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Golf: McIlroy chases Schauffele for fourth win at Wells Fargo Championship

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Clifton (USA), May 12 (IANS) Rory McIlroy was hot on the heels of Xander Schauffele as he cut the lead from four shots to one with one more to go in the Wells Fargo Championships.

Xander Schauffele, a seven-time PGA TOUR winner, maintained his position at the top of the leaderboard for a third straight day but his round of 70 saw his overnight four-shot advantage cut to one by World No. 2 and three-time Wells Fargo winner Rory McIlroy, who carded a 67 to go bogey-free for the second straight day in the US$20 million Signature event. McIlroy had a bogey-free 68 on the second day.

Indian American Sahith Theegala shot 82, one of his worst rounds on the PGA Tour, and slipped from T-7 to T-56. Another Indian American Akshay Bhatia shot 71 and was T-34.

Schauffele, seeking to go one better after finishing runner-up to Wyndham Clark last year, is aware he needs to reproduce his A-game on the final day to withstand the challenge from McIlroy, who he will be paired with in the final round, and the chasing pack. After opening with a 64 and 67, the Tokyo Olympics gold medallist marked his scorecard with two birdies and one bogey.

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Asia’s top man was Sungjae Im, who lived up to his nickname ‘Ironman Im’, as he brilliantly holed out from the bunker for par on the last hole on Saturday to give himself a fighting chance of becoming the first Asian winner at the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow Club.

He signed for 2-under 69 for solo third place at 8-under 205, four behind Schauffele and three behind McIlroy.

Korean compatriot Byeong Hun An settled for a 71 and 4-under for the tournament after dropping three shots over the last three holes. An started the day well by going 3-under through 13 holes but made a double bogey on 16 to lie eight shots off the pace in tied sixth place.

–IANS

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Brandon Fernandes bids goodbye to Goa FC after 7-year stay with ISL club

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) FC Goa have announced the departure of its longest-serving players Brandon Fernandes, with the midfielders contract set to expire this summer.

Having joined Goa in the summer of 2017, the Indian international made 130 appearances for the Gaurs across all competitions, which is the second-highest for any player to-date.

The 29-year-old gave FC Goa with several treasured memories across his seven-year stint with the club, one such moment being his 64th minute winner in the unforgettable Super Cup final against Chennaiyin FC in 2019 which secured for us our first ever major silverware.

Brandon went on to become the Gaurs’ all-time top assists-maker, a record which he holds to this date with 31 assists to his name in addition to the 17 goals he scored for the Men in Orange.

The Benaulim-based footballer also played a crucial role in the club’s ISL League Shield victory in the 2019-20 season and the Durand Cup triumph in 2021. His performance led to his maiden senior Indian national team call-up in 2019 and went on to cement his place in the national team, winning the SAFF Championship in 2021.

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“Brandon wore the badge of FC Goa for seven years with great pride and was a fantastic ambassador for the values the Club stood for on and off the pitch. He became ingrained into the fabric of the Club and was one of the pillars upon which sporting success was built in the seasons he was with us. We will miss him dearly and he will go down as one of the true icons of the Club,” Ravi Puskur, CEO of FC Goa said.

“While he leaves us today, Brandon will always be welcomed back to FC Goa in whatever capacity he may choose with open arms and this Club will always have a special place for him and his family,” he added.

–IANS

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Jaspal Rana slams NRAI for sending Olympic-bound shooters to Munich WC

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Former Indian shooter Jaspal Rana has slammed the National Rifle Association of India’s (NRAI) decision to send the Olympic-bound shooters for the World Cup in Munich, starting on Friday.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, the Asian Games gold medallist shooter Rana questioned the selection of Olympic-bound shooters in the World Cup just before the quadrennial showpiece.

The veteran said the event won’t aid shooters for Olympic preparations as it is tough to sustain peak performance for long.

“There will be a World Cup in Munich after the hectic one-month Olympic trials. No player wants to perform badly in the World Cup. If you’re at the peak, will you be at the peak after one month also? Which sports science centre will tell you that players can stay at peak for three months. You can’t stay at peak level for long,” Rana told IANS.

“The policy was wrong and when you’ve made the policy just stick to it. You’re not sticking to your policy. If there is no ranking and point system in the Munich World Cup, so why are you delaying the names of the selected shooters for the Olympics? Even if you have to adjust one to two players, then reveal the rest of the players so that they can start their preparations,” he added.

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The team after competing at Munich World Cup will proceed to a camp in France before heading back for a two-week break at home. They will then assemble for a camp in Bhopal, before departing for the Olympic Games.

The 47-year-old further said that India should have replicated the approach opted by other countries including China and the USA, who have sent their second-string squad for the World Cup in Germany.

“Other countries have sent their B or C category squad for the World Cup. Very less Olympic-bound shooters will participate in it. This is not an opportunity for the Olympic team,” Rana asserted.

With less than two months left for the coveted Games to begin in Paris, there is still no clarity on India’s shooting squad for the event.

“I’ve failed to understand that if NRAI doesn’t have the president, chairman of the selection committee and policy-making committee then how they are selecting the team? It could be one of the reasons that the chairman of the NRAI selection committee is not there, that’s why they’re delaying the announcement,” he said.

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Despite the multiple challenges, Rana is hopeful of better results from Indian shooters in Paris.

“Yes, we were well prepared last time. This time too, our preparations are pretty well. The only thing that went wrong last time was the postponement of the Games due to Covid-19. Our team was at its peak at the time of the Olympics (as per the original schedule in 2020). After that due to a lot of problems, we couldn’t manage it properly.

“I’m quite positive,” Rana said on India’s medal chances in the Paris Olympics.

–IANS

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How 2 days with Jacques Dallaire helped Watson conquer short ball fear

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Shane Watson had a glittering career of nearly two decades as a premier all-rounder in white-ball cricket, at the international and franchise levels. He carved a reputation for stepping up when needed in big games and tournaments, while juggling to play all three formats for Australia and then transforming into a sought-after T20 leagues batter.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, during a recent hectic period of commentary in IPL 2024 and the launch of his second book ‘The Winner’s Mindset’ by HarperCollins Publishers India, Watson talks about overcoming the short ball fear, having a life-changing meeting with author and performance coach Dr Jacques Dallaire, and how he used his mental skills to play a memorable 117 not out in IPL 2018 final for Chennai Super Kings.

Q. You talk in the book about having absolutely life changing two days with Dr Jacques Dallaire. Can you elaborate on what all transpired in those two days?

A. I was at sliding doors moments in my life when I got connected with Dr. Jacques via Aussie IndyCar driver. Will Power. Dr Jacques’ background is over 50 years of working with high performance people on their mental side, predominantly in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, special forces.

I was going through a challenging time in my life at a point where I was neither performing, nor anywhere near my best. It looked like I was going to retire because I just knew that I couldn’t play the way I used to be able to do.

Having half an hour conversation with him initially, I was like, ‘okay, I think this guy’s going to give me some information that I haven’t heard before, but I think it’s going to really help me’. I was desperate because I was thinking about retiring and flew over to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend two days with him.

The information that he gave me was something I hadn’t heard before, even though I’d been around sports psychologists and mental skills coach from the age of probably 13. How simply the information was explained to me as well by him was just like there was light bulbs going off everywhere, like, ‘Oh my gosh, how come I didn’t know that?’

After that, I flew home back to Sydney and felt between, ‘Oh, I’ve got this, I can turn this around’ to ‘Oh no, I can’t’. It took a lot of work day by day and moment by moment about understanding of what my thoughts were and controlling them. But within six weeks, the issues that