News for 25 June 2012

All the news for Monday 25 June 2012


US Women wrap up series with draw against Argentina

The series concluded 1-1-2 for the U.S.

Kaitlin Mitchell


The next time the U.S. Women’s National Team laces up their game-day shoes, they will be on the blue and pink turf of London. Yesterday concluded the four-game series against world ranked No. 2 Argentina. Though the U.S. concentrated on this series against their Pan American rivals, their main focus is their journey and their course to the 2012 London Olympics.

The four-game series wrapped-up with a draw at the National Training Center in Virginia Beach, VA with both team’s earning two goals.

"I think the draw is great, it’s a tough pool,” U.S. Women’s Head Field Hockey Coach Lee Bodimeade says. “It’s a challenge that we welcomed and met."

The final game was broadcasted live by NBC Sports Network. Argentina’s No. 27 Maria Noel Barrionuevo found the backboard early in the match with a direct shot at the 28th minute mark. The red, white and blue quickly responded when U.S. Women’s National team No. 5 Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, NY) sent a rocket past Argentina’s keeper No. 31 Mutio. The scoreboard kept still for both teams until the second half where Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa) tallied a second goal for the U.S. Barrionuevo scored her second goal of the day with 15 minutes before the final whistle to keep the game locked in a tie.

"It’s the way our athletes respond,” Bodimeade says. “All the mental strength that the girls have gathered working with the Navy Seals… we didn’t even flinch. The Navy Seals have a motto, no complaining because we’re all going through it together. We saw that in this series against Argentina and I’m looking for that again in London.”

The series kicked-off June 18 at the University of Virginia and ended with a tie of 1-1. The tournament continued on June 20 at Old Dominion University and the U.S. walked off the field with a victory and a final score of 2-1. Both teams met again on Old Dominion’s turf but Argentina rewrote the ending. Capitalizing on the back-to-back days of matches, Argentina scored three goals and shutout U.S. for the entire game. With the final match before London under their belt, the U.S. Women's National Team keeps their eye on the finish line of their journey.

“The key thing heading into the Olympics now is to stay on course and be confident in the direction that we’re heading,” Bodimeade says.

Kaitlin Mitchell is a freelance writer for USA Field Hockey

USFHA media release



All the pressure but no goals for under 21 Scots

WALES  1  SCOTLAND  0  -  UNDER 21 CELTIC CUP (WOMEN)


Scotland dictated the play, but it`s goals that count, and a single strike from Phoebe Richards was sufficient to give Wales a 1-0 victory in the final match of the under 21 Celtic Cup in Wrexham.

A frustrated Sharon Bissett, Scotland`s manager, said: "Although we didn`t play particularly well, we were in the Welsh circle 25 times in all, but failed to upgrade this pressure into either penalty corners or shots at goal."

Wales took the lead midway through the first half, but the Scots had a chance to level the score at a penalty corner three minutes later, but Nikki Mollison`s shot was blocked by the running out defender and the opportunity vanished.   Just on the interval Wales had three successive penalty corners, but Scots keeper Siobhan was equal to the task.

The Scots totally dominated the second half, they were encamped in the Welsh half for almost the entire period, but actually created very few clear-cut chances.   Good build-up play from Lucy Lanigan created an opening but her cross was just missed by Louise Campbell.   At a penalty corner the ball was slipped to Ali Howie but her attempt was blocked by a defender.

Despite a frantic flow of attacking moves by the Scots in the final minutes in search of the elusive equaliser, the Welsh defence held out to take the three points, leaving Scotland at the bottom of the pool.

Scottish Hockey Union media release



German Power Too Much For U18 Girls

Ireland's U18 girls played Germany in their fourth match in five days. Ireland who came out the wrong end on each occassion however still made strides during the series despite loosing out 6-1 early this morning.

The series against such good opposition will no doubt stand to our future senior internationals.

Match Results
Wednesday 20th June Ireland 1-6 Germany
Thursday 21st June Ireland 1-4 Germany
Saturday 23rd June Ireland 0-3 Germany
Sunday 24th June Ireland 1-6 Germany

Irish Hockey Association media release



Dar Hockey Academy sweep aside Germany’s National Junior Champions

Ijaz Chaudhry


It was a tie anticipated by the Dar Hockey Academy even before leaving Pakistan.

HTC Uhelnhorst Mulheim are the German youth champions and presently have the most players in the national youth squads.

Dar HA players appeared well motivated for the big test. They even had German support as quite a few members of the HC Essen (the club which has made all the lodging arrangements for the Dar HA contingent) traveled to Mulheim and watched the match waving the Pakistani flags.

The action on the field began with a Mulheim attack ending in a weak shot at the goal. But Dar HA were not over awed by the occasion and pressurised the rival defence with their trademark intricate moves mainly via the right flank.

After sustaining the visitors’ onslaught for around six minutes, the HTC Mulheim clawed back in the match and managed to enter the Pakistani half without threatening, and an even game ensued for a while.

In the 11th minute, Salman, who has been in inspirational form throughout this European tour, forced his way into the circle and tested the hosts’ net minder who easily parried the poor attempt. 

