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Articles 01 Jan 2022

ICE-HOCKEY: A look back at 2021
Andrew Podnieks---- It was the best of times and the worst of times, a time of triumph and a time of sadness. There were celebrations, and there were quarantines, great goals and empty arenas. There were thrilling tournaments, and cancellations, star performances and players in isolation. The IIHF world has never seen a year like 2021, so as we look back at the complexities of the last 365 days, we can be thankful for what we have had and be mindful that a worldwide pandemic took away some things we’re used to. January 2021 The New Year started as it always has for the last 45 years, at the World Junior Championship. Red Deer was removed as co-host so Hockey Canada could create as 10-team bubble for everyone in Edmonton. Rogers Place was empty, but the games went on safely. The low point was when Germany had to face Canada with a mere 15 skaters because of Covid protocols, but the high point came when the hosts faced their geographic rivals in the gold-medal game. The U.S. spoiled the party, winning 2-0, on goals by Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras, and a shutout by Spencer Knight. It was their fifth all-time gold at the U20, and the fourth time they defeated Canada to win it. Zegras led all scorers with 18 points, the most in a decade at the U20. He went on to create the most buzz-worthy goal of 2021, with Anaheim, using “the Michigan” from behind the net to set up Sonny Milano for a one-of-a-kind goal. April-May 2021 The men’s U18 was scheduled to take place in Plymouth, Michigan, USA Hockey’s home base for its marquee NTDP, but once again Covid prevented the tournament from going ahead as planned. The Dallas Stars with their facilities in Frisco and Plano, Texas, however, stood up and hosted a couple of weeks later, and the bubbled event took place safely and successfully. It was the first IIHF event ever held in the Lone Star State. Nearly 20 years after the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry began, Texas can also lay claim to the start of another Canada-Russia pairing in 15-year-old Connor Bedard, and 16-year-old Matvei Michkov. Both were sensational for their teams, but Canada had its best U18 roster in years and won gold with a perfect 7-0 record, scoring 51 goals and allowing only 12. Meanwhile, the round-robin in Frisco (Group B) played host to one of the most memorable World Junior games of all time. Russia beat the U.S., 7-6, in overtime, on a Nikita Chibrikov goal. The Americans led 2-0, 5-1, and 6-4, but couldn’t hold the lead, and the Russians stormed back to tie the game in the third before winning in OT. May-June 2021 The World Championship had its latest start and finish ever (21 May to 6 June) because of Covid, and arenas had to be empty for most games, but again the IIHF and host Riga managed to pull off a successful event. Minsk was removed as co-host for safety concerns, giving Riga sole hosting rights as it had in 2006, the last and only previous time the Worlds had been held in Latvia. Canada won gold, which in and of itself would come as no surprise to any hockey fan, but it won in a manner never before achieved in 92 years of World Championship play. Canada lost its first three games of the round robin, yet rallied to win with a series of great games along with a little luck with other results. During that 0-3 run, Latvia beat Canada for the first time ever, and the U.S. beat them, 5-1, the worst result in that WM rivalry. But when forward Andrew Mangiapane came out of quarantine, the Canadian team was different. He played MVP hockey the rest of the way, and Nick Paul scored the golden goal in OT to give Canada gold. They defeated Finland, which had bested Canada in the previous year’s gold-medal game. The lesser-known Finns were led by towering captain Markko Anttila. At the other end of the spectrum, because of the late start, the late-running NHL playoffs, and Covid worries, the Swedes iced a team that finished a shocking 9th, its worst placing since 1937 (9th also). Along the way, the Danes beat Tre Kronor for the first time ever, 4-3, on the first day of the tournament. August-September 2021 There was no more divisive, disappointing, controversial, and, in the end, feel-good story, than the Women’s World Championship. It had been scheduled for Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, for April 2020, but same as all other IIHF tournaments that spring was cancelled when Covid was at its apex. A year later, those hosts were ready again, but only a short time before the start date it was pushed back and then cancelled by the provincial government one day before team arrival. Women from around the hockey world spoke out, but behind the scenes the IIHF and Hockey Canada kept their promise and worked towards an alternate plan, and the WW took place in an empty arena and bubble in late August, in Calgary. In the early going, the star of the show was American Hilary Knight, who became the all-time goals leader at the Women’s Worlds. A bit later, Hungary defeated Denmark, 5-1, for its first ever WW win, and in the playoffs the Swiss staged a sensational rally to defeat ROC, 3-2, in overtime of the quarter-finals. But those were all preambles to another great gold medal game between the North Americans. The U.S. was favoured because they were not only reigning Olympic champions, they had also won the last five WW tournaments dating back to 2013. But Canada rallied from a 2-0 deficit, and captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who has two gold-medal winning goals at the Olympics to her credit, wired a hard shot crossbar and in to win it for Canada for the first time in a decade. December 2021 The teams arrived early in Edmonton and Red Deer to prepare for the World Juniors, but they did so at a time when omicron was just about to explode across Alberta, Canada, and the world. The games started, punctuated by a second thrilling round of Bedard vs. Michkov which saw the Russian score three goals in two games and Bedard score four in a single game. But the Covid case counts started to rise and three games had to be cancelled with teams put in quarantine. The IIHF, in consultation with Hockey Canada and tournament doctors, saw no option but to cancel the tournament. Immediately all parties concerned promised to explore options to re-start the tournament in June or July, same as they did earlier for other cancelled tournaments such as the U18 Women's Worlds. Fingers crossed, but as we have seen over the last two years, Covid will tell everyone what to do, and the hockey world will be asked once again to be flexible.

