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Special Olympics athletes attend first camp for January event

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New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) While the Tokyo Olympic Games-bound Indian sportspersons are putting the final touches to their preparations, those who have qualified for the Paralympic Games are also in advanced stage in preparations.

The Paralympic Games will be held from August 24 to September 5 in at Tokyo.

A third set of Indian sportspersons too has started its training for the multi-discipline sports extravaganza — they are the Special Olympics athletes gearing up for the Special Olympics World Winter Games, to be held from January 22 to 28 in Kazan, Russia.

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In all, 65 athletes including 13 female and 14 male from 15 states attended the floorball national coaching camp at YMCA, to hone their skills for the upcoming event. The camp, executed with the Covid-19 protocols advised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, concluded on Friday.

The daily schedule of the camp covered warm-ups, skill-based practices covering all five skills (dribbling, passing, receiving, flip and shoot) and competition tactics and practice.

The camp simultaneously held medical screenings across eye care (called Opening Eyes) and the Dental condition (Special Smiles) of the participating athletes.

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Floorball is a versatile indoor team sport developed in the 1970s in Sweden, played in a rink with five field players plus a goalkeeper in each team. For Special Olympics the game is slightly modified from the “regular” form of Floorbal

Additionally, the athletes and coaches attended sessions that address physical and mental fitness practicing through yoga, meditation and the different exercise-based activities led by experts in the respective fields.

Special Olympics is a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, it promotes itself is an inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million athletes across 35 countries.

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–IANS

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Chikkarangappa set for Olympic experience as Lahiri’s caddie

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) He may not have qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, but S Chikkarangappa will still be there in Japan — not as a player but as caddie for top Indian player Anirban Lahiri.

Lahiri, who is set for his second Olympics at Tokyo, has picked Chikka to provide him with a close look at the competition by asking him to be his caddie.

“It’s a win-win situation for both. When Anirban offered me this opportunity to be his caddie, I accepted instantly. I am really glad that Anirban is giving me this experience. I will get to see an Olympics live in person. The younger generation has so much to learn. Yes, I won’t be there as a player but this experience will be something different,” Chikka was quoted as saying by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Friday.

Besides Lahiri, Udayan Mane has qualified for the Olympics.

Missing the cut for the Olympics was heartbreaking for Chikka as his hopes were undone by the Covid-19 pandemic as he missed many tournaments.

Chikka was India No. 2 before the second wave of Covid-19, and missing tournaments caused a drop in his ranking.

Representing India at the Olympic Games, is a dream and the Tokyo experience will help him getting ready for Paris 2024, he said.

“This experience will help me prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games. This will help me going forward,” Chikka said.

“We are more than friends, we are like brothers. We have known one other for 18 years. He’s been a great friend, brother and always had my back. We have the same relationship today as we did 18 years ago. We will work together and do our best to return with a medal,” he said.

–IANS

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Women’s Grand Slam tennis: A revolving door of champions

London, July 8 (IANS) If Karolina Pliskova, a former world No.1 and a finalist at 2016 US Open, manages to win the women’s final against Ashleigh Barty at the Wimbledon Championships on Saturday, she will be the 13th woman winning a singles title over the last Grand Slam 17 events. Women’s singles tennis at Grand Slams, unlike men’s tennis, has been a revolving door of champions over the last four years.

In the corresponding period — going back to French Open 2017 — there have been only three male players winning the singles trophies. Roger Federer has clinched three of those, Rafael Nadal six and Novak Djokovic seven. Federer had even won the 2017 Australian Open just before the French Open.

Karolina’s opponent Ashleigh is the current world No. 1 but has only Grand Slam singles title to her name. She had won the 2019 French Open.

Multiple champions have devoid women’s tennis of a player who could acquire legendary status as massive fan following comes with domination at the top level like in the case of men’s tennis, where there are either Federer fans or Nadal fans or Djokovic fans since the trio alone has dominated top flight tennis.

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, with four titles, and Romanian Simona Halep, with two titles, are the only women players to have won multiple Grand Slam singles titles during the period.

Naomi, due to her multiple major titles that pushed Serena Williams to second place and her into first place in the 2020 Forbes list for highest earning female athletes, has looked like one who could dominate the tennis scene for a long time.

