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    January 6th, 2018adminRecords, All, Sports, World Opinion
    Erode Collector S. Prabhakar (centre) felicitating P. Iniyan for winning the World Youth Chess Olympiad.Special Arrangement

    Erode Collector S. Prabhakar (centre) felicitating P. Iniyan for winning the World Youth Chess Olympiad.Special Arrangement

    P. Iniyan (14) from Erode has won gold medal at the World Youth Chess Olympiad held at Ahmedabad from December 11 to 18. He also helped the Indian Green Team win silver medal in the Olympiad.

    Indian Green team was the top seed of the event, which saw the participation of 30 teams, with a whopping rating average of 2,503.

    India had fielded three teams, two from the National Sub-Junior Championship last year and one from a special selection of best players of the country. The tournament was of nine rounds Swiss format. Aryan Chopra, Praggnanandhaa, Nihal Sarin, Iniyan and Vaishali comprised the Indian Team .

    Indian Green team’s Iniyan and Nihal Sarin bagged individual gold medals for their respective board. Iniyan scored 7.5 points from eight rounds with an excellent scoring percentage of 93.8 % and proved to be a rock on the fourth board.

    At the same time he helped the team secure a silver medal. Nihal Sarin scored 5.5 points out of 7 and got gold in 3rd board.

    Iniyan is to participate in the 34th International Bollinger 2017 to be held in Germany from December 26 to 30 and the Montebelluna Elite Open 2018 to be held in Italy from January 2 to 7, 2018.

    Olirum Erodu Foundation that has been funding him for all the games sponsored Rs. 1.75 lakh to Iniyan for the recently held tournaments. District Collector S. Prabhakar felicitated Iniyan on Tuesday.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Tamil Nadu / by Staff Reporter / Erode – December 21st, 2017

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    November 29th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports

    SkatingCF29nov2017

    Chennai:

    On a sunny evening, two young girls artistically skated on a concrete rink at 100 feet Road in Nanganallur in the city. Their parents, who watch them twist and twirl, cheer them energetically.

    The two girls need no introduction in the area as they recently bagged prizes in CBSE national-level skating championship held at Bhopal. R S Lakshitha and K Srilakshana won gold and silver medal respectively.

    They were tutored by eminent master skaters, Sundar, Karthik and Mahesh. The members of Greater Chennai Skating Club, the girls started on the sport around two years ago. Their goals are similar too, to get into international competitions.

    The eight-year-olds are excited and passionate about the sport and aim to reach the international level.

    Lakshitha’’s mom, Sindhu, said, ‘She starts her day at 5 am to practise skating and to attend school. She is so passionate that she never looks for reasons to bunk.’

    Lakshitha has won two goals in the south zone competition, which took her to the national level. When asked about the popularity of the sport in the locality, Lakshitha’’s mother said the number of children opting for it has increased. ‘It is only in recent times that this change was noticed,’ she pointed out.

    A resident of Madipakkam, K Srilakshana won a gold and silver in the south zone competition and reached the national level.

    Both of them are multi-taskers as they are good in academics. The girls practise in the morning and evening. ‘We thank their masters for understanding their talent and giving it importance,’ Sindhu said.

    source: http://www.newstodaynet.com / News Today / Home / NT Bureau / November 29th, 2017

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    Madhavi01CF30nov2017

    Undeterred by disabilities, Madhavi Latha knows how to fight back. A champion swimmer, she now heads the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India

    Polio at the age of seven months paralysed Madhavi Latha from the waist down. It left her with minimal movement in her hands and robbed her of her voice even. But with time and perseverance she managed to regain some control over her hands and her voice. The daughter of a school teacher father and a homemaker mother, Latha, was the youngest of four siblings in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana). The polio attack and her limited motor skills didn’t deter her from completing school and pursuing a college degree privately. After she completed her MSc in Math, she eventually got a job with a bank in Hyderabad, before moving on to Standard Chartered in Chennai

    And life seemed set for her, until 10 years ago when her limited movements led to a compression of her spinal cord and in turn compression of her lungs, leading doctors to give her not more than a year to live. Determined to fight back, as she always has since she was a baby, Latha turned to hydrotherapy to strengthen her muscles and ease the pressure on her spine. And that’s when she discovered her new love — swimming. Through sheer grit and determination, she began to swim competitively and went on to become the National Paralympic swimming champion when she won three gold medals in her category in 2011. No mean feat for someone with a disability as severe as hers and at the age of 40.