Next, a Mulheim striker shot wide at the opposing goal.

Dar HA regained complete ascendancy and repeatedly made their way into the opponents’ striking zone. Eventually, the Lahore based academy went ahead in the 18th minute. A Rizwan minus from the left side was stroked into the goal by Aamir Ali from the middle of the circle.

That spurred the Germans into action and the ball largely remained confined to the Dar HA territory for at least five minutes. Two fine opportunities came the HC Mulhiem way: goal keeper thwarted an effort resulting from a coordinated passing attack and then the penalty corner flick went out.

The pattern shifted to an up and down game for the last seven minutes before the first hooter. Both the teams entered each other’s circle and a striker of the German club tested the rival net minder Waqas Butt well but without the desired result.

Dar HA led 1-0 at the conclusion of the first half which witnessed a well-contested tussle though the Pakistani outfit was visibly better.

If Dar HA held upper hand in the first 35 minutes, they simply overwhelmed the Mulheim side in the second half. First 10 minutes of the second half saw the forays coming in a cascade- as many as nine attempts were made on the goal. Goal keeper Jonas was in outstanding form. However, the Lahore based academy continued relentlessly and the goal which had been coming ever since the second half started eventually arrived.

Their second penalty corner in the 16th minute saw Asad beat Jonas with a well-placed fast push.

Things slowed down a bit and the hosts made a rare though futile entry into the Dar HA circle. Their second PC came in the 23rd minute but the Dar HA defence, also having a great day, correctly read anticipated the indirect drill. The following turn over finished in the academy’s third goal via two long passes: defender Abid Bhatti’s  ball reached Bilal Mahmood whose first time pass found Awais unmarked on the top of striking zone and he calmly beat the onrushing goalie.

The next Dar HA goal was a replica of the previous one. A swift counter attack followed another Mulheim PC and again Awais was at the right place to put his side 4-0 ahead.

The inexhaustible appetite for goals continued. In the 29th minute, Salman weaved through the defence and slipped the ball to Awais who netted the fifth goal and completed his own hat trick as well. 

Mulheim’s offense mainly focused on manufacturing penalty corners. The last of the fourth PCs earned eventually yielded their only score of the evening in the 32nd minute. Waqas Butt, the Dar HA net minder, had acrobatically saved the first attempt but Phil Neuheuser availed the rebound.

Hence Dar HA outplayed the highly fancied German national youth champions with a captivating skilful display of hockey.

Tanvir Dar HA, Pakistan: 5 (Awais 3, Aamir Ali, Asad)
HTC Uhelnhorst Mulheim, Germany: 1 (Phil Neuheuser)

Ijaz Chaudhry writes on hockey and other sports.For more about him and his work, visit: http://www.sportscorrespondent.info/




Dar HA beat Mulheim 5-1

LAHORE – Dar Hockey Academy (HA) defeated Mulheim, Germany’s national junior champions, 5-1 in Germany.

Dar Academy’s lads played brilliantly and sweep aside Germany’s national junior champions with their superb performance. Awais was the player of the day as he smashed three impressive goals while Aamir Ali and Asad managed one goal to steer their team to consecutive fifth victory.

The Nation



SA hockey men on tour, on track: Clark confident boxes being ticked in time

JONATHAN COOK


“By the time we get to London, our prep would have been fairly good given the position we faced seven months ago just after Champions Challenge in Randburg.”

These were the words of South Africa men’s hockey team head coach Gregg Clark when asked Sunday whether he was feeling more confident that the London 2012 deadline boxes, with respect to preparation, were being ticked in time, heading into the greatest show on Earth.

Clark was speaking ahead of the SA team flying to Ireland Monday as they begin a three-week, eight-match tour that also includes three Test matches in Spain.

Clark acknowledges that a lack of funds for world number 12 South Africa has resulted in a fractured four-year cycle in terms of game time and camp time compared to the rest of the world’s top 20 sides, and particularly the 11 other teams that qualified for London ahead of the South Africans, who will be the lowest-ranked side at the four-year show piece, the pinnacle of the sport.

“Ours is a very different environment from other teams that will be in London, but given our circumstances we'll have ticked as many boxes as is possible in terms of preparation and I believe there will be enough done for us to challenge strongly,” said Clark, the former world-class player who at 250 Test caps holds the SA men’s record.

Clark, who went to the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Olympics as a player, missing out on Sydney 2000 when the SA men, who had qualified, were prevented from going by the then National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA), will be going to his second Olympics as head coach, having being in charge of the men in green and gold at Beijing 2008.

On the impending tour, the 2012 set of SA players will be playing against world number 16 Ireland, world number 27 Wales and world 22 Scotland in the Celtic Cup in Northern Ireland from June 28 to July 1; then Ireland and world number 11 Belgium in Dublin on July 3 and 4; and finally world number 10 India (twice) and the world’s fifth-ranked Spain in Santander, Spain from July 8 to 11.

Olympic reserves Clint Panther and Jacques le Roux will be on tour with South Africa’s Olympic 16, while world-class SA umpire John Wright, for whom London 2012 will be his fourth Olympic Games, will be officiating at the matches.

