Hockey Olympic qualifier: India to get tough fight from Canada and France

Indian hockey team need to be wary about Canada and France, who though ranked lower in rankings, might pose tough challenges for the 10th-placed Indian hockey team in the upcoming Olympic qualifier, writes The Hindu. Even though both sides respect India's ability and ranking, they are confident about their preparations for the do-or-die event starting on February 18. “Everyone is fighting for his life. We have to take every game seriously. There is no second chance,” said Canada coach Robin D'Abreo following the team's first practice session at the National Stadium here on Sunday.

Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran defeated compatriot Sandipan Chanda to jump to joint fourth spot after the end of the fifth round of Aeroflot International open chess tournament here, according to a report in The Hindu. It was game of fluctuating fortunes in which Sasikiran prevailed thanks to excellent calculation in wild complications. Meanwhile, National champion Abhijeet Gupta continued his good work and held former champion Evgeny Alekseev to an easy draw. Out of a French defense as black, Abhijeet had to part with his queen to force matters. Parimarjan Negi enjoyed a miniscule advantage against S P Sethuraman in the middle game but the latter handled his position well to split the point.

In a tragic car accident, two talented national level players of Pune died while another is battling serious injuries in a hospital, reports The Times Of India. Former Maharashtra players -- Saurabh Paralikar (23), Siddhant Ghorpade (21) and Devavrat Bhalerao (20) -- were travelling in an Indica car after having their dinner when their car suddenly lost control and rammed into a roadside tree, killing the first two on the spot. The accident took place at around 1.30am on Sunday on the Mumbai-Bangalore Expressway near Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune.

With just a couple of days left for the final selection trials of pugilists who will take part in the last Olympic qualifiers that will be held in March end, the boxers are working really hard to make it to the Indian team, writes The Tribune. “Right from rigorous training to studying new techniques through various sources, the boxers are leaving no stone unturned to defeat their fellow players. As four Indian players have already qualified for the Olympics- L. Devendro Singh (49 kg), Jai Bhagwan (60 kg), Manoj Kumar (64 kg) and Vikas Krishan (69 kg), these weight categories have already been reserved. As a result, many players will be compelled to change their weight category in case they want to continue in the race for the qualifiers. This will certainly mean tougher competition in the other weight categories. The selection trials will will be held on February 25 and 26 at NIS, Patiala,” says The Tribune report.

It is difficult to see the Indian shuttlers progress beyond the quarterfinals of the Thomas & Uber Cup Asia Zone preliminary which kicks off in Macau, China, on Monday, writes TOI. “Though the men, who are clubbed with Indonesia, Singapore and Macau in Group B, are likely to reach the quarters in Thomas Cup, the chances of women look bleak in Uber Cup. The Indian women, are in Group W along with the Chinese and Malaysians. Saina, who led the challenge in 2010 and the women’s doubles team of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa clinched the bronze at the World championships last year. However, the format here __ with each rubber comprising three singles and two doubles __ may hamper the Indian women this time. Though Saina Nehwal and the duo of Jwala-Ashwini may not face too many questions from the Malaysians on Tuesday, India need to win either one of the two remaining singles or the other doubles tie,” says the report, stating that the men, who will start against Singapore on Monday, relatively have an easy group stage to negotiate. Top ranked shuttler Ajay Jayaram, Parupalli Kashyap and exciting prospect Sourabh Verma will play the singles.