Articles 07 Dec 2021

KALININA AND SHANG THE ITF WORLD TENNIS TOUR STANDOUTS
Jamie Renton The ITF’s Class of 2021 series recognises and celebrates players who have had a successful year progressing along the ITF player pathway, and beyond. The first of five categories being unveiled this week identifies two players who have had a stunning year on the ITF World Tennis Tour – winning a hatful of titles to accelerate their climb towards the top of the game. Anhelina Kalinina and Juncheng Shang might be at very different stages of their tennis development, but they both shone brightly on the ITF World Tennis Tour in 2021. Shang, or Jerry as he’s better-known amongst English speakers, not only carried the mantle of junior world No. 1 through the second half of the year and produced performances to match in boys’ competition, he also made a prolific start to the men’s game, winning his first three ITF singles titles in the space of five weeks. All that, and he is still only 16-years-old. Kalinina’s journey, by contrast, has been one of sustained effort and resilience. She too was a promising junior, ranking at No. 8 in the world and finishing runner up in the girls’ singles at the 2014 US Open, but success has not come quickly since. Until this year, that is, when she rocketed up the rankings with five ITF singles titles – including her first three at W60 level and the biggest of the lot at W100 Contrexeville. Anhelina Kalinina “Quite a successful year, yes,” says 24-year-old Kalinina modestly when reflecting on a season that saw her claim titles at W25 Oeiras, W60 Zagreb, W60 Montpellier, W100 Contrexeville and W60 Nantes. The Ukrainian also reached her first WTA final without dropping a set in Budapest in July, and by November had climbed to a career-high No. 52 in the WTA rankings, having started the year at No. 163. So why the understated summary of her success? “I don’t like the word success,” Kalinina adds, matter-of-factly. “Success for me is like… Novak Djokovic this year. This is success. In all four Grand Slams this year the guy is going! “But it is a big step forward in my career,” she admits. “A big step forward in terms of the confidence I gained, the experience I got, that’s what I would call this year.” “I don’t like the word success. Success for me is like… Novak Djokovic this year. This is success." Every top player has a different journey, but Kalinina is a fine example of a laser-focused individual who has honed her craft over time – capitalising on opportunities that have allowed her to develop her tennis in a way that might not otherwise have been possible. The Grand Slam Development Fund (GSDF) has been a pivotal feature of her early career in that regard. She was a member of GSDF/ITF Touring Teams at both under 14 and under 16 level which afforded her the opportunity to travel and compete against the world’s best young players, and then, at the start of 2020, Kalinina – along with 23 other players – was given a $25,000 Grand Slam Player Grant by the GSDF to assist with her competition-related costs. The timing couldn’t have been better. While the world went into Covid-induced lockdown, Kalinina was able to “put this money to my process, to keep going, to keep training with a fitness trainer every day.” Buoyed by that extra conditioning work, she hit the ground running when international tennis resumed again later in the year and kicked on to new heights in 2021, compiling a 47-15 win-loss record from January through to the end of November (including a mighty impressive 31-4 record on clay). “I was not expecting to be here now, on the edge of the Top 50, because I was not waiting for this,” Kalinina admits. “I was expecting my improvement, but I wasn’t thinking I would be close to the Top 50. My goal was to be Top 100 and to be in the main draw of Grand Slams.” “I was expecting my improvement, but I wasn’t thinking I would be close to the Top 50. My goal was to be Top 100 and to be in the main draw of Grand Slams." Kalinina achieved landmark wins over Angelique Kerber at Roland Garros and Daria Kasatkina in Moscow, but reaching that maiden WTA final was a particularly special moment. “I was proud of myself, not only because it was a WTA event, but because it was my third tournament in a row,” she says. “I was on the road three weeks and I won a 60k (Montpellier), 100k (Contrexeville) and I was in the final in Budapest. I lost my 15th match… after 15 in a row!” Kalinina played 21 tournaments in total from January through to November (“I’ve never played so much in a year”) and believes the work ethic and stability of her coaching team has largely contributed to her, er… success. “I have had my husband (Anton Korchevskyi) as my tennis coach already for three years, and I’m really happy with that,” she says. “He’s been doing a huge amount of work and we’re very happy with the results of the work we’ve done. I’ve also had my fitness coach for two years and he knows what to do with me at each part of the season. My team is really ready.” "No one guarantees that you will win a lot or you will succeed like crazy every week.” So what next after her standout season? “It’s important that next year we plan the schedule very smart,” Kalinina acknowledges. “Now I can get into the big tournaments like Doha, Dubai, Miami. In previous years it was very tough to play those, so I need to mix WTA tournaments with the ITF’s – 100k or WTA 125ks. “I’m jumping in on these highest-level tournaments, but no one guarantees that you will win a lot or you will succeed like crazy every week.” There’s no guarantee, for sure, but it’s safe to say Kalinina has all the tools to keep on climbing. Coach’s view Roberta Burzagli, the current Brazilian Billie Jean King Cup captain, was head coach on the GSDF Touring Team that Kalinina participated in at both under 14 and under 16 level. Burzagli reflects on the qualities that made her stand out from an early age: ”Anhelina was a very focussed and professional athlete from an early age. She was 100% committed to being a professional player and she knew what it took to get there. Her biggest strength was her mental outlook. She had a great attitude towards competing and tough matches always brought the best out of her. She has demonstrated her dedication over the past seven years (hovering between 100 and 300 on the WTA rankings) and it is great to see that her perseverance has finally paid off, with her recent successes taking her to the fringes of top 50. I’m sure there is a lot more still to come!” Juncheng Shang Tennis players often mature early but even with the known demands of making it in a high-pressure, individual sport, Juncheng Shang stands out as a wise head on young shoulders. Never mind his results this year on both the Junior and Men’s ITF World Tennis Tour - and they really have been exceptional - at just 16 years old, Shang’s level-headed approach and cheery, likeable nature suggest he has all the ingredients to be a future star. “I’ve learned so much this year from playing the ITF Tournaments, from juniors to men’s, [but] tennis is not the most important thing,” says the Beijing-born teen, prudently. “I think it’s more important to be a better person, a more professional athlete, and be disciplined to do all the things off court.” In a season of two halves, Shang effectively completed his junior career by reaching the last eight in the boys’ singles at Roland Garros, the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the final at the US Open, before embarking on the start of his men’s career in style with titles on US soil at M15 Fayetteville, M15 Naples and M15 Vero Beach. Next year, his attentions will turn next to the ATP Challenger Tour. “I’ve learned so much this year from playing the ITF Tournaments, from juniors to men’s, [but] tennis is not the most important thing” Shang produced a 17-3 win-loss record in men’s competition on the ITF World Tennis Tour this year, but admits that his transition to the professional realm has been particularly aided by playing the world’s best juniors. “It’s been a very fun and special year for me - not just with the results but most importantly the experiences I’ve had in the junior slams,” he says. “I was also very grateful to play the South America tournaments at the beginning of the year. It was so hard for all the players to play tournaments in 2020, so it was important to get some matches and have the chance to complete.” Shang rates the Grade A junior event in Brazil, JA Criciuma, where he polished off all but one of his five matches in straight sets, as his most important title in 2021. “My condition wasn’t 100% ready but during that tournament I learned how to win matches in a shorter amount of time, which was something I struggled with,” he admits. Two weeks later, Shang was mixing it with the pros after being handed a wild card into qualifying for the ATP tournament in Miami, where he ultimately fell to Britain’s Liam Broady in a deciding tie-break. “[That] was an unreal experience,” he remembers. “Seeing how the top players play and how they get ready for their match, I learned a lot that week and I know I need to be more professional to compete at a higher level.” “It’s been a very fun and special year for me - not just with the results but most importantly the experiences I’ve had in the junior slams” Winning a junior Grand Slam would have been the perfect way to sign off on his boys’ career and while Shang admits he still has “a lot of regrets after the US Open”, he learned plenty following the defeat to Daniel Rincon in the boys’ title match in New York. “Unfortunately I didn’t take the trophy I wanted but it was an amazing experience to play in the final and I had some sort of momentum going into the pro tournaments,” he reasoned. “It was quite special to then go on and win my first $15k title while still a junior, saving a match point in the first match [at M15 Fayetteville] and grinding all the way to the final.” Given his age, what he’s already achieved, and the fact that he hails from a family used to performing in elite sport (Shang’s mother was a table tennis player and his father a footballer), it’s clear there’s plenty more to come from the current junior world No. 1. Coach’s view Jimmy Arias is the Tennis Director at the IMG Academy in Florida, where Shang trains. He comments on the qualities that are key to the youngster’s impressive development. Arias: “Jerry’s game is based around being a shot maker, incredibly fast and solid all around. Jerry has amazing feel and can get out of difficult positions with ease. He is able to transition well from defence into offence. He is successfully transitioning from junior tennis into the pro tour on path to a career full of achievements.”