    Her win, silenced all the nay-sayers. “The first time I wanted to swim competitively at the corporate Olympiad, the organisers were not convinced. So, I had four people swimming around me for my security. In fact, when I first tried my hand at swimming, I didn’t have a coach. I self-learnt freestyle, which then convinced the coach to teach me the remaining styles. I wanted to set an example for other people with disabilities and so pushed myself further,” she says. Her tryst with swimming was a turning point in her life. “Moreover, being in water made my body light and the buoyancy helped me do all the things that I couldn’t outside of it,” she adds.

    Madhavi02CF30nov2017

    Swimming, was only the beginning for this determined woman. She is now heading the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India that she set up in conjunction with others in 2014. “This came about when a UK-based NGO introduced me to the sport and encouraged me to promote it. It intrigued me as it is rather energetic and inculcates a great sense of team spirit in those involved in the sport. In the last three years we’ve managed to enrol 600 players from 14 states in the country — from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari,” she says, adding that this venture is not without its fair share of challenges either. “One of the biggest challenges is convincing people to encourage this sport; often it is concerns over players’ safety that comes to fore, since people aren’t convinced about just how much people with disabilities are capable of. Also, sports wheelchairs are not manufactured in India and are often imported, thereby raising costs. We’re also working towards making sports arenas more accessible for those with disabilities. When tournaments take place there are concerns about accessibility in terms of transport and accommodation. And since we know that a lot of these aren’t inclusive in nature yet, we go prepared, so there are no rude shocks upon our arrival.”

    For the Asian Para games

    • While the WBFI has received an invitation from the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation — Asia Oceania Zone, Madhavi Latha and the teams are working towards raising support to help them participate in the qualifiers in Thailand.
    • To arrange a training camp in Chennai for the national team (for men and women) to prepare for the qualifiers and to select 12 players in each team.
    • A coach from abroad to run this camp.
    • To send both the men’s and women’s teams to Thailand and pay their registration fees which amounts to ₹ 3.7 lakhs.
    • Madhavi Latha can be contacted on 9841609601
    • __________________________________

    But this struggle is not new to Latha. “My parents always wanted me to be financially independent. So after completing my MSc in Mathematics, I even trained as a typist so I could get a typing job. That is when a cousin told me about jobs in banks that I could apply for. In 1991 I managed to land my first job with State Bank in Hyderabad; expectedly there was a lot of convincing to do. Having had to move to Hyderabad from my small town, I even learnt how to ride a scooter so I could commute and gradually moved on to driving a car. I eventually got an opportunity to join Standard Chartered and moved to Chennai for the new role in 2006,” she says.

    In the meantime, the lack of physical activity began taking a toll on her. “The exercises I’d been asked to do were rather painful and involved callipers being put from shoulder down. It felt like being in a cage and I neglected to follow up on them, not realising the seriousness of the consequences.”

    Even while she was pursuing her college degree privately, Latha began giving tuitions at home to students a couple of years younger than her. “I wanted to surround myself with people closer to my age so I didn’t miss college life as much,” she smiles.

    Today, she leads a busy life with her hands full with professional responsibilities at Standard Chartered and her role at the WBFI. “I want people to realise that people with disabilities can do a range of things as well. It’s important to sensitise people around them to lend adequate support. Currently our basketball team is gearing up for the qualifiers of the Asian Para Games that will be held in March 2018 in Bangkok. While our players have great potential, there’s a lot more we need in terms of support. And we are working towards ensuring that our teams qualify,” she says.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by Ranjani Rajendra / November 27th, 2017

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    November 28th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports

    Ravichandran Ashwin continued to weave his magic in Tests as the Tamil Nadu offspinner became the fastest to reach 300 wickets during India’s comprehensive win against Sri Lanka in the Nagpur Test.

    Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest bowler to get to 300 Test wickets, breaking Dennis Lillee’s record as he spun India to a massive win over Sri Lanka in the Nagpur Test.(AFP)

    Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest bowler to get to 300 Test wickets, breaking Dennis Lillee’s record as he spun India to a massive win over Sri Lanka in the Nagpur Test.(AFP)

    Ravichandran Ashwin has been a vital cog in India’s dominant run in Tests since 2015. In the last nine series against various opponents, Ashwin has been a trump card in Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team.

    During the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur, Ashwin spun himself into the record books with his haul of 4/63. He clean bowled Lahiru Gamage with a carrom ball to not only give India a massive innings and 239 runs victory, but became the fastest to reach 300 Test wickets.

    Ashwin’s magnificent feat, combined with India’s record win makes for some fascinating statistics. Here is a list of the major numbers accumulated by Ashwin and India during the course of this Test.

    54 – Number of Tests taken by Ravichandran Ashwin to get to 300 Test wickets. The previous best was 56 Tests by Australian pacer Dennis Lillee. When one looks at spinners, Muttiah Muralitharan took 58 Tests while Shane Warne achieved the feat in 61 matches. For India, Anil Kumble reached the mark in 66 Tests.

    52 – Number of wickets taken by Ashwin in 2017, the joint-most by a spinner. He is the third spinner to take over 50 wickets in a calendar year. Rangana Herath is tied with Ashwin while Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon is third with 51 wickets.

    46 – Number of wickets by Ashwin in eight Tests against Sri Lanka. He is third in the all-time list, with Harbhajan Singh (53) and Anil Kumble (74) ahead of him.

    186 – Number of wickets taken by Ravichandran Ashwin in the last two years. Since 2015, Ashwin has the second-best bowling average behind James Anderson, while in five-wicket hauls he leads the pack with 17. Rangana Herath is a distant second with 146 wickets.

    Innings and 239 runs – Victory margin for the Indian cricket team against Sri Lanka in the Nagpur Test, which is their joint-highest in terms of runs. They had achieved a similar margin of victory against Bangladesh in the Dhaka Test of 2007.

    8 – Number of innings victories by India against Sri Lanka in Tests, the most by India in Tests. The innings and 239-run defeat is the worst-ever for Sri Lanka.

    – Number of double centuries for Virat Kohli in Tests as captain, equalling the record set by Brian Lara. His tally equals Rahul Dravid’s mark while only Virender Sehwag is ahead of him with six.

    source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/ Hindustan Times / Home> India / by Siddharth Vishwanathan, Hindustan Times,New Delhi / November 27th, 2017

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    November 27th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports, World Opinion

    SelviCF27nov2017

    Chennai:

    For many, frisbee is only a beach game or a pastime, but M Selvi (20) takes it seriously.

    This resident of Guindy in the city has been playing the sport from class six. She is an international player and aims to become an IAS officer. She speaks to News Today about her journey.

    When did you start playing frisbee?

    I was nine when my father taught me how to play frisbee. I initially played it during my leisure time. I eventually grew interest in it and started playing professionally.

    How important is sports in your life?

    I am doing my final year in political science. It is tough to balance studies and sports. However, I manage it with the help of my parents and teachers. I never give up my game for anything. It is my passion.

    What is your upcoming game?

    We are a team of 15. We are currently playing a national level game in Surat. We are also training for several upcoming international events.

    What are your goals in life?

    I have participated in several international games. The recent one was in London last year. I want to excel in this sport and represent India in more international events.

    Who/what is your biggest strength?

    My parents. They are the ones who keep motivating and encouraging me. I am busy with college and sport, and hence, hardly have time to spend with them. They understand and trust me in whatever I do. I also want to thank my coach and my team for believing in me.

    How do you handle pressure?

    There is lot of pressure to perform well in sports and studies. Although my parents encourage me, they want me to complete my degree. I have drawn up a timetable to create a balance between work and play. Once I injured my right leg and it needed surgery. I was confined to the bed for few months. It was testing time for me.

    Tell us about your future plans.

    There is no future for me without frisbee. I will continue to play and win medals. After I complete my degree, I want to study and become an IAS officer.

