x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

India cannot handle hockey heat but Saina stands tall

Australia thrash hosts to take field hockey gold and England fail to take second spot in medal table while Kenya dominate marathon.

India’s Sardar Singh, left, tackles Australian hockey player Matthew Swann. Australia won the gold medal with a resounding 8-0 victory yesterday.
India’s Sardar Singh, left, tackles Australian hockey player Matthew Swann. Australia won the gold medal with a resounding 8-0 victory yesterday.

NEW DELHI // While foreign players and officials complained about daytime temperatures in the field hockey competition at the Commonwealth Games, it seems the India team were most affected by playing the final in 35°C heat.

India had favourable scheduling as the organisers planned their pool matches in cool evening conditions in a bid to attract the maximum television audience from its 1.2 billion population.

That scheduling kept India in the gold medal picture until the umpires blew the whistle to signal the start of the final against Australia at 11.30am yesterday in baking sun.

The Indian resistance at MDC Stadium lasted for only 15 minutes before the players ran out of steam and Australia won their fourth successive gold medal with a resounding 8-0 win.

Australia's Jamie Dwyer, who has played in all four Commonwealth Games finals since the sport was introduced at Kuala Lumpur in 1998, knew that India would find it tough to handle the conditions.

"They haven't played in the heat, and I knew if we got a couple of goals it will be tough for them to come back in these conditions," Dwyer said.

"Maybe they [India] were a bit tired in the second half," Luke Doerner, who scored two goals off penalty corner drag flicks, said.

It was the second major title for Australia at the MDC Stadium after they lifted the World Cup in March at the same venue.

Perhaps that was the reason Ric Charlesworth rated the 19,000-capacity stadium as world-class.

"The atmosphere is so great here that it makes it the best hockey stadium in the world," he said, after guiding Australia to a third major title in 2010. Australia also won the Champions Trophy in August.

Jose Brasa, India's Argentine coach, looked to give his players some rest after yesterday's hammering after some had received calls from their domestic clubs to compete in a local tournament.

"Physically and psychologically the players need at least 10 days rest before the Asian Games and I request through media that players should not be forced to compete," he said.

Meanwhile India's badminton queen, Saina Nehwal, clawed her way back from match point down to claim gold and secure the hosts second place on the medal table yesterday.

The world No 3 beat Singapore's Mew Choo Wong in front of a delirious crowd at the Siri Fort complex to claim India's 38th gold of the Games and ensure her country's best finish by the slenderest of margins.

Three English attempts to win gold on the same court failed and they remained on 37 for third place behind the hosts and Australia, who topped the table for a sixth successive Games with 74 titles.

"The crowd was really important," Nehwal said. "I've never been match point down before so I was under pressure. I think it was the toughest match of my career."

The marathon races, which started at 6am local time, drew very few spectators despite a public holiday being declared in Delhi.

Kenya's John Kelai won the men's race ahead of Australian Michael Shelley with Irene Jerotich Kosgei leading home Irene Mogake in a Kenyan one-two in the women's 26-mile (41.8 kilometres) race. "I feel great. I am so humbled to win here. It is an honour," said Kelai.

"I didn't know I could be the winner. I knew it was going to be tough."

The city's wildlife was again out in force with police chasing stray dogs away and using sticks to clear monkeys from the course

Two gymnastics golds went to Chrystalleni Trikomiti, the Cypriot, in the women's rope and ribbon events.

Naazmi Johnston claimed an Australian gold in the ball final while Elaine Koon won the hoop for Malaysia.

* Agencies