Articles 03 Dec 2021

Can anyone beat Wisconsin?
Andrew Podnieks When Mark Johnson was a wee sprite of a lad, he was part of what the IIHF later called the greatest moment in international hockey history, leading the U.S. to a Miracle on Ice gold medal at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Johnson led all Americans with 11 points and scored two goals in the Miracle game, a 4-3 win over the heavily-favoured Soviet Union. As he celebrated with teammates and basked in this extraordinary glory, he could never have seen a day a quarter of a century later when he would be coaching a women’s hockey team in college or that four decades later he would be the winningest coach in NCAA women’s hockey history. Yet that where he’s at today, coaching the University of Wisconsin Badgers for a 19th season, a team that earned its sixth national championship under Johnson last year and which is now undefeated in 16 games to start the 2021/22 season. Their only blemish to date is a scoreless tie with Bemidji State a couple of weeks ago. You can’t be a good coach if you don’t have good players, and good players won’t come to your college unless you have a good coach. Yet from the very start in 2002, Johnson recruited well and won, year after year. The Badgers won the title last spring thanks to an overtime goal from Daryl Watts, a Toronto native who played for Canada at the 2016 and 2017 Women’s U18 team. Watts is back for a fifth year. She is the only freshman ever to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, which she did in 2018 with Boston College, before transferring. She is currently third on the team in scoring with 28 points in 16 games, and she is one of many players from both sides of the border to have loads of U18 experience. Consider the team’s top scorer, Makenna Webster, who is tearing the NCAA apart with 33 points in 16 games. She also played at three U18’s, winning gold in 2018 and 2020 and silver in between. Casey O’Brien, a 20-year-old forward, was teammates with Webster in ’18 and ’19 and in second in Badgers’ scoring so far this season. Indeed, Webster, O’Brien, and Watts are 1-2-3 in NCAA Division I scoring overall. Goalie Kennedy Blair, meanwhile, has played in 14 of the team’s 16 games and leads the NCAA with 13 wins and five shutouts. She was the winning ‘tender in last year’s championship after transferring from Mercyhurst. Other Americans on the current Badgers’ team with WW18 experience include defender Natalie Buchbinder (2017), forward Delaney Drake (2017), Grace Bowlby (2015, 2016), and Nicole Lamantia (2017). Lacey Eden played at the 2019 and 2020 Women’s U18 and then made the leap to the top level, playing at the Women’s Worlds in Calgary this past August. The 19-year-old had two assists in five games, winning silver. Britta Curl played at the 2018 U18 and joined Eden on the team in Calgary, playing three games and scoring the game-winning goal in a 6-0 win over ROC during the preliminary round. Among the Canadians, the Shirley sisters from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan are prominent. Sophie, the older at 22, played at the 2016 and 2017 U18’s and was named IIHF Directorate Best Forward in the latter. A great skater, she in the kind of talent who will certainly play for Canada’s senior team sooner rather than later. Her younger sister, Grace, followed Sophie and played at the ’18 and ’19 WW18s against, among others, Webster and Eden. Marianne Picard played for Canada at the 2020 WW18 alongside Sarah Wozniewicz; Daryl Watts played in 2016 and 2017; and, Brette Pettet played in 2017. Maddi Wheeler played in 2019 and 2020. In all, an incredible 15 players on this year’s Badgers team have WW18 experience on their resume. It’s no wonder they are undefeated. Johnson’s successes are long and rich. Alumna to his program include all-time scorers Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight as well as a who’s who of IIHF women’s hockey stars, including Brianna Decker, Sarah Nurse, and Meaghan Mikkelson, and goalies Alex Rigsby (now known by her married name, Alex Cavallini) and Ann-Renee Desbiens. Johnson has also coached five women to Kazmaier Award success – Sara Bauer (2006), Jessie Vetter (2009), Meghan Duggan (2011), Brianna Decker (2012), and Ann-Renee Desbiens (2017). At the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, there were nine Badgers in the tournament, five Canadian and four American. Johnson has now won more than 550 games with the Badgers and led them to national championships in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2019, and 2021. The only time he hasn’t been behind the bench in the last two decades was for 18 games during the 2009/10 season when he took a leave of absence to coach the U.S. National Team at the Olympics in Vancouver. He won’t be coaching in Beijing, but his Badgers are clear favourites to repeat as champions this year. They have the experience, the skill, the scoring and goaltending. Really, what’s to stop them?