    Your advice to youngsters?

    A. Time management is important. Plan everything accordingly and work around your goal to achieve.

    Selvi can be reached at 9787683310.

    source: http://www.newstodaynet.com / News Today / Home / by M P Jesu Priya / November 27th, 2017

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    Viktor Axelsen with My Game Stat founders Sunil Kumar (extreme left), Senthil Kumaran (2nd from right) and Ashok B

    Viktor Axelsen with My Game Stat founders Sunil Kumar (extreme left), Senthil Kumaran (2nd from right) and Ashok B

    Chennai :

    Viktor Axelsen is Indian badminton star Kidambi Srikanth’s enemy No.1.

    The World No. 1 is a step ahead of Srikanth in the rankings and there’s a Chennai firm that has played a major role in the Danish star’s rise to the top.

    Since early 2017, Axelsen has been working in close collaboration with My Game Stat (MGS), which offers performance analytics in badminton. Comprising former player Ashok B, Sunil Kumar, Senthil Kumaran and Sajith. The company was set up in August 2016 with the intention of devising a performance analytics tool which the players can access for a wide range of data about their game.

    Axelsen, who became the world champion earlier this year, even sported the MGS logo on his T-shirt for three Super Series tournaments earlier in the year. The player’s association with the company started just before the Indian Open earlier this year.

    “I was very curious to know whether the top badminton players were using any analytics. This entire topic is very new. When you discuss this, everyone is immediately interested. When I got in touch with Viktor using my contacts, I found out he was still using his diary to make notes after every match and tournament. He probably plays 70 to 80 matches in a year and he can’t note down every detail. Once we started talking, he was immediately interested and said he had never been exposed to this kind of data,” Ashok told TOI .

    Firm eyes tie-up with Sindhu & Co

    Axelsen, too, acknowledged the difference that MGS has made to his game. “It is very useful and definitely helping me to prepare for my matches,” he was quoted by the MGS website.

    According to the analytics experts, Axelsen himself was unaware about a potential weakness to lefthanded players. “There was this particular pattern where we noticed that he was susceptible to lefthanders. He was shocked with what he saw and understood the kind of contribution we could make to his game,” Ashok said. It was no surprise that Axelsen went on to beat Chinese legend Lin Dan, a left-hander, in the World C’ship final.

    While the passion that the four shared for badminton brought them together, Senthil’s work experience as a consultant to a company which is the prime vendor for the National Football League in the US, combined with his eye for detail for the sport, was invaluable. Indian badminton is on a high with the rise of PV Sindhu, Srikanth and a host of other players, but the quartet hasn’t yet tied up with Gopichand & Co. The founders, though, insist it’s a matter of time.

    “As an Indian company, we obviously want to associate with Indian players. That is the next objective. We did not want to contact the Indian players until and unless we had a time-tested, proven module.

    We cannot afford to fail in India. We have already been in touch with the Badminton Association of India (BAI) and we expect things to be in place by January,” Sunil added.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by Vivek Krishnan / TNN / November 19th, 2017

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    November 15th, 2017adminSports

    Some of it was sheer bad luck; inevitably there was politics too

    The Singhs of Chennai have been the first family of cricket in the State. Three generations going back to A.G. Ram Singh, hero of the inaugural Ranji Trophy match (he took eleven wickets), have played First Class cricket. Yet, why did this talented bunch of players not get its due? Some of it was sheer bad luck. Inevitably, there was politics too. With the passing of Milkha Singh last week, the question will be asked afresh.

    Stylish southpaw: A.G. Milkha Singh had the grace and flow of a natural. The Hindu Archives

    Stylish southpaw: A.G. Milkha Singh had the grace and flow of a natural. The Hindu Archives

    Ram Singh might have been on the 1936 tour of England. He was 26, had taken wickets and made a century in the Ranji Trophy. But in the days of the quota system, Tamil Nadu were allowed M.J. Gopalan and C. Ramaswami. Two in the squad was reward for backing the right horse in the cricket board!