SA Hockey Association CEO Marissa Langeni said the side will travel back from Spain and report to the Team SA holding camp on July 17. She added that the men’s programme leading into London 2012 was being funded by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

SA TEAM
Austin Smith (capt), Andrew Cronje, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Ian Haley, Jacques le Roux (all Western Province); Tim Drummond, Marvin Harper, Lloyd Madsen, Taine Paton, Wade Paton (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Lance Louw, Thornton McDade, Rassie Pieterse, Clint Panther (all Southern Gauteng); Justin Reid-Ross, Rhett Halkett, Jonty Robinson (all Northern Blues); Julian Hykes(North West).

SA TOUR FIXTURES
(all SA time).
Celtic Cup (Lisburn, Northern Ireland): vs Ireland (7 pm June 28); vs Wales (1 pm June 30); vs Scotland (11 am July 1).
Dublin, Ireland: vs Belgium (6.15 pm July 3); vs Ireland (6.15 pm July 4).
Santander, Spain (times tbc): vs India (July 8); vs Spain (July 9); vs India (July 11).

SA Hockey Association media release



Tour to Ireland/Spain - SA hockey men look to get into the groove again

JONATHAN COOK


South Africa men’s hockey team head coach Gregg Clark is looking for specific outcomes as the team embarks on an 18-day tour to Ireland and Spain Monday ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games, which is just five weeks away.

“The emphasis of the tour is to get back to playing at the top level again, having had a seven- week break since the Olympic qualifier in Japan,” Clark said Saturday. “We want to come away from the tour feeling confident with our general level of play, whilst having put a great deal of detail on a few specific aspects we will identify.”

SA Hockey Association CEO Marissa Langeni said Friday that the programme leading up to the Olympics has been funded by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). Langeni said one of the world’s top umpires, Pretoria-based John Wright, will be travelling with the team as part of his London 2012 preparations.

The team have undergone a gruelling physical training programme in the last month, which started on May 26 at a camp run by ex-Springbok conditioning coach Dr Derick Coetzee at University of the Free State.

Captain Austin Smith and the world’s 12th-ranked team will be playing against world number 16 Ireland, world number 27 Wales and world 22 Scotland in the Celtic Cup in Northern Ireland from June 28 to July 1; then Ireland and world number 11 Belgium in Dublin on July 3 and 4; and finally world number 10 India (twice) and the world’s fifth-ranked Spain in Santander, Spain from July 8 to 11.

Apart from the Olympic 16, the Olympic reserves, midfielder/defender Clint Panther and goalkeeper Jacques le Roux, make up the 18-man tour squad.

SA TEAM
Austin Smith (capt), Andrew Cronje, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Ian Haley, Jacques le Roux (all Western Province); Tim Drummond, Marvin Harper, Lloyd Madsen, Taine Paton, Wade Paton (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Lance Louw, Thornton McDade, Rassie Pieterse, Clint Panther (all Southern Gauteng); Justin Reid-Ross, Rhett Halkett, Jonty Robinson (all Northern Blues); Julian Hykes(North West).

SA TOUR FIXTURES
(SA time).
Celtic Cup (Lisburn, Northern Ireland): vs Ireland (7 pm June 28); vs Wales (1 pm June 30); vs Scotland (11 am July 1).
Dublin, Ireland: vs Belgium (6.15 pm July 3); vs Ireland (6.15 pm July 4).
Santander, Spain (times tbc): vs India (July 8); vs Spain (July 9); vs India (July 11).

SA Hockey Association media release



Champs Challenge 2012: SA hockey women's chance to erase painful memory

JONATHAN COOK


Ireland will host the Champions Challenge 1 women’s hockey tournament for the second year running, presenting South Africa with the opportunity to erase the memory of their fifth-place finish in the June 2011 event.

The event takes place from September 29 to October 7 at the same venue as last year, the National Hockey Stadium, which is situated at the impressive University College Dublin campus.

SA fell victim to an experimental International Hockey Federation (FIH) format at the 2011 event that gave all four teams in each pool in the eight-team tournament the opportunity to play in quarter-finals. SA topped Pool A but lost on golden goal to Pool B basement dwellers Spain after dominating the quarter-final in overwhelming fashion.

The unpopular experimental format has now been scrapped and the 2012 tournament reverts to the original formula that sees two pools of four with the top two in each pool going straight into the semi-finals.

Champions Challenge 1 offers valuable world ranking points and promotion for the winners into the world top six Champions Trophy.

Champs Challenge 2012 was originally headed for Italy but the Ireland Hockey Association reports that due to logistics the FIH put it out to tender and Ireland’s bid secured the high profile world event.

Four London 2012 Olympic Games teams will be taking part; current world number seven Australia’s Hockeyroos, world number 10 the USA, world number 12 South Africa and world number 16 Belgium.

The other teams are world 11 Spain, world 13 India, world 14 Ireland, and world 18 Scotland, who could possibly have their four Great Britain Olympic Games players back in the team.