Articles 21 Oct 2021

Brett Lee: Australia have what it takes to become champions
First and foremost, it is great to be back at a big tournament again. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 is huge and it is so good to have this event because so many people have been locked down around the world. T20 cricket is a great format to bring people together and I am expecting to see some brilliant cricket in the next few weeks. Hopefully, a lot of that will come from Australia, who begin their campaign against old foes South Africa on Saturday. This is the one format of the game Australia’s men have not succeeded in at an ICC tournament and we Australians are hungry for it. For me, the expectation is that Australia will go and win the tournament. I know they might be high expectations but if you don’t go and set the bar very high, you are not going to succeed. We have not had a lot of success in this format – it is time we changed it and we do have a side that can take it all the way. It obviously won’t be easy, especially when you look at how strong teams like England, India and New Zealand are. But this Australian side is loaded with talent and for me, the key is David Warner. I would like to say he is saving the runs for the games that count after his IPL form! He was really harshly dealt with there and it may have knocked some confidence out of him but he thrives on the big stage. Everything should be rosy for him here, class is permanent. I will also put a lot of weight behind Mitchell Starc. There has been some debate in the last year about Starc being past his best but he would be in my team every single time, Josh Hazlewood has had a good IPL and Pat Cummins is a superstar. He is the David Beckham of the team, whatever he touches turns to gold! The build-up has not always been smooth for Australia but it’s amazing what an early win can do for confidence and South Africa pose a massive threat. Players come and go, greats come and go. But when you play against a nation like South Africa, the respect is always there. We know they have some match-winners and that is where the T20 game will suit them. They have guys who can take the game away within four or five overs and it will be a real test. I think South Africa are closer to the Australian culture than any other nation, in terms of sport. New Zealand are obviously closer geographically but South Africans are abrasive on the sports field. They are always in your face and I love that, it’s great. It is also why they have been so successful in all formats. I know they will give Australia a red-hot crack. The teams who have had success on these wickets are generally from the sub-continent, so they normally have that advantage. But because we have just had the back end of the IPL played on these pitches, I think it brings the playing field a lot closer and both the Aussies and Proteas will be thinking that. But saying that, I think India are probably the favourites with their top four or five batters and their bowling attack. I have KL Rahul down as the top run-scorer in the tournament and Mohammed Shami to be the leading wicket-taker, purely going on the last few months. So if they deliver and India have one of the leading run-scorers and wicket-takers, it’s a good start. But I’m confident Australia can do it and it all starts against South Africa – a brilliant match to start what will hopefully be a brilliant tournament for the Baggy Greens.