    Done in by canard

    Ten years later, the senior Nawab of Pataudi, India’s captain, had asked Ram Singh to get his passport ready for the tour of England. Then, during a selection match in Mumbai, Ram Singh asked for a glass of water while batting, and it brought on cramps. A senior player spread the canard that Ram had a heart problem and could not travel.

    For years Ram Singh kept silent over the identity of the player who did this. Then in an interview to me some three decades ago, he revealed the name — Vijay Merchant. Ram Singh outlived both Merchant and the man who went on that tour, the great Vinoo Mankad.

    Ram Singh was a legendary coach — he learnt under the Sussex allrounder Bert Wensley who also coached Mankad — whose passion inspired both the young and the established. Bishan Singh Bedi was already a Test cricketer when Ram Singh made a slight adjustment to his follow-through. He was one of the early influences on Bedi’s career.

    Kripal Singh began with a century on Test debut, and might have led India had his place in the team been assured. Yet, despite leading South Zone and being recognised as one of the best captains in the country, he was never in the running.

    He played his first Test in 1955, and only 13 of the next 43 that India played till his final match a decade later. By then Tiger Pataudi had already led India, and that position was no longer vacant. Kripal’s sons Swaran and Arjan, and his daughter Malavika were also cricketers.

    Years ago in Chennai, Kripal and I would sometimes drive around in his little car, visiting grounds where matches were played. The sticker on his car read, “When I grow up I want to become a Mercedes.” The day following one such trip came the news that Kripal had passed way. He was just 53 and had had a massive heart attack.

    Kripal, a treasure of stories

    Kripal was a treasure house of stories about Indian cricket; he was also a national selector with a keen understanding of a player’s temperament. “Average ability with a big heart will always score over great ability with no heart,” he would say. One of his favourite stories – later confirmed by the then TNCA Secretary Mr S. Sriraman — was how he got the BCCI to postpone a Ranji Trophy final which happened to clash with his university examinations!

    The youngest of the brothers, Satwender might have been in the reckoning had a road accident not held him back; Arjan’s knee injury prevented further progress. He was 27 then.

    For years, the force of Tamil Nadu’s grouse against the national selectors was second only to Bengal’s. In the 1960s, Bengal might have felt hard done by, owing to the treatment meted out to the talented Ambar Roy. Tamil Nadu might have felt the same way about Milkha Singh. Both were attacking left-handers, both belonged to distinguished cricketing families, and each played just four Tests.

    Both were probably kept out by the same player — Mumbai’s Ajit Wadekar, who made his debut for India at 25. Wadekar was born in the same year as Milkha; Roy was four years younger. Milkha was good enough to play for India at 18.

    Milkha, like Kripal, was a jovial soul whose guiding principle seemed to be: “Anything for a laugh”. He enjoyed life hugely, was a popular manager for a side that often had to put up with stuffed shirts who wouldn’t allow youngsters to enjoy the game. He believed that enjoyment was a necessary part of all sport, and laughter enhanced performance.

    When I spoke to Milkha (he was “Micky”, Kripal was “Pally”) about a month ago, he was in good form, as always. He recalled the 1967-68 Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai, and explained where things went wrong for Tamil Nadu.

    But there was no resentment, only a touch of surprise at an umpiring decision half a century later!

    This lack of resentment has been a Singh family feature. It is an important legacy. And no one exemplified this better than Milkha.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Opinion> Columns> Between the Wickets / by Suresh Menon / November 14th, 2017

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    November 13th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports, World Opinion

    The Coimbatore city shooters, of late, are making their presence felt on the national and international circuit. The 60th National shooting championships held in Pune last December is a case in point. If 21-year-old N Gaayathri won gold in the women’s 3-position rifle event after beating a field comprising seasoned shooters such as Anjali Bhagwat and Tejaswini Sawant, her city mate and pistol shooter P Shri Nivetha pocketed an individual bronze and team silver in the competition.

    Both Gaayathri and Nivetha have made the senior national side on the back of consistent performances on the junior circuit. “Being part of international competitions as members of the Indian junior team provided us a strong footing before making the senior side,” Nivetha told TOI. She won a junior gold in the 10M Air Pistol category of the Asian Airgun championships held in New Delhi in 2015. Gaayathri, on the other hand, made a mark at the junior World Cup in Suhl (Germany) last year – winning a bronze in the 50M rifle prone event.