SA Hockey Association media release



Remembering and honouring the golden greats who made India proud

Principal Correspondent



Memorable Moments: Indian hockey team ( last row on back) pose with the living Legends. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

“Seeing Leslie Claudius, I feel as if I have become younger by 10 years,” said V. Baskaran, captain of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal winning Indian hockey team.

Baskaran put into perspective the interaction of some legendary Olympic gold winners with the London Olympics-bound Indian team members at a function organised by Hockey India (HI), here on Sunday.

“It is good for the young players who have never seen Claudius, Jaswant Rajput or Keshav Dutt. It is a historic moment in Indian sport,” said Baskaran.

For 85-year-old Claudius, who shares the record of winning maximum number of Olympic medals (three golds and a silver) in field hockey with the late Udham Singh, it was whiff of fresh air to be remembered and recognised after more than half-a-century.

The standing ovation he received while being felicitated by Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley was a token of appreciation of his great contribution to the sport.

“I am thrilled. I am on the top of the world. I am grateful for this,” Claudius said with a youthful exuberance defying his old and frail frame.

Remembering his maiden Olympic gold in the 1948 London Games, Claudius said, “It was an important Olympics. It was being held after 12 years (following the World War II), the spotlight was on this.

“The only time we were tested was against the Netherlands in the semifinal, which we won 2-1. The final against England was easy and we won 4-1.”

Claudius’ teammates in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics sides, Jaswant Rajput and Keshav Dutt, were also touched by HI’s gesture.

“Things have changed a lot. In our times, there used to be a lot of stick work.

“Now it has become a lot more physical,” Rajput gave a comparative analysis. “The competition has become tougher.”

“Olympics is not easy. One has to play with a lot of responsibility and needs to hold one’s nerve,” said Dutt.

M.M. Somaya, one of the 14 members of the Moscow Olympics squad was moved by the “care and warmth” shown by HI.

“I had not met many of my friends for nearly two decades. It’s a good way of linking up.”

Left-winger Zafar Iqbal and left-in Mohammad Shahid, who foxed the oppositions with their combination during the1980s, exchanged warm hugs while reminiscing their days of glory.

“Shahid was one of the greatest players India has ever produced. I was lucky to play with him. From running with great speed, Shahid used to stop like an engine getting seized and dodge the rival defenders.

“The European teams were clueless about him. It was (Ric) Charlesworth who worked hard to stop Shahid,” said Zafar.

Shahid said a lot of hard work went into achieving excellence. “Even while going to sleep, we used to think about how to improve our game. You need wholehearted dedication to reach the heights.”

HI presented Rs.200,000 to each of the 34 legendary players. Twenty six of them were present on the occasion, while four could not make it due to health reasons. Four others, who are settled abroad, were also absent.

On behalf of these illustrious players, former centre forward Harbinder Singh said, “It is a great pleasure and proud privilege. It is a milestone to bring former and present players together.

“This will motivate the present players to do well in the Olympics.”

On the occasion, two books, `Profiles of Indian Hockey Olympians' by K. Arumugam and a coffee table book on the Olympic qualifier held in India, were released.

List of Olympic gold medal winners: Balbir Singh Sr. (1948, 1952, 1956), Keshav Dutt (1948, 1952), Leslie Claudius (1948, 1952, 1956), G. Nandy Singh (1948, 1952), Jaswant Rajput (1948, 1952), Raghbir Lal (1952, 1956), R.S. Bhola (1956), Hardayal Singh (1956), Haripal Kaushik (1956, 1964), A.S. Bakshi (1956), Gurdev Singh (1956), Charanjit Singh (1964), Gurbux Singh (1964), Harbinder Singh (1964), Dharam Singh (1964), Balbir Singh (1964), Ali Sayeed (1964), Darshan Singh (1964), V. Baskaran (1980), Bir Bahadur Chettri (1980), Allan Schofield (1980), Sylvanus Dung Dung (1980), Rajinder Singh (1980), Davinder Singh (1980), Gurmail Singh (1980), Ravinder Pal Singh (1980), M.M. Somaya (1980), Maharaj Krishan Kaushik (1980), Charanjit Kumar (1980), Mervyn Fernandis (1980), Amarjit Singh Rana (1980), Mohammad Shahid (1980), Zafar Iqbal (1980) and Surinder Singh Sodhi (1980).

The Hindu



Vintage Olympians re-live golden era of Indian hockey

MS Unnikrishnan



Sports Minister Lalit Maken and other officials pose with the great hockey Olympians from the past, all of them medal winners at the Olympics, at a felicitiation ceremony in New Delhi. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

New Delhi: Time has taken its toll on their bodies but their spirit is still robust and soaring. And they all collectively prayed that Indian hockey should once again climb on top of the Olympic pyramid to bring back the memory of the halcyon days when the country ruled the game, as no other nation has done before, or after.

Thirty-four Olympians -- some of them of absolute vintage, who were part of the golden era of Indian hockey -- assembled on one platform, perhaps for the first time, as Hockey India felicitated them to coincide with the Indian team’s departure for their London Olympics odyssey. Each of them was presented mementoes and cash reward of Rs 2 lakh, and their sagacious advice to the Olympics-bound hockey team was taken as a the gospel truth.

