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India’s medal hope floats in hockey, boxing

As India`s hope in the women`s discus throw evaporated with the elimination of national record holder Neelam Jaswant Singh, all attention was focused on men`s hockey and boxing.

Monday saw dismal performances by Indian athletes. National record-holder in women`s discus, Neelam was way off her best in the domestic circuit of over 61 metres, long jumper Sanjay K Rai gave up after one jump which too was ruled `no jump`.

Neelam, was eliminated at the preliminary stage after
finishing a lowly 26th out of 32 contestants with a best
effort of 55.26 m.

Had Neelam just repeated her performance in the domestic circuit,
she would have easily made it to the 12-women final round. The last
qualifier to go through was Franka Dietzsch of Germany, who managed
only 60.74m.

Like Neelam, had Sanjay recorded his best achieved in India (8.03m), he
too could have qualified for the final.

The elimination of the two meant that India`s slender hopes in the
track and field events are now pinned on Gurmeet Kaur in women`s javelin and the men`s and women’s relay squads.

However, India`s realistic chances of winning another medal rest on their hockey team and light-heavy boxer Gurcharan Singh, both one victory shy of the medal round.

While the hockey team take on Poland in their concluding
Group B fixture on Tuesday, 23-year-old Gurcharan is lined up
Against Andri Fedtchouck of Ukraine in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. If he wins that bout, he will be assured of a bronze medal because there is no fight for the third place.

Eight-time men`s hockey champions India have their best
chance of making it to the medal round in two decades if they
defeat Poland.

The current Asian Games champions need an outright win against
Poland because even a draw will put their chances of making it to the
semis in jeopardy.

India`s strategy will also depend on the outcome
of the match between Australia and South Korea who will meet earlier
in the day. A draw between Australia and Korea would make it mandatory for India to win against Poland.

India have two possibilities. They can afford to draw against
Poland only if Australia beat Korea by two or more goals. In
that case, India will move ahead of Korea by virtue of better goal difference. If Korea beat Australia by four or more goals, then too
India can afford a draw in which case the hosts will be eliminated.

India have seven points from four outings - two wins, a draw and a
defeat - and a decisive victory over Poland will take the tally to
ten points and put them into the last four grade. Australia and
Korea have eight points each.

Having four points from four outings, Poland has a slight
advantage as they have nothing to lose having already been
eliminated. They are surprise qualifiers for the Olympics and so far
they have indeed surprised everybody with their attacking game. The
Poles stunned Spain 1-4 and gave a scare to Korea on Sunday before
going down 2-3.

“There is no question of taking any team lightly. We have seen
Poland play and we have also taken note of the fact that they
beat Spain and created enough troubles for Australia and Korea,``
coach Bhaskran said on the eve of the crucial tie.

``We had two days of rest that gave us enough time to chalk out
our strategy for the match,`` he said.

Bureau Report