    The two made the final in their respective events at the recently-concluded Commonwealth Shooting championships in Gold Coast, Australia. While Gaayathri narrowly missed a medal by 0.7 points – finishing fourth – in the women’s rifle 3-Position event, Nivetha ended fifth in the 10m Air Pistol event. “The competition was of the highest order. In such events, it all boils down to how you handle the pressure during crunch situations,” said Nivetha.

    Gaayathri and Nivetha aren’t the only set of shooters to be making waves from the city. “Shooters such as Srinithi Abirami, Namritha Saravana and many others are doing well from Coimbatore. What is heartening to see is that each one of them has managed to find the balance between their studies and shooting. Srinithi is a qualified engineer while Gaayathri and Nivetha have both done their graduation,” said Marudhachalam, vice-president of Coimbatore Rifle Club.

    Marudhachalam also felt that these shooters’ families have supported them to the hilt. “The parents of these shooters understand the rigors of the sport and do everything they possibly can to support them,” Marudhachalam said.

    According to Srinithi, the Coimbatore Rifle club – in existence since 1953 – provides the right environment for shooters. “They conduct regular camps that attract a lot of shooting enthusiasts. I was part of one of the camps back in 2009 and it didn’t take long for me to get hooked to the sport,” said Srinithi, who won silver in the Asian championships at Kuwait in 2015.

    The club, in the midst of getting upgraded to international standards, has already installed electronic targets – a move that has got thumbs up from the shooters. “The club is doing its best to encourage the sport. The installation of electronic targets was certainly helpful for the shooters,” said Nivetha. The renovated club is likely to reopen in the next few weeks.

    From November 15, the likes of Gaayathri, Nivetha and Srinithi will join others in the trials in New Delhi for the upcoming Commonwealth Games next year. Gaayathri has already begun to fine-tune for the same, and the fact that she has chosen to stay away from media commitments for the time being underlines her single-minded focus.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> Sports / by Prasad RS / TNN / November 10th, 2017

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    November 4th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports

    Chennai:

    “I always get to hear this question: Why boxing? May be because, I am a girl. Well, this is the only venue, where I can beat somebody and not get into any trouble,’” grins A Pavithra, a resident of Aadhanoor, who is being trained at Railway Institute Tambaram Boxing Club, located at Railway Ground, East Tambaram.

    PavithraCF04nov2017

    A class 8 student of Adi Dravida Higher Secondary School, she is a national and State-level boxer and has won several medals.

    “Mohammad Ali is my role model. There is a lot to learn from his tactics and follow it,’” said Pavithra, who is trained by coach P Saravanan.

    In the recently held State-level championship for boxing in the under-15 category, she won a medal. She has also won several medals in 200 and 400 metres athletics.

    “‘Pavithra is one of my most obedient students, who does not miss her practice like others of her age group do. And, above all, she often does it with a smile and willingness on her face. She’s an inspiration to some and a role model to many,”’ said coach Saravanan.

    On how she took up boxing, her uncle S Balaji said, “‘It all started at the age of 9. She was strong enough to defend her family members and seeing it, I enrolled her to karate, which she discontinued due to lack of interest. Later, given a choice, she chose to learn boxing and also showed interest in athletics.”

    An average student in academics, Pavithra finds it hard to juggle between her passion and studies. Also hailing from a middle class background, it becomes a challenge at times for her to pay for the expenses and get good accessories for the sport.

