Athens Olympics: Ashwini pins hopes on Anju George

MUMBAI, JUNE 1. Expressing disappointment over the standard of athletics in India since the Seoul Olympics in 1988, former sprinter Ashwini Nachappa said she has high hopes of long jumper Anju George performing to her potential at the Athens Olympic Games in August.

"There's no one else in sight. Anju is the only athlete who has done well overcoming several problems. Though she has missed two meets recently, I think she is peaking at the right time.

Ashwini was at the United Services Golf Club on Tuesday to take part in a three-hole putting event with the media as part of the preview for the McDowell's Signature Celebrity Golf event with Mandira Bedi, Malavika Tiwari, Charu Sharma and Ashok Capoor, Chief operating officer, United Breweries. The main celebrity event will be held on Sunday, June 6.

"I am here for a cause. One sportsperson helps another. The government and sports federations have done nothing for retired and needy sportspersons. I am happy to be associated with the celebrity event here,'' said Ashwini. The proceeds of the event, estimated to be around Rs.25 lakh, will be donated to the CHAMPS Foundation instituted by Sunil Gavaskar.

Former Australian captain Allan Border, Rahul Dravid, Kiran More, Syed Kirmani, Venkatesh Prasad, Vinod Kambli, Pawan Munjal of Hero Honda, Romesh Sobti of ABN Amro, Bob Hoekstra of Philips, Sanjay Sharma of Swarovski and Sanjay Krishnamurthy of BPCL will take part in the specially formatted tournament where close to 90 participants have paid Rs.5000 as entry fee to mingle with the celebrities and play the 18-hole tournament.

Before taking part in the putting event at the US Club, Ashwini said: "Where is the competition? In my time we had P. T. Usha, Shiny Wilson, Vandana Rao, Vandana Shanbhag. If Indian sportspersons have done well in international meets over the years it's because of the individual efforts of the sportspersons. Not because of great help from the government and the sports federations. The government should delink itself from sports. It should provide only infrastructure.''

Ashwini, who won the putting event, also pointed a finger at the absence of professionalism in Indian sports. "What has the federation done? I don't think Indian athletics has advanced at all for many years. There's no professional administration in place. There was a time the selection trials (for 4x400 in Seoul) was held a day before the event. Now the only hope is Anju George.''