Articles 19 Feb 2020

Future of Pakistan Weightlifting
Sheikh M0hammad Anwar It is said, “Hospitals become barren where playing grounds are functional”.  The world of sports has a big moral power and civilized world through heir sports took their countries to a new height, however, nobody could deny the importance of sports. Similarly, Imam Ghazali said that a healthy body has a healthy mind which compels for positive thinking. Healthy minds always decide positive and effective decisions. Here, I would like to say that If some understood the spirit of sports, he is Chief Executive Pakistan Weight Lifting Federation Hafiz Imran Butt. Last days, it happened to me to go Uzbekistan (Tashkent) as Team Manager in connection with International Solidarity Weight Lifting Championship Uzbekistan (Tashkent) Qualification Event Olympic Games 2020 along with Hafiz Imran Butt, in which, players of 47 countries participated. We reached Uzbekistan along with Talha Talib and Zohaib Manzoor by HY464 Uzbekistan airways. Talha Talib had secured a gold medal and two silver medals in International Solidarity Weight Lifting Championship held in Qahirah 2018, while, in Uzbekistan, Talha Talib won three gold medals in 67 kg category in the recent Championship. Similarly, Zohaib Manzoor secured fifth position, in 96kg category. Sensational scenes were observed in Weight lifting hall where, no Pakistani was present except Hafiz Imran Butt, I and the above mentioned players.  While, Talha Talib won gold medal in 67 kg category, Stage 142 and Clean and Jerk 162 and hoisted the Pakistani flag in Uzbekistan. The weight lifting hall was echoed with Pakistan Zindabad. Talking to the media, Talha Talib that he was very happy over the victory, first of all, I am thankful to Allah Almighty, Who reached me in victory stand and he attributes his victory to Pakistani Nation and Pakistan Weight Lifting Federation whose prayers help him win the championship. Talha said, “We can give excellent performance, if government provide facilities to us like that provided to players in other countries”.  Sheikh Anwar said that it was his first tour along with Pakistani weight lifting team as a manager to Uzbakistan, for which “I am grateful to the federation”.   He lamented that India sent 10 players to Uzbakistan for taking part in International weight lifting championship and 16 players including male and female players for Asian Youth International Weight Lifting Championship while Pakistan sent two players. However, I came to know that the weight lifting federation was facing financial constraint, due to which, two players were sent. Under the 18th amendment, neither Pakistan Sports Board nor provinces support financially to the federation, due to which, federation was facing financial crunch. When, I talked to Indian team manager, he told me, that their federation get annual grant of Rs 120 to 150 million from Indian government, besides providing facility of air travelling. “It was shocking me, and I thought, ‘Alas’ Pakistan government patronage our players like that of India, then Pakistan can obtain the lost glory in the sports sector”. Mr Ellia of Kazakhastan, who made the record of World Champion in Olympic Chamion 2008, 2012 and 2014, told us in a meeting that his doctor, physiotherapist, neutrician coach, training coach and loader are with me at all times.  He disclosed that preparations for Olympic games would be started the very next day and a training camp would be set up for them. It is a tragic that players in Pakistan get a brief time, due to which, players could not practice properly. Sheikh Anwar expressed the pleasure that it was not a less than honour, that Paksiani players won gold medals in World Championship. He said that Pakistan could not materialize the dream of making champion in sports, until sports at school and college level are organized. It was surprising for him that from 15 to 16 years male and female students participated in the Youth Olympic Championship. He stressed the need for imparting training to children from 8 to 10 years of age so that they could be able to take part in Asian and Commonwealth Games. The well grooming of parents certainly transferred to their children, and in this regard, Noah Butt, Abdullah Butt and Talha Talib were an example. Sheikh Anwar said it was deplorable that Wapda, army, police, railways and HEC players had no rods and plates of international standard. As we saw in Uzbakastan competitions, rods and plates of ELEIKO and ZKC companies were available in abundance for players of other countries for practice. While talking, Hafiz Imran Butt said that he visited Uzbakastan in 2018 and that time, the airport of Tashkent was old and now it was modern that like of Dubai airport. When, he asked he protocol officer, how much time the airport took to complete, he told that only 10 months. He demanded the government to support players of other sports other than Cricket players. He stressed the need for building training halls of international standard for promoting individual sport like weight lifting sports. World Champion Al-bagh Faris who came from Qatar asked this writer, “Have you ever organized international weight lifting competitions in Pakistan” and the answer was ‘No’ as there was no hall for weight lifting competitions in Pakistan. However, the writer stressed the need for promoting weight lifting sport and facilitating players to bring laurel for Pakistan.