Fourteen of them belonged to India’s last Olympics gold-medal winning team - 1980 Moscow, led by V. Bhaskaran. And the presence of the golden oldies like Gurbux Singh, Leslie Claudius, Col. Haripal Kaushik, R.S. Bhola, Hardayal Singh, Balbir Singh and Keshav Dutt created unbridled enthusiasm among the large gathering. Claudius got a standing ovation as he stepped forward to receive his mementoes and cheque, as he is the only player who was part of three Olympics gold-winning teams-London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956) — and one silver-winning squad (Rome, 1960).

Some of them were so frail that they could not even hold the mementoes in their hands and dropped them. Some could not even climb on to the platform and as a gracious gesture, Sports Minister Ajay Maken and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley came down to give away the presents to Dutt and Claudius. The ovation that welcomed Claudius was so spontaneous and thunderous that Indian chief coach Michael Nobbs and captain Bharat Chetri also came down to greet the great man.

Hockey India could not have arranged a more motivating function to say “Good Luck India” to the hockey team as the words and presence of the Olympic greats were very moving and absolutely motivational. They all showered praise on Hockey India secretary-general Narinder Batra for mounting such a memorable function, which will be cherished for long.

Nobbs said that after watching the galaxy of hockey stars, he realised that hockey was -- and perhaps still is -- a religion in India, and he would strive his best to play a part in its revival. But he admitted that London would be a tough call, and his first priority would be to ensure that the team gained a place among the top four or six teams. He said for the growth of the team, it is essential to play against top-grade teams like Germany, Australia, Spain, Holland, etc. But he was satisfied that the team is on the right path, and Indian hockey was set for resurgence. “The players are all committed and responsible, and we will play serious hockey,” he emphasised.

Captain Bharat Chetri promised that “we will not let down the country” and play their best hockey to make a podium finish. Vice-captain Sardar Singh said the team would take each match as it comes without looking too far ahead.

The players, in a magnanimous gesture, collected Rs 1 lakh from their own pockets to be presented to the disabled soldiers’ fund. They also presented autographed T-shirts and hockey sticks to Jaitley, Maken and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra. Malhotra pointed out that the appointment of hockey stalwart Ajit Pal Singh as the chef-de-mission for London was IOA’s way of giving sportspersons the respect they deserve.

Harbinder Singh, speaking on behalf of all the Olympic gold medallists, said this was just the beginning, and in the coming years, others who have made significant contribution to Indian hockey would be honoured.

“HI’s fine gesture is a milestone in the history of Indian hockey, and this tradition shall be continued,” assured Harbinder. Maken said in his 17 months as the Sports Minister, “this was the most memorable and cherished function I have attended”.

The Tribune



Indian hockey's glorious past meets ambitious present

By Amlan Chakraborty


NEW DELHI: When 76-year-old Gurbux Singh opened the small, black case with trembling fingers and gently fished out the gold medal he won almost half a century ago, India hockey captain Bharat Chetri and his London-bound team mates could not take their eyes off him.

In all probability, this was the nearest they will ever get to an Olympic gold.

Dangling right before those 16 pair of eyes at a Delhi hotel on Sunday was not just a round piece of yellow metal but a symbol of what India, once a hockey super power, has been chasing over the last three exasperating decades.

"It's made mainly of silver and coated with gold, but an Olympic gold medal is not about how much it's worth. It's about sentiment," Singh told Reuters as he displayed the medal later.

"We were requested to bring our Olympic gold medals to show the boys and motivate them - and they looked motivated," he said, closing the case and putting it safely back into his jacket pocket.

Hockey India (HI) could not have come up with a better way to motivate the 16-member Indian men's team leaving for London than bringing them together with 30-odd former Olympians who were part of the country's golden hockey era.

India won the first of six successive Olympic gold medals in 1928 and added another in 1964. Their last came in 1980, by which time Indian hockey was on the decline.

Their freefall from the summit of hockey reached its nadir in 2008 when India, considered hockey's spiritual home, failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

But India will be back at the Games in London, and hockey greats, many now forgotten in a cricket-obsessed country, defied old age to turn up at the send-off ceremony to inspire Chetri and his team mates.

'THOSE WERE THE DAYS'

Hardayal Singh, who won gold in 1956, needs a walking stick for every step and had to be helped on stage. A sheepish HI secretary Narinder Batra confessed they did not really know how old he was as the federation did not have his date of birth in their records.

A.S. Bakshi, Singh's 87-year-old team mate from the Melbourne squad, found the plaque he was presented with too heavy and dropped it. The same hands that wielded a hockey stick and joystick, he later became a commercial pilot, are now unable to bear the weight of a memento.

Jaswant Singh Rajput dropped his memento too, prompting sports minister Ajay Maken to come down from the stage and hand over the plaques while the ageing greats sat in comfort.

The biggest cheer was reserved for Leslie Claudius, whose three gold medals and a silver from four Olympic appearances between 1948 and 1956 placed him in a league of his own.

"Those were the days. On grass, you could slip the stick under the ball which helped our dribbling style. Astroturf has killed that," he lamented.