    Fortunately, she has been recognised and is being supported by Tamil Amudhan, who is extending all help. Pavithra is taken care of by her uncle Balaji and he can be reached at 98845 43839.

    source: http://www.newstodaynet.com / NewsToday / Home / by Konda Somna / Nov 04th, 2017

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    October 25th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports, World Opinion

    AshokDaniel01CF25oct2017

    City-based lawyer Ashok Daniel on what it takes to be the first Indian to complete the Tor des Geants, one of the most gruelling trail races in the world

    The Alps stands defiantly outside of time as we know it. Stretching across the spine of Europe, this sky-soaring mountain range has dared warriors Hannibal, Napoleon and Hitler to set foot on its flanks. Its gentler slopes have invited the Romantics, naturalists and alpinists to roam beautiful paths and celebrate a heritage of cheese and watch-making. But to conquer its massifs such as Mont Blanc and Matterhorn, you need to be a giant, one whose strides can summit its peaks with as much ease as its valleys, when running one of the world’s toughest mountain races, the Tor des Geants. Chennai-based lawyer, 26-year-old Ashok Daniel recently became the first Indian to run across Italy’s Aosta Valley, named after the imperial Augustus, to successfully complete the race.

    Daniel, who was schooled and educated in Chennai and Nottingham, is now senior counsel with a law firm that specialises in Intellectual Property rights. An ultra-runner for five years now, he grew up an overweight kid who shammed at the gym and tried many ways to lose weight till he discovered running. When he walks in for the interview, Daniel is as fit and tight as a coiled spring, his obese past well behind him.

    “I lost eight kilograms over a week,” laughs Daniel. “The race spans a distance of nearly 330 kilometres and an altitude of 28,000 metres across 25 passes. You need to finish in 150 hours with intermediate cut-offs at checkpoints which means you average 50-60 kilometres and heights of 4,000-5,000 metres a day. You are lucky if you can run on level ground for at least 10 kilometres. That happened only around the 275th kilometre; by then my legs felt nothing.”

    Every year, the Tor des Geants is run in September, beginning and ending in Courmayeur, an Italian town that is home to Europe’s highest botanical garden. Running through the day and night at such altitudes puts runners at risk of hypothermia, disorientation and the possibility of gently expiring within view of the Matterhorn. Trail running also means changing your stride every now and then, bounding past obstacles and scrambling through scree and obtuse rock faces.

    “On Day 4 and 5, the nights were down to 10 degrees Centigrades, the streams were frozen and my lips were bleeding. Trail races are not just about putting one foot in front of another; one moment you are on the valley floor, the next you are close to the sky. Tor des Geants has a trail only up to tree cover; its alpine zone is completely rocky and verglassed and there are ropes and ladders to help you. But, it can be frustrating at night even with crampons and hiking poles. You can’t switch off and when you see someone being rescued by helicopter you stop hallucinating and drag your mind back to the present,” says Daniel, who slept for one to two hours a day. “That’s what you train for, else you don’t finish. There are days you don’t want to get out because it’s so cold. But, the views are spectacular and you can see the seasons change from summer to fall to early winter.”

    For this race that saw 880 people begin and only 53 % finish, Daniel has been preparing over the past year. In 2016, he was the youngest Indian to complete the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) that covers three countries and 10 alpine summits. Earlier, he had done the North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail that runs through the Italian Dolomites. And, in June, he ran the Old Dominion in the Shenandoah Mountains, US. After the Tor des Geants, Daniel went on to complete the Malnad Ultra and another at Reunion Islands.

    The runner, who turned vegetarian two years ago, and acclimatised in Manali, Spiti and Chamonix before he set off, says ultra running is both about kit preparation and an understanding of your own capabilities. “Training in Chennai’s humidity helps build endurance. However, when you scramble past suspended hunks of ice it calls for both physical and psychological strength. Tor des Geants is very professionally organised. At 650 Euros, everything from mountain rescue to cubicles and food is taken care of,” says Daniel, hoping ultra racing will grow in India that has the world’s highest mountains.

    AshokDaniel02CF25oct2017

    Daniel is now training to run the Petite Trotte a Leon. A team race within the framework of the UTMB, this one has no trails and calls for finding your route with GPS trackers and maps. When it’s time to leave, he says he’d like another go at the Tor des Geants. But why, I ask incredulously. “The race ends in the heart of the town to the peal of bells. People are giving out beer and ice cream and yelling your name. You run through old Roman roads, historic towns and spectacular scenery. When they see the name of the country on your bib, it gets you many cheers. And, when you finish the race wearing the gilet, the Tricolour around you and hit that high note of positivity, you know you are home.”

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Deepa Alexander / October 25th, 2017

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