Articles 16 Jan 2020

A Best Sports Administrator Syed Kawar Shah, who left us January 16: 2018
By Abdul Jabbar Faisal A best sports administartor of past, Syed Khawar Shah was born on December 7, 1949 at district Jhang (Punjab) Pakistan. He was very keen in sports from his childhood and was one of the best players of football and athletics. Besides this, he was also very interested in traditional local sports of Punjab including Kabaddi and Desi-Kushti. Khawar Shah got his early education from Jhang while he completed his Master's Degree in History in 1976 from Punjab University Lahore. He was also played a vital role in students’ politics and remained the President of Student Union at Government Degree College Jhang. Syed Khawar Shah started his professional career in 1978 as a Tehsil Sports Officer in Punjab Sports Board. He was then elected to the Divisional Sports Officer in 1983. In 1997 he was promoted to Deputy Director Sports. He was appointed as Director Sports Punjab by the Government of Punjab in 2002. In 2003, he was promoted to Director General of Punjab Sports Board and took the charge on October 10, 2004. Later, in 2007 he was designated Managing Director of Punjab Sports Board and retired in December 2009. Syed Khawar Shah served for over 30 years in the Directorate General Sports Punjab. Syed Khawar Shah successfully organized International Cricket Competitions during his employment in Sports Board Punjab: 1. One Day Match PAK vs WIND 1985 Gujranwala 2. One Day Match PAK vs WIND 1986 Gujranwala 3. One Day Match WIND vs ENG 1987 Gujranwala World Cup 4. One Day Match PAK vs IND 1989 Gujranwala 5. One Day Match PAK vs SLK 1991 Gujranwala 6. Test Match PAK vs SLK 1991 Gujranwala 7. One Day Match PAK vs ZMB 1993 Rawalpindi 8. Test Match PAK vs ZMB 1993 Rawalpindi 9. One Day Match PAK vs AUS 1994 Rawalpindi 10. One Day Match PAK vs SAF 1994 Rawalpindi 11. One Day Match PAK vs SLK 1995 Rawalpindi 12. One Day Match PAK vs UAE 1996 Rawalpindi World Cup 13. One Day Match ENG vs SAF 1996 Rawalpindi World Cup 14. One Day Match HOL vs SAF 1996 Rawalpindi World Cup 15. Test Match PAK vs NZL 1996 Rawalpindi He also organized different international sports events: 1. Football Match PAK vs India 2005 Lahore 2. The  7th Asia Baseball Cup 2006 Rawalpindi 3. International Bodybuilding Championship 1989 Gujranwala 4. Hockey Match Holland vs Punjab Under-14 Gujranwala 5. Hockey Match PAK vs BNG Gujranwala 6. Quadi-e-Azam International Wrestling Championship 1986 Gujranwala 7. Ch. Zahoor Elahi International Memorial Kabaddi Tournament 1991 Mandi Bahauddin Syed Khawar Shah successfully conducted Ind-o-Pak Dangal Desi Kushti contests between wrestlers of Pakistan and India in 2008 and 2011 in different cities of Punjab including Bahawalpur, Multan, Gujranwala and Lahore. He also successfully organized national level competitions of various sports including baseball, hockey, badminton, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, kabaddi and racquetball. Syed Khawar Shah also served in various social and sports associations throughout his life: 1. President Student Union Govt. Degree College Jhang 1972 2. Secretary General Pakistan Federation Baseball 1992-2015 3. President Pakistan Federation Baseball 2015-2017 4. Field Director Pony Baseball of Asia 1993-2012 5. Member Development Committee Baseball Federation of Asia 2006 6. Member at Large Baseball Federation of Asia 2005-2012 7. Executive Director West Asia Baseball Federation of Asia 2012-2017 8. Member World Baseball Softball Confederation 1997-2017 9. District Administrator Pakistan Little League Baseball 2009-2016 10. Secretary General SAF Baseball Federation 2011-2017 11. Member Executive Committee Pakistan Olympic Association 2017 In 1992, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to include baseball in the Olympics, then Syed Khawar Shah decided to introduce this sport in Pakistan, the baseball was formally started in Gujranwala because Khawar Shah was then serving as a sports officer in Gujranwala. The first National Baseball Championship was also held same year in which teams from Pakistan WAPDA, Pakistan Railway, Islamabad, Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Sindh, Punjab White and Punjab Blue participated. Later teams of Pakistan Police, Pakistan Army and Higher Education Commission (HEC) also joined. Syed Khawar Shah worked hard to make the baseball game popular throughout the country. His hectic efforts made the Pakistan Federation Baseball a member of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and the Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA). The IBAF and the BFA always praised Syed Khawar Shah's efforts for baseball. Syed Khawar Shah also worked tirelessly for the popularity of baseball in the West Asian region. In view of his services, the President of the Baseball Federation of Asia awarded Syed Khawar Shah the Presidential Award in 2011. Lateron, he was also named Executive Director of the West Asian Region Baseball Federation of Asia in 2013. Due to the efforts of Syed Khawar Shah, various baseball teams of Pakistan has participated in international competitions and made the country famous. Pakistan's Under-12 baseball team participated in 2nd IBAF U12 Baseball World Cup 2013 which took place in Taiwan. Pakistan's Women's Baseball Team took part in the Women's Baseball World Cup 2016 in South Korea while the National Baseball Team of Pakistan participated in the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier which was held in New York United Sates of America (USA). 1. 7th Asia Baseball Cup 2006 Rawalpindi Gold 2. 9th Asia Baseball Cup 2009 Islamabad Gold 3. 1st SAF Baseball Cup 2011 Lahore Gold 4. 10th West Asia Baseball Cup 2012 Lahore Gold 5. 11th West Asia Baseball Cup 2013 Lahore Gold 6. 12th West Asia Baseball Cup 2015 Islamabad Gold 7. 13th West Asia Baseball Cup 2017 Islamabad  Silver Syed Khawar Shah worked day and night for the improving the standard of sports in the country. He visited the area most affected by terrorism in Pakistan (FATA) and selected players for baseball team and kept them in the National Baseball Academy (NBA) established in Lahore, where these players were provided with baseball training, accommodation, food and education. These players participated in international competitions abroad for Pakistan and revealed the name of their region (FATA) and country. 1. The 9th Under-12 Asian Baseball Championship 2016 China 2. The 9th Under-15 Asian Baseball Championship 2017 Japan 3. The 10th Under-12 Asian Baseball Championship 2018 Taiwan 4. The 10th Under-15 Asian Baseball Championship 2019 China In the 10th U-15 Asian Baseball Championship played in China in 2019, Zeeshan Amin from Khyber Agency (FATA) received the Best Outfielder and Best Home Run award and raised the name of his region and country in the world. While from Punjab, Syed Mohammad Shah won the Best Hitter Award. Syed Khawar Shah remained associated with sports till his death and worked to illuminate Pakistan's name in the world. His last job was organizing the Ind-o-pak Baseball Series in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) named Dubai Baseball Cup. The series was played in December 2017, in which Pakistan won the gold medal. On his return from Dubai Cup, Khawar Shah traveled to Islamabad for a baseball event at the Quaid-e-Azam Games in December 2017, where he successfully held the baseball competitions, but his tireless work and the cool weather of Islamabad, Syed Khawar Shah got ill. When he was checked up on his return to Lahore, doctors diagnosed the pneumonia and he was admitted to the hospital. Where he transferred to the ventilator but he could not survive and reunited with his creator on January 16, 2018. Syed Khawar Shah died but whenever history of sports would be written in Pakistan, Khawar Shah's name would be inked in golden letters. His services would never be forgotten in sports. May Allah grant Khawar Shah a place in his mercy and shower His blessings on him (Aameen).