At 85, Claudius has hearing problems and repeats the question to make sure he heard it right.

"India's chance in London? Honestly I have not seen much of these boys but winning a medal looks difficult. Difficult though not impossible."

Chetri said he and his team mates would do whatever it takes to make that possible.

"I placed one of the gold medals on my palm just to get the feeling. It's indescribable," the goalkeeper said.

"These are the legends we grew up reading about. Meeting them like this is very, very special. It's one of the most memorable days of my life and I promise we won't let them down."

Reuters



HI felicitates golden greats

OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT


New Delhi: Leslie Claudius, 85, does not get to watch too many competitive hockey matches these days but he is well aware of the huge changes that the game has undergone in the last few years.

The legendary right half, whose name figures in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning three Olympic gold medals and a silver, was in the capital on Sunday with four other hockey gold medallists from Bengal to attend the Hockey India (HI) felicitation ceremony.

The others are Keshav Dutt, Jaswant Rajput, Gurbux Singh and Bir Bahadur Chhetri. A total of 34 former gold medallists, described as “golden greats”, were honoured by HI though only 26 could attend the function.

“I conveyed my best wishes to Indian coach Michael Nobbs and the boys for the Olympics but I know how difficult their job would be in London,” said Claudius. “The game has changed. Now the game is much quicker and players are big and strong. In our time, the players were shorter and we mostly depended on skills. There are at least half a dozen teams, who are capable of winning the gold this time,” he observed.

Incidentally, Claudius also played his inaugural Olympics in London in 1948, the first in the post-war period. “It was an easy tournament for us. The toughest match was against the Netherlands in the semi-final, which we won 2-1. In the final, we overwhelmed Great Britain 4-0.”

Both Claudius and Gurbux described HI’s plan of honouring the former gold medal winners a “heart warming gesture”. “We are happy they have remembered us. It matters more than the money they gave us,” said Gurbux. HI gave all the former players Rs. two lakh each.

Nobbs said he was happy to see so many former gold medal winners were there to see his team off to Europe for Olympic preparatory matches. “I am sure it will boost the morale of the boys,” he hoped.

The Australian said that his team was also capable of bringing back the glory days of Indian hockey but for that the boys would have to eliminate the mistakes they commit on the pitch. “The difference between a top side and ordinary side is that a top team doesn’t make stupid mistakes,” he said.

The Telegraph, India



Hockey India felicitates 'Golden Greats' of Indian hockey

NEW DELHI: In a first such initiative, Hockey India (HI) on Sunday felicitated 34 yesteryear stars of the game with a one-time benefit of Rs two lakh each for winning gold medals in the previous Olympic Games.

The grand felicitation-cum-Olympic team send-off ceremony was be held at a city hotel, where HI provided a common platform for "Golden Greats" of Indian hockey to share their experiences with the present players.

Out of the 34 living Olympians to have received the one-time monetary benefit from the HI coffers, 26 were present on the occasion.

The notable Olympic gold medal winners who were present on the occasion were Leslie Claudius (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne), Keshav Dutt (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki), Jaswant Rajput (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki), Raghbir Lal (1948 London, 1956 London) and Harpal Kaushik (1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo and silver in 1960 Rome) among others.

SM Ali Syed, Charanjit Singh, Nandy Singh and Balbir Singh Senior gave the function a miss due to health reasons while AS Rana, Allan Sheofield, Darshan Singh and Gurdev Singh were out of the country.

During the function, which was also attended by BJP leader Arun Jaitley, sports minister Ajay Maken and Indian Olympic Association acting president VK Malhotra among others, HI secretary general Narinder Batra said in future national federation will also honour the Asiad and World Cup winning teams.

Even though it came late, all the former players seemed overwhelmed by the honour bestowed on them for their achievements.

Member of the 1980 Moscow gold medal-winning team, MM Somaya lauded HI for the initiative.

"It was wonderful to have received the honour after so many years. By this function, HI provided us a platform to meet old friends and former team-mates," he said.

Somaya's Moscow Olympics team-mate Zafar Iqbal expressed similar views.

"We were not that keen about the monetary reward but the honour which was bestowed on us mattered a lot," he said.

Asked the former Olympians about India's chances in the upcoming Olympics, they sounded realistic.

"Our first target should be the semifinals as we didn't qualify for semifinals in Olympics since the last 32 years. I feel this team is capable enough to do that," said Gurbux Singh, a gold medallist in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

1980 Moscow Olymics gold-medallist winning team captain V Baskaran added: "I feel we should be happy if we can finish among the top 6 teams."