But due to her inability to handle media pressure and unwillingness to face them, she pulled out of both the French Open and Wimbledon this year. She had to cop $15,000 fine too for skipping a media interaction during the French Open.

Her absence, however, has allowed the tournaments to become even more open and competitive.

Imran Mirza, who has mentored his daughter Sania into one of India’s top woman tennis players, and has observed women’s tennis closely for around three decades due to his involvement with her career, said there are two ways to look at it.

“Some people say that the quality of women’s tennis has gone down. But you can also say that quality and competition has gone up. Back in the 1990s, you would have players like Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini and Monica Seles who would coast to semi-finals, winning sets with 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 margins,” said Mirza before explaining that men’s tennis has seen an unusual era where the top three have been too good to allow any competition.

“Until the semis, they wouldn’t face competition. But that is not happening now. You have so many contenders,” he said. “Men’s tennis has seen a domination of players – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic — who were exceptionally good. You wouldn’t find anyone else coming near them. That is why recent singles Grand Slam titles have been shared among these three only.”

–IANS

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Draw for U-23 Asian Cup football qualifiers: India in Group E

Tashkent, July 9 (IANS) India have been placed in Group E along with host the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kyrgyz Republic for the under-23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022 Qualifiers to be held from October 23 to 31.

In the draw of the qualifiers, held here on Friday, 42 teams were divided into 11 groups with 15 spots available at the AFC U-23 Asian Cup, with Uzbekistan having already confirmed their place as host, the Asian Football Confederation announced. It is the first time the tournament will be staged in the central zone of the continent, said the AFC.

The draw divided the teams into two regions — the West Region comprising 23 West, South and Central competing teams and the East Region, which consists of 19 East and ASEAN teams.

The 11 group winners and four best second-placed teams will qualification for the finals.

While India are in Group E, Jordan will host Group F that also has Palestine and Turkmenistan for company.

The other pools in West Region are Group A, which consists of Syria, host Qatar, Yemen and Sri Lanka, and Group B which comprise the Islamic Republic of Iran, host Tajikistan, Lebanon and Nepal. Iraq, the 2013 champions, headline Group C, which will be hosted by Bahrain with Afghanistan and Maldives also contesting.

Saudi Arabia, runners-up in 2013 and 2020, will play in Group D with Bangladesh, host Kuwait and Uzbekistan, who will participate in a friendly capacity and their results will not be included in the standings. The AFC did not provide any reason for this.

In the East Region, Australia, who finished third in the 2020 AFC U23 Asian Cup, were drawn in Group G with China, host Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.

Korea Republic, the winners of the 2020 edition, will face ASEAN opposition in host Singapore, Timor-Leste and Philippines in Group H while 2018 runners-up Vietnam are with Myanmar, Hong Kong and host Chinese Taipei in Group I.

Mongolia will host ASEAN sides Thailand, Malaysia and Laos in Group J while DPR Korea, 2016 champions Japan and Cambodia are in Group K, with the host to be named in due course.

–IANS

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Australian tennis star Kyrgios pulls out of Olympics

Sydney, July 9 (IANS) Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, citing abdominal injury and lack of fans.

“It’s a decision I didn’t make lightly,” he tweeted.

Kyrgios says that it was always a dream to play in the Olympics. “It’s been my dream to represent Australia at the Olympics and I know I may never get that opportunity again. But I also know myself. The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has,” he said.

Kyrgios confirmed that apart from absence of spectators, the abdominal injury that forced him to retire mid-way in his third-round match at Wimbledon last week was also a reason for his withdrawal.

“I also wouldn’t want to take an opportunity away from a healthy Aussie athlete ready to represent the country. I will also take all the time I need to get my body right. Good luck to all the Aussies competing and I’ll see you back on the court real soon,” he said.

The Kyrgios statement came just before the Japan government imposed a state of emergency, which meant that crowds won’t be allowed to attend events related to the Tokyo Olympics starting on July 23.

Tennis Australia will now have to decide on the replacement for Kyrgios in the squad of 11 headlined by Ashleigh Barty.

–IANS

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