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Tuesday,19-January-2021

National

Lesser tournaments have hurt my chances of going to Olympics: Harmeet Desai

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Lack of tournaments due to Covid-19 has hurt the chances of Indian male table tennis players apart from Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran to make it to the Tokyo Olympics, according to national champion Harmeet Desai. Desai, 27, was in great form as he finished in the last four at the Oman Open just before the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have a strong team, so it will be very difficult for me to get ahead of the top two. Sharath and Sathiyan are really strong players,” said Desai while talking on Indian paddler Mudit Dani’s online live chat show ‘In The Sportlight’. “It would have been much better for me if I could have got a chance to play more international tournaments in this period because I didn’t have the pressure of defending any of the points, I only had the chance to gain points after my performance at the Oman Open. It’s sad that the chance is gone and I am in all likelihood missing the bus this time.”

India missed out a chance to secure an Olympics berth via the team event at the last world qualifiers. As per existing Olympic qualification norms, only two Indian male paddlers can qualify for the Tokyo Games in the singles category. Sharath and Sathiyan are placed 31 and 32 respectively while Desai is currently ranked 72 in the world. “Even though it will be difficult for me to qualify, I still hope to make it. And if not this time, I will work harder for 2024,” Desai, who was part of the team that won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, added.

National

Pro League perfect test for us ahead of Olympics, says PR Sreejesh

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India’s veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh feels the upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League matches will be a perfect test for the team ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“We are hopeful the FIH Hockey Pro League matches are held as per schedule this year, that way we get good matches against strong teams ahead of Tokyo Olympics in July. These matches will be a perfect test for us as players as well as a team and I am sure the final team selection for the Olympics will depend on how well we do in these matches,” said Sreejesh.

On January 18 last year, the Indian team had made a sensational debut at the FIH Hockey Pro League with a 5-2 win against the Netherlands. Though in the next game, the Dutch bounced back to hold India 3-3 in regulation time, Sreejesh’s heroics in the shootout ensured India began the coveted League with back-to-back wins. The final score was 3-1 in India’s favour.

“It was one of the most memorable matches. I feel all of 2019, our true potential was not tested and we longed to play top teams like Netherlands, Australia and Belgium. FIH Hockey Pro League gave us that opportunity and we wanted to make it count,” said Sreejesh.

India came up with impressive performances against the World Champions Belgium and Australia too, winning a match each and losing a game by a close margin.

“It was a great learning experience and each of us worked on bringing out our individual best and execute our roles to perfection. The FIH Hockey Pro League was the perfect stepping stone for the Olympics,” he added.

In the next leg of Pro League matches, India are scheduled to play against Argentina in April, Great Britain, Spain and Germany in May. The team will also compete against New Zealand at home in May.

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Shooters Bhavesh Shekhawat and Aakanksha win on final day of trials

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Rajasthan’s Bhavesh Shekhawat and Aakanksha Bansal of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) won the men’s and women’s 25 metres rapid fire pistol (RFP) T2 competitions as the National Shooting trials concluded at Dr Karni Singh Shooting range here on Monday.

Bhavesh shot 32 in the finals to leave Delhi’s Arpit Goel behind in second on a score of 27. Haryana’s Adarsh Singh came in third with 23.

Army marksman and T1 men’s RFP winner, Gurpreet Singh, won the qualifying round yet again with a score of 580. Bhavesh qualified sixth with 576.

In the women’s event, Aakanksha shot 548 to emerge the winner after the precision and rapid fire rounds. Uttar Pradesh’s Arunima Gaur was second with 544. Haryana’s Tejaswi was third with 542.

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Pune Khelo India centre to focus on shooting, athletics, and cycling

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The ninth Khelo India State Centre of Excellence (KISCE), opened at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex at Mhalunge-Balewadi here on Monday in the presence of four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist rifle shooter Anjali Bhagwat, will focus on three priority Olympic disciplines — shooting, athletics, and cycling.

The KISCE will get financial support for renovation to operationalise the 25 metres electronic target shooting range besides support in providing of road and track cycles. They will also be provided financial support for sports science backup, engagement of coaches, support staff, sports equipment and more.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) said in a statement that it would provide technical expertise and assistance.

The Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex has played a dominant role in Indian sports history. Some of the major events hosted here include the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games, the under-16 Asia Basketball Championship for women in 2009, the Khelo India Youth Games 2019, and more. The stadium was also the home venue for erstwhile I-League team, Pune FC, and Indian Super League side, FC Pune City.

KISCE will ensure that athletes, proficient in certain sports can be given world-class specialised training and these centres, become the best facilities in the country to train athletes in the priority sport for which they have been earmarked.

“We are happy to extend all kinds of support for the development of all the athletes and even in future we will continue doing so,” said Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju

Maharashtra’s Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Sunil Kedar, reaffirmed that the government was dedicated to strengthen the sports ecosystem.

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