Complete list of players to be felicitated:

V Baskaran (Gold-1980 Moscow), Rajinder Singh (Gold-1980 Moscow), BB Chetri (Gold-1980 Moscow), Sylvanus Dung Dung (Gold-1980 Moscow), Davinder Singh Garcha (Gold-1980 Moscow), Gurmail Singh (Gold-1980 Moscow), Ravinder Pal (Gold-1980 Moscow), M M Somaya (Gold-1980 Moscow), M K Kaushik (Gold-1980 Moscow), Charanjit Kumar (Gold-1980 Moscow), Surinder Singh Sodhi (Gold-1980 Moscow), Mervyn Fernandes (Gold-1980 Moscow), Zafar Iqbal (Gold-1980 Moscow), Mohd Shahid (Gold-1980 Moscow), Balbir Singh (Gold-1964 Tokyo; Bronze-1968 Mexico), Dharam Singh Mann ((Gold-1964 Tokyo; Bronze-1968 Mexico), Harbinder Singh (Gold-1964 Tokyo; Bronze-1968 Mexico; 1972 Munich), Gurbux Singh (Gold-1964 Tokyo; Bronze-1968 Mexico), A S Bakshi (Gold-1956 Melbourne), Harpal Kaushik (Gold-1956 Melbourne; 1964 Tokyo; Silver-1960 Rome), Hardayal Singh (Gold-1956 Melbourne), R S Bhola (Gold-1956 Melbourne; Silver- 1960 Rome), Raghbir Lal (Gold-1952 Helsinki; 1956 Melbourne), Jaswant Rajout (Gold-1948 London; 1952 Helsinki), Keshav Dutt (Gold-1948 London; 1952 Helsinki); Leslie Claudius (Gold-1948 London; 1952 Helsinki; 1956 Melbourne), S M Ali Syed (Gold-1964 Tokyo), Charanjit Singh (Gold-1964 Tokyo; Silver-1960 Rome), G Nandy Singh (Gold-1948 London; 1952 Helsinki), Balbir Singh Senior ((Gold-1948 London; 1952 Helsinki; 1956 Melbourne), A S Rana (Gold-1980 Moscow), Allan Sheofield (Gold-1980 Moscow), Darshan Singh (Gold-1964 Tokyo), Gurdev Singh (Gold-1980 Moscow).

The Times of India



Yesteryear greats pin hopes on current crop

Harpreet Kaur Lamba


History is not always the best of inputs to fall back on, but that is exactly where the London-bound Indian hockey team are looking to find inspiration from.

Sunday was a rare day for Indian hockey when the heroes from the past - in a sport that was India’s pride at the Olympics and the eight golds that the countrymen still boast of - met the current bearers of the nation’s dreams.

If among the present were those who have three Olympic golds in their trophy cupboards, there were those too who had spent those unfortunate 70 minutes on the field at the 2008 Chile Olympic qualifiers -- a day that had altered the course of the game in the country.

As the 34 heroes of the past - each with a gold medal or more against their name - took centrestage at a glittering function in New Delhi, the current lot could not help but watch in admiration. The gold medals that gleamed around their necks had still not lost their sheen, and were enough to fuel the desire of Bharat Chetri & Co.

The warmest applause was reserved for the 85-year-old Leslie Claudius, the only living Olympian with three gold medals besides Balbir Singh Senior.

"As someone who represents this country, you play hockey in a lot of tournaments and in a lot of countries," said Claudius. "But where you play is of utmost importance.

"In 1948 when I walked into the Olympic arena and saw the Indian flag right up there, I forgot everything else. It seemed everything else till then was an aberration, and this was the reality - my first Olympics.

"We beat Holland in the semi-finals and hosts England in the final. How did it feel to be an Olympic champion? It has been more than five decades and I still swell with pride and shed tears when I see those medals," Claudius said.

Much like Claudius, 1980 gold medallist Mohammed Shahid did not hold back when talking about the pride associated with an Olympic medal.

"We may have gone from champions to outsiders at the Games, but an Indian hockey team in the Olympics is still the most sought after.

"It is tough, it requires discipline and consistency on a day-to-day basis. Aag mein tapna padta hai (One has to go through the hardships) to become an Olympian," Shahid said.

For the current lot, all was almost lost on that fateful day in 2008 when India lost to Great Britain in Chile, but year 2012 has brought new hope.

"When Gurbux Singh ji walked on the stage with his medal in his hands, I wondered if I would be able to do the same for my future generation," said India drag-flicker Sandeep Singh.

"I went numb and my thoughts took me to the London arena and a desire to emulate the feats of these greats. India’s rich history in hockey is often spoken about, and today was an insight into what has gone behind it.

"We are lucky to be going to London with all these blessings. It is very inspiring."

Midfielder Ignace Tirkey added "it hurt not to have a medal".

"A medal has become a dream for us and that says a lot about the sport.

"Today was an emotional day for all of us, and I hope each one of us will take something out of it. We have to take the legacy ahead," Ignace.

The Asian Age



Indian hockey team given grand farewell ahead of London Olympics

The Indian hockey team on Sunday received a grand farewell from former champions before departing for the 2012 London Olympics.

In an event organised by Hockey India, to honour 34 past champions, the current crop of players were motivated and were wished well before leaving for London.

Amongst the dignitaries attending this function was Indian Sports Minister, Ajay Maken, who wished luck to the players, and said the team had been displaying consistent performance for the past year and hoped for a podium finish

“I wish the Indian team all the best and we are very hopeful the way they have played in the past one year or so, I think the team is coming up, hockey is at it's revival and I feel that hockey players, the way they are playing, they are going to do really well in the London Olympics,” Maken said

The Indian team, coached by Australian Michael Nobbs qualified for the quadrennial games after winning a qualifying tournament in New Delhi

The former Hockey players who were felicitated in the event included Leslie Claudius, Balbir Singh Sr, Gurbux Singh, V Baskaran, MK Kaushik, MM Sommaiya, Mohammad Shahid and Zafar Iqbal, and they were given a cash award of rupees 2,00,000 each.

DNA



We take this seriously: Nobbs

Principal Correspondent


Michael Nobbs, the chief coach of the Indian hockey team, on Sunday asked the players to understand the responsibility of representing the country in the Olympics.

Speaking at the felicitation of 34 Olympic gold winners, Nobbs hoped that the team would not be complacent during the London Games. “This team is representing India and it is a great responsibility. We take this seriously,” he said at the function which also served as the send-off ceremony of the Indian side to the Olympics.

Underscoring the importance of playing against top teams like Australia, Germany and Holland, Nobbs said such sides did not give many chances to the opposition and Indian players should curb their habit of committing silly mistakes.

“To be among the top teams in the world we need to play more against those sides. But unfortunately, we didn't play enough against top teams.

“The difference between a top side and an ordinary side is that a top team doesn't make stupid passes,” he said.

Nobbs said the players had benefitted from three-week simulated high-altitude training in Pune under the watchful eyes of Dr. B.K. Nayak. “If every player gives his 70 to 80 per cent, we can reach the semifinals. We have top level fitness and (trainer) David John has done that…. A medal in London will mean a lot for Indian hockey as it helps in reigniting interests for the game among youngsters,” said captain and goal-keeper Bharat Chetri.

Vice-captain Sardar Singh said the side was full of confidence and would give its best. The skilful midfielder said he had been working on different strategies as he was aware that he would be heavily marked by the rival players.

The team will leave for a tour of France and Spain on Tuesday. It will play a few Test matches and a three-nation invitational tournament before reaching the London Games Village on July 19.

The Hindu

 



Olympics memories: 'Had to qualify to spend time with future wife in LA'

By Jayadev Calamur


The 1984 Games at Los Angeles were full of mixed emotions. For me, personally it was triumph because I managed to ask the girl, who eventually became my wife, to be my girlfriend. She had already qualified for the Olympics in the track and field events and I needed to qualify to spend time with her.

I trained really hard to be selected for the Games. I was lucky to be selected in the hockey squad and to be going to Los Angeles. I spent time with the girl that I was in love with and made full use of the time spent with her. Eventually, she fell for my charm and agreed to date me. The rest, as you see, is history.

Professionally, however, it was a bit of a tragedy. For the first time, we didn’t qualify to the final four at the event. The loss to West Germany, many feel, changed the face of hockey in India. Since then, we have struggled and the nadir for the hockey squad was when we didn’t qualify for the Beijing Olympics. Yet, for me, it was personally satisfying and I am glad that I trained hard to qualify.

–Joaquim Carvalho is currently an active committee member of the Mumbai Hockey Association. He lives in Bandra, Mumbai. He spoke to Jayadev Calamur

DNA



Australian sport tackles binge drinking


Australian Minister for Sport, Kate Lundy, Hockey Australia CEO, Mark Anderson and Hockeyroo Stacia Joseph at the campaign launch.

Hockey Australia joined with eleven Australia’s national sporting organisations to provide an alternative to alcohol sponsorship in sport.

The new campaign launched on the weekend, is a partnership between the Australian Government and national sporting organisations to address binge drinking and the influence of alcohol promotion on young Australians.

Chief Executive Officer, Mark Anderson was joined by Hockeyroo, Stacia Joseph at the launch. He stated that hockey was proud to take a leadership role in this important area.

“There is no doubt that sport and our athletes have the power to make a positive impact in our society, he said. Hockey is a sport that has an extremely strong community and a great connection to our broader community. We are sure that our sport will embrace the message in relation to the responsible use of alcohol and seek to reduce the problem of binge drinking, particularly in young people.”

The Minister for Sport, Senator Kate Lundy, announced the program and the Australian Government’s support for the Community Sponsorship Fund.

“Sport is a really important part of young peoples’ lives and it’s terrific that our elite athletes have come on board to promote a healthy sporting lifestyle in the lead up to the Olympics,” Senator Lundy said.

“This campaign is about tapping into the positive influence sporting clubs have on young people while promoting responsible drinking.” The Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler, said the initiative will be funded under the National Binge Drinking Strategy and was aimed at giving sports an alternative to relying on alcohol sponsorship to support their clubs. “The sponsorship agreements act as an alternative to alcohol sponsorship in sport and do not affect the pourage rights and service of alcohol at stadiums and events. “I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm shown by these twelve national sporting organisations to reduce the exposure of young people to alcohol imagery and branding,” Mr Butler said.

The Hockey Australia sponsorship will include links to our two national teams, the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras and international matches, including some of our larger tournaments. It will also involve support of the U18 & U21 National Championships.

Hockey Australia media release