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NST Online: Sports


Too little, too late

Posted: 14 May 2011 09:53 AM PDT

2011/05/14
By Jugjet Singh


Malaysia’s Hafifihafiz Hanafi tries to dribble past Pakistan’s Syed Kashif Shah in their Azlan Shah Cup match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium yesterday. Pakistan won 3-2. — Picture by Muhaizan Yahya

Malaysia's Hafifihafiz Hanafi tries to dribble past Pakistan's Syed Kashif Shah in their Azlan Shah Cup match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium yesterday. Pakistan won 3-2. — Picture by Muhaizan Yahya

MALAYSIA were doomed to finish last in the Azlan Shah Cup even before they played Pakistan, but still gave the Asian Games gold medallists a huge scare before losing 3-2 in the Azlan Shah Cup yesterday.

South Korea beat Britain 3-1 in the earlier match, and it made Malaysia's match academic, while Pakistan needed a win to play Australia in the final today.


However, Malaysia are solely to be blamed for the defeat, as Kelvinder Singh and the other forwards missed a hat full of sitters, before Pakistan took the lead off a Sohail Abbas penalty corner in the eighth minute.

Sohail also scored against Malaysia in the Asian Games final.

Muhammad Waqas made it 2-0 with a field goal in the 21st minute, before Hafifihafiz Hanafi pulled one back for Malaysia in the dying seconds of the first half.


Shakeel Abbasi doused the comeback with a 51st minute goal, and by the time Radzi Rahim scored off a penalty corner in the 58th minute, it was too late to chase for a draw and Malaysia lost another match after playing well only in patches.

"We had our chances to score, but did not connect. And after Pakistan scored, we had to keep chasing and came close to pulling off a draw," said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.

Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid was pleased with his side, as they had beaten all the Asian teams in the tournament.


"After losing to Britain and Australia, I am happy to note that we kept our Asian Games gold medal win on a high pedestal, as we beat the other Asian teams in the tournament," said Khawaja.

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Phelps comeback suffers setback

Posted: 14 May 2011 08:29 AM PDT

CHARLOTTE (N.Carolina): Michael Phelps has plenty of work to do before the swimming World Championships in Shanghai in July, as a sixth-place finish in the 200m free at the Charlotte UltraSwim showed on Friday.

Phelps, swimming in lane one after notching just the seventh-fastest qualifying time, finished 1.34 seconds behind race winner Dominik Meichtry of Switzerland.

Phelps, whose 14 Olympic gold medals include the eight he won in a dazzling Beijing Olympics campaign, has yet to regain the dominance he lost in the wake of that unprecedented performance.


He admitted he was just relieved to be in the 200m free final, after watching Ricky Berens and Ryan Lochte storm through the heats.

"I was just praying to get in," said Phelps, who is also slated to swim the 200m backstroke and 200m butterfly here. "I watched Ryan and Ricky go off in their heats, and wondered if I'd end up in the B heat."

Phelps has been saying since last year that he is paying the price for lax training. At the Michigan Grand Prix last month he was stunned by a fourth-place finish in the 200m butterfly -- an event in which he hadn't lost since 2002.


Phelps apparently isn't the only one feeling the strain, as his longtime coach Bob Bowman said he'd taken himself off to Australia for three weeks last month -- putting some space between himself and his superstar swimmer who is also now a business partner.

"I felt my attitude was bad about everything and I wasn't helping him (Phelps) or myself or anybody else," Bowman said. "I'm just trying to start fresh."

Now, Bowman and Phelps say, they are focused on Shanghai, with the 2012 Olympics looming after that.


"We have 72 days to prepare for Shanghai, and that's where the focus is," Bowman said.

Phelps, 25, insisted he's up for the challenge, even after a disappointing finish like Friday's.

"Before, it came easy for me," Phelps said. "I don't have two speeds anymore. I need to focus on the small things that I once took for granted."

Meichtry won the race in 1:48.55, triumphing over a field that featured six Olympians -- including all of the US 4x200m freestyle relay team.

"It's better for me to swim fast, get out front, and hold on, rather than try to catch the field," said Meichtry, who swam for Switzerland in Beijing himself.

Meichtry wasn't the only overseas winner in the USA Swimming Grand Prix meeting.

Hungary's Katinka Hosszu won the women's 400m individual medley and Germany's Yannick Lebherz won the men's 400m IM.

Rising American star Missy Franklin, two days past her 16th birthday, won the women's 200m free in 1:57.66.

Rebecca Soni beat Jessica Hardy in the 100m breaststroke with a meet record 1:05.57. Jessica finished in 1:05.90, nearly three seconds ahead of third-place Jillian Tyler. -- AFP

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