bolstered their attack by signing forward Kwame Karikari ahead of the upcoming season.

The Ghanaian footballer will be joining the club following an impressive outing in the Thai League for Nakhonratchasima Mazda. He scored 13 goals in 29 league matches for the Thai club last season.

Karikari was also the joint second-highest goal scorer for Mazda in the Thai FA cup with four strikes in six games.

Karikari brings in valuable experience to Chennaiyin’s attack, having played 261 games in his 11-year long professional career with 84 goals and 13 assists to his name.

The striker has plied his trade for 12 clubs in eight top-tier leagues across the world.

He also has two Europa League goals to his name, which came against CSKA Moscow and PSV Eindhoven in 2012.

Talking about the club’s third foreign signing this summer, Chennaiyin FC co-owner Vita Dani said, “I would like to welcome Kwame Karikari to the Chennaiyin family. I think he’s got the technical ability and the physicality to succeed in India. We have had many great forwards at this club and I believe Kwame should be able to match those standards.”

Karikari has spent most of his time in the Swedish league, featuring for AIK Solna, with whom he made his professional debut at 19 in 2011. He played 58 matches, including seven Europa League games, for them and scored 10 goals across competitions in five seasons.

Halmstads and Degerfors were the other Swedish clubs Karikari turned out for.

“I am very happy to join Chennaiyin FC. I cannot wait to get started with the new team and I am really looking forward to this new and exciting challenge,” said Karikari, who also represented Ghana at the U-20 Africa Cup.

It was in 2015 when Karikari made a permanent move out of Sweden and joined Turkish side, Balikesirspor. He played 40 matches for them in two seasons, registering 12 goals and five assists. Later he turned out for clubs in countries like Norway, Qatar, Georgia and Uzbekistan.

He was part of Dinamo Tabilisi’s title-winning campaign in the 2018-19 Georgian league.

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Nadal says he is optimistic about competing at Wimbledon

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Spanish tennis stalwart Rafael Nadal has raised hopes that he will compete at this year’s Wimbledon, saying his left-foot injury is showing signs of improvement, and that he will head to the United Kingdom soon.

“I’m happy. I haven’t limped for a week and the evolution of training is progressing,” said the winner of 22 Grand Slams here.

“From day to day the pain has been different and that’s progress. I have to wait a little. My intention is to try and play Wimbledon and this week has told me there is a chance,” added the 36-year-old, who clinched his 14th title at Roland Garros recently.

Nadal plans to travel to London on Monday to prepare for the third Grand Slam of the year.

“I’ve had two treatment sessions, as was planned. At the moment the progress, as I see it, is satisfactory,” Nadal was quoted as saying by atptour.com

Nadal had spoken about the foot troubles after winning the French Open, saying he had to periodically take injections to soothe the nerves of his injured foot.

Nadal has been nursing a foot injury for a long time, which flares up occasionally and has caused him to miss several tournaments in the last couple of years.

Speaking about the condition of his foot post the French Open title triumph, Nadal had said, “I was able to play during these two weeks with extreme conditions. I have been playing with injections on the nerves to sleep the foot, and that’s why I was able to play during these two weeks. Because I have no feelings on my foot, because my doctor was able to put anaesthetic injections on the nerves. That takes out the feeling on my foot. But at the same time, it’s a big risk in terms of less feelings, a little bit bigger risk of turning your ankle.”

Soon there was speculation the Nadal might not compete at Wimbledon, but he expressed cautious optimism on Friday eveing, saying, “I’m prudent because I know that things change. At the moment, I’ve been able to train over these five days. That’s progress and it allows me to return to Wimbledon after three years. I’m excited about it. It’s a question of taking it day by day, but giving myself a chance to compete.”

The Spaniard has not graced the lawns of Wimbledon since 2019, when he reached the semifinals losing to Roger Federer. “I haven’t played on grass for three years, you have to be patient with the progress. Every day I’ve improved and there is one week left of training in London before starting the tournament. I hope I can use it to get competitive.

“It’s true that playing well at Roland Garros gives you confidence, but grass is a very difficult surface. Any round is complicated. The start of the tournament will be vital for me because, if you manage to progress, later the opponents are more difficult, but then you have more confidence because you’ve found your rhythm on grass,” he added.

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IPL 2022: Umran Malik is a great find, can bowl even quicker with some technical improvements, believes Brett Lee

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Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee on Monday heaped huge praise on Umran Malik, saying that the youngster is a great find and can bowl even more quicker if he works on the few technical areas of his bowling in the future.

Many young Indian bowlers impressed the experts and fans with their sheer pace in the recently concluded IPL 2022 but Malik was the standout performer. The Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer had a breakout season as he picked 22 wickets in 14 matches and often clocked speeds in excess of 150 kmph. For his impressive performance in IPL 2022, Malik got the Emerging Player award.

“There have been many, who have been bowling some decent balls but I have been really impressed with Umran Mailk. I think he is a great find, a youngster hitting over 150 kph, so he has been very very impressive. And, I still believe he can go quicker, which is exciting not only for people like me but for many former cricketers who want to watch guys bowl fast, certainly for Indian cricket,” Lee told IANS at the sidelines of the Phoenix Business Advisory event in the national capital.

The Jammu and Kashmir pacer is still very young, raw and can improve a lot going further. The 45-year old Lee suggested a few key areas, where Malik can improve to become faster.

“There is something in his run-up that he can improve on, action, pulling down harder different parts of the wrist positions. But, the great thing is that one’s actions will never be perfect. My action was never perfect but I always tried to be the best version of me so up until the last ball I bowled before being retired, I was working on my action. So, one can keep improving every single day,” he said.

The Australian feels batters have taken their game to different levels in the last one decade or so and the bowlers are lagging behind. However, he is pleased to see guys hitting the 150 kmph mark in the IPL 2022.

“Over the last sort of fifteen years, I have noticed that batsmen are getting and hitting bigger shots, hitting bigger sixes more often and different kinds of shots have been developed and we have also seen pace being dropped and now we think that 140 kmph is fast. Now, what we have seen through this IPL, a few guys have hit the 150 kmph barrier, which is exciting and so I am up for it,” said Lee.

Asked about the advice for budding fast bowlers, the Australian said, “What makes a good fast bowler is a good sprinter. So, my advice to any young bowler, who wants to bowl on his bowling and become faster to become a good sprinter.”

Lee, who was recognised as one of the fastest bowlers in the world, also praised Hardik Pandya’s captaincy in the IPL, saying that the all-rounder led from the front. Skipper Hardik registered an impressive bowling figure of 3/17 with the ball and also played a crucial knock of 34 runs to guide Gujarat Titans to the IPL trophy in their debut season.

“I think he (Hardik) has been outstanding. His level of commitment to the team, I think with both bat and ball, has been brilliant and to see him take a couple of wickets last night to lead from the front was great,” the former Australian cricketer said.

“You know what you want from a great captain is leadership of course, respect, that someone that stands up and actually delivers, scores runs, takes wickets that’s what you want and Hardik has done. So, congratulations to him,” he added.

Lee, who is also the brand ambassador of Phoenix Business Advisory — a business visa immigration consultancy, also spoke about the company’s role in helping Indians increase their businesses in Australia.

“Phoenix Business Advisory is creating opportunities for high-net-worth individuals based here in India, to come out to Australia to further their business. I’ve been really lucky that every time I come to beautiful shows in India, I have been welcomed with open arms and we’re saying now, the opportunity to trade is open and a free trade agreement has been passed in Australia,” he said.

“There is a massive opportunity to invest and Phoenix just makes things so easy. It’s seamless, right from the time that you apply for that one visa to the end,” he concluded.

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