Articles 03 Jan 2020

Notable sports personalities who left us in 2019
Mohammad Ali      LAHORE (JANUARY 3, 2020):-2019 turned out to be the year of happy news as well as sad news. Many Pakistan sports personnel won laurels for their country while some passed away. Here are some known sports personalities who left us for their heavenly abode last year. Farhat Hussain Saddique:-Farhat Hussain Saddique, former national badminton player and father of Test cricketers Imran Farhat and Humayun Farhat, lost his fight against cancer on February 24. Saddiqui was under treatment at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital for many months but headed for his last journey to eternity. Saddiqui was one of leading sports organisers and also served as director sports of the Punjab University and its Law College. He also held the sports officer position at the Government College University Lahore. Saddiqui had initiated women’s cricket and hockey in Lahore a long time ago. He was also the pioneer of baseball in Pakistan and a founding member of the Pakistan Federation Baseball, along with late PFB President Khawar Shah in early 1990s. Agha Mohammad Akbar:-Mohammad Akbar Khan: Pakistan’s veteran sports journalist Agha Mohammad Akbar, who served as Sports Editor of English dailies – The Nation and Pakistan Today – passed away on May 19. He had a liver transplant at Shiekh Zayed Hospital in Lahore. But due to incompetent doctors and post-operation complications, he never recovered fully. He was associated with The Nation before joining Pakistan Today where he worked as Editor Sports and also Magazine Editor. Agha also headed the media department of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for a while under then PCB chairman Najam Aziz Sethi, who forced him to resign after developing differences with him. This also hurt him a lot. At the height of his career, he was a heavyweight and widely respected because of his exceptional writing skills and understanding of sports, especially cricket and hockey. He travelled far and wide to cover sporting events, including the Olympics and Asian Games, World Cups, and other major competitions involving Pakistan. Riazuddin Ahmed:- Cricket umpire Riazuddin Ahmed, who served on the International Cricket Council (ICC) panel as well as the on the elite panel of the Pakistan Cricket Board, died on June 11 after suffering a cardiac arrest in Karachi. One of the most respected of umpires in the international arena, Riazuddin, who was 60, retired from umpiring at the top level after reaching age of superannuation, stood in 12 Tests and as many One-day Internationals. Making his debut as Test umpire at the age of 31 against West Indies at Karachi in November 1990, Riazuddin was retained for the remaining two matches of the series and officiated alongside his mentor Khizer Hayat in all three Tests. As part of the ICC panel, Riazuddin supervised in four Tests – in which Pakistan were not involved – in Wellington, Durban, Bulawayo and Colombo between March 2000 and December 2001. He also officiated in four ODIs as a neutral umpire in late 1999. Brig (r) Abdul Hamid Hamidi:-One of the icons of hockey and 1960 Olympic gold medal winning team captain Brig (r) Abdul Hamid Hamidi breathed his last at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi on July 11, losing battle against lungs injury occurred due to sudden fall at home. He was 92. Hamidi was one name who played instrumental role in popularising and strengthening the game of hockey in Pakistan. Hamidi had the honour of representing Pakistan at four Olympics — 1948 at London, 1952 at Helsinki, 1956 at Melbourne and 1960 at Rome. Born on Jan 7, 1927, Hamidi played as inside right and rose to fame when he skippered greenshirts to a solitary goal win over arch rivals India that ended latter’s domination. Later in his career, Hamidi served on important positions including Director General Army Sports Board, DG National Sports Trust (NST) and DG Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) from where he retired on superannuation. He also served as Secretary General of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). He was also the elder brother of Rasheed Junior — the famous national hockey team centre-forward of sixties and early seventies. An outstanding inside-right, Hamidi was not only a schemer but also a tremendous scorer. He was a member of both the 1948 and 1952 Olympics teams. But these teams, despite having several outstanding players, could only finish fourth. The main reason of the failure was a lack of harmony and discipline. Hamidi was then made the captain of the team in 1956 and he didn’t disappoint – the army officer inculcated much-needed discipline and spirit in the team. Under Hamidi’s able captaincy, Pakistan won silver medal at the 1956 Olympics losing to India by a controversial goal in the final. Still, it was an epoch-making moment in the country’s sporting history as it was Pakistan’s first ever medal of any colour in any Olympic discipline. Then, in 1958, Hameedi led Pakistan to a gold medal at the Asian Games. It was the first time that India was relegated to second position in any international hockey tournament. And finally Hamidi attained eternal legend status by skippering Pakistan to their maiden Olympic gold in 1960. The final of the 1960 Rome Olympics is still regarded as one of the finest moments in Pakistan sports history. That’s when Pakistan came head-to-head against their archrivals India for the second time in the Olympic history. Abdul Qadir:- The sudden death of former Pakistan spin maestro Abdul Qadir on September 6, 2019 at the age of 63, nine days short of his next birthday, shocked the entire cricket community and fans not only in Pakistan but also around the globe who admired the way he skillfully practiced the rare and nearly extinct art of wrist spin bowling. With his debut, Qadir showed to the cricketing world that here was someone who would shine like a beacon as a bowler of a highest quality. Apart from being a genius with the ball, Qadir was a larger-than-life figure who was adored, loved and respected across the globe due to his excellent understanding and knowledge of the game, and strong cricket ethics and discipline. Qadir played a key role in the rebirth of leg-spin and was a vital component of the Pakistan sides of the 1980s. In two World Cups, in 1983 and 1987, he was instrumental in Pakistan’s run to the semi-finals. Pakistan legend Wasim Akram, who made his Test debut when Qadir was part of the same side, described the wrist-spinner as a “magician” in a tribute he posted on Twitter. Wasim wrote: “They called him the magician for many reasons but when he looked me in the eyes and told me I was going to play for Pakistan for the next 20 years, I believed him. “A Magician, absolutely. A leg spinner & a trailblazer of his time. You will be missed Abdul Qadir but never forgotten.” Legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne – the second highest Test wicket-taker with 708 (only behind Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan’s 800) – was also a big fan of Qadir.   The English have proved profitable opponents for several Pakistan leggies, but Qadir was the first who made them bleed. His finest hour, too, would come against England. Qadir’s nine for 56 against England at Lahore in November 1987 remain the best Test figures by a Pakistan bowler. He took 13 wickets in the match as Pakistan won by an innings and 87 runs. Born on September 15, 1955 in Lahore, natural talent combined with aggression and passion made Qadir one of the most successful spinners of his era. Former captain Imran Khan was to be a key influence on his career, one of the few capable of getting the best out of Qadir the man and bowler. He had a distinct run-up, bounding in to the crease, and a great variety of deliveries: there was the orthodox leg-break, the topspinner, two googlies and the flipper. His fervent appeals made him a great favourite with the spectators but sometimes got him into trouble with umpires. Qadir played 67 Test matches during 1977-90 and took 236 wickets, with an average of 32.80, including 15 five-wicket hauls. He also scored 1,029 runs including three fifties. Qadir played 104 ODIs, claiming 132 wickets. Qadir played first-class cricket for Lahore, Punjab and Habib Bank Limited during 1975-95. During his first-class career, he achieved five or more wickets in an innings on seventy-five occasions, and ten or more wickets in a match twenty-one times. Qadir played 209 first-class matches and took 960 wickets with an average of 23.24. His best bowling figures for an innings were nine wickets for 56 runs, whereas his best performance for a match was 13 wickets for 101 runs. As a batsman, he scored 3,740 runs averaged 18.33 from 247 innings. He also scored two centuries and eight fifties. Qadir played his last first-class match in 1994. (Courtesy Daily Times)

Articles 20 Nov 2019

Squash standard declines in the country with full speed
By Abdul Jabbar Faisal I stunned when few weeks back I came to know that Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) has determined not to send the national team in forthcoming World Team Squash Championship 2019 that would be taken place in Washington DC, the capital city of United States of America (USA) next month in December. As many as 23 teams from all over the world will take part in the mega fixture of the squash world. One day, I planned to visit the office of federation, which is located at Mushaf Squash Complex in the premises of Pakistan Sports Complex (PSC).On September 23, 2019, I visited the PSF office around 11am, I knocked at the door of secretary office and honorary secretary Tahir Sultan was in his seat in good mood and his table was decorated with fruit, biscuits, tea etc. Probably, I was a new face for him. After introducing myself, I sat on the couch and start talking about the game of squash. With the permission of well dressed and smart man Tahir Sultan, I asked a question from him. “Why will, 6 times champions and 4 times runner-ups Pakistan team, not be participating in the mega World Team Squash Championship, which will be held in the mid December this year 2019?” After listening my question the face colour of squash official suddenly changed and started blaming me and shout at me, “Why are you not aware about this?”, as this decision was taken a month back in the Annual General Council Meeting (AGM) of the federation that was chaired by its president Mujahid Anwar Khan and decision was made by the house unanimously after a marathon discussion on this topic. I am not solitary responsible for this act, “he said While unfolding the reasons behind this unremarkable decision he further said, “We have no capable players to make an ideal team to send abroad for the said event, who could perform up to mark in the international squash event. In the last edition Pakistani guys were spotted at 19th position in the World Team Squash Championship and we do not want to waste money on this unproductive trip. We want to give full attention to the juniors. All squash experts, officials, mentors and even media say that senior players are not toiling hard and it will be wastage of money if we will send these guys for unfruitful trips, “he maintained. He further said, “We have not sufficient funds and we get finances from government and this money comes from public tax that cannot be thrown in the dustbin. Yes, if government provides us some resources for this trip then we can send of national team with green flag in the 23-nation international squash fixture. We host the international tournament and overseas players win while our senior players are crawling behind them. We provide maximum occasions to our guys to improve their ranking and get the place in top 20 and top 10, “he added.   It is pertinent to mention here that the first world team squash championship was held in 1967, which was won by Australia while Pakistan claimed this title first time in 1977 in the history of squash. Later on, Pakistan won the title four times in a row in 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1987. Last time Pakistan had won this prestigious squash event in 1993. As many as 26 years have been passed but Pakistan could not show impressive performance in the World Team Squash Championship fixtures so far. British Open Squash Championship is another high profile international squash fixture and every player of the squash world dreams to win this title. Pakistan has wonderful record and inked remarkable and great history in British Open. Pakistani players won this title 30 times so far. Jahangir Khan 10, Hashim Khan 7, Jansher Khan 6, Azam Khan 4, Roshan Khan, Mohibullah Khan and Qamar Zaman won this tournament one time apiece for their country. Last times, Jansher Khan won the British Open in 1997 by defeating Australian opponent Peter Nicole, unfortunately, next year 1998 same challenger Peter Nicole defeated Jansher Khan in the final. Almost, 22 years have been passed and Pakistan Squash Federation could not produce a solitary player, who could win this prestigious squash showpiece of the world.     It is fair and square to say that the standard of the squash going down day by day and the statics are showing real picture of squash and nobody can deny from this fact. In 1998, Amjad Khan had won high profile squash event in Karachi and that was Pakistan Open, after over two decades we could not produce a single players, who could fill the shoes of great Jehangir Khan and Jansher Khan. If there will be a long term policy to bring squash laurels back in Pakistan and we may resurrect our past and one could win the big titles for Pakistan but we are still crawling sadly. Unfortunately, owing to lack of comprehensive and long term policies we are not able to find way out from this situation. There is need to formulate some long term policies to accelerate the standard of game, which can prove fruitful and our talented players could bring squash glory back in the Pakistan. Our squash standard is going down day by day with full speed. High-ups must look into the affairs of squash federation to put the train on right track. According to Professional Squash Association (PSA) last month ranking, our top national player Tayyab Aslam is at 60th, Asim Khan 74th and Farhan Mehboob at 91st positions. After these facts, there is no need to comment on the performance of national players and squash federation. Standard is going down with full speed like the speed of F-16.