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Sunita?s case eclipsed good result

For a nation fed on the instant replay, this one went off in a flash, forgotten.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2002 23:33 IST
Siddharth Saxena
Siddharth Saxena

For a nation fed on the instant replay, this one went off in a flash, forgotten.

The Busan Asian Games struggled right from the day they were awarded to this port city. It was to be in the year of the football World Cup - it was cursed from Day One. You had to wait for the morning after to see where it stood. The final night of the Games not yet complete, and all the banners that had lined the city for the fortnight were replaced, quietly, with minimum fuss.

In their place, the following morning, were banners exactly in the same fashion celebrating the World Choir Olympics from October 19-25. This is a busy year for Busan. And they are working harder here as the days get shorter and nights colder, because the World Cup refuses to go away. It is a spectre that the people here don't want to escape.

If Busan has forgotten the Games in a flash, India has not. And the reasons are varied. Like the case of the World Cup that refuses to dies down, so is the spectre of drugs in Indian sport. There is a certain disbelief on Sunita Rani's face that makes you want to believe her. The confusion sparked off by bumbling Indian officialdom does not help. Conjectures rule the roost. There is rumour, rancour and ridicule.

It pushed into the background a wonderful performance by India at the Games, and in particular the very discipline Sunita is now a flawed disciple of - athletics. India won a medal on each day of the athletics, starting with the tall, svelte long jumper Anju Bobby George taking gold on the first day to Anil Kumar's bronze in discus on the final day.

KM Beenamol took a step at emulating PT Usha, who won four gold at the Seoul Games in 1986 - the latter day star finished with two gold and one silver. It could have been three gold but for old foe Darsha Damayanti in the single lap event. Younger sibling KM Binu was probably the find of the tournament, with a run for silver in the 800m.

It was the throwers who reaffirmed their hold in Asian competition. Bahadur Singh and 40-year-old veteran Shakti Singh won gold and bronze in the shot put, despite a raw throwing circle and a throwing technique discarded by most the world over. Neelam J Singh broke the Games record in discus.

The same day Sunita too, had broken the record in the 5000m, after a two year lay-off and almost her first run in serious competition. But two days later, the drug test result threw a pall of gloom on a performance that was surprising in its freshness.

Sunita being caught the following day after her 1,500-bronze made the feeling even more sickening, only confirmed what we had been hearing all along. It was too loud to ignore. Her status still hangs in balance, but the verdict is out, somehow. Ban or no ban, positive or contamination, it will be very difficult to view another performance in future without the obvious doubts.

Luckily, the Indian hockey team did a lot to erase that idea that has accompanied them for so long. Reviving shades of a glorious style, if not the past yet, Rajinder Singh's proud and tempestuous boys did well, topping off at the Games, a season in which they have surprised most observers. The coach's idea of playing attacking Asian hockey to nullify European artistry on the turf, seems to be paying off.

The nucleus of the side is the unsung midfield led by Bimal Lakra, Igance Tirkey, Viren and Vikram Pillay. The forward line is clicking as and when it is required, but the defence is the worry, The usually redoubtable Dilip Tirkey was found wanting on many occasions, and it was the good work of goalkeepers Devesh Chauhan and Bharat Chettri that saved us many an embarrassment.

To compound this will be the search to replace Dhanraj Pillay, who is getting younger despite his 34 years - he was the fittest player in the hockey competition - but would like to go out in a blaze of glory. A second gold would have been fitting.

Perhaps the best show in a sense of performance sans result was that of the football team. Fractious - a rift between the coach and his star player - the last time they played at the Games, it was fresh hope that the Indian under-23 boys gave with their performance here, especially that come-from-back win against Turkmenistan in the second league game.

Bhaichung Bhutia is playing world class football, no less, and he simply lifts the rest of the team. Jo Paul Ancheri's lack of match fitness was cause for concern, but then there's time to search and discover.

The Indian officials as always messed up. First it was the Dinesh Aswal case, then Anil Mann, and it seemed it would be like every other time. India would figure in the media of another country, but for all the wrong reasons. The show on the field however, ensured that did not happen. Then came along Sunita Rani. She blew the whole cover. It will take some time patching up.

First Published: Oct 15, 2002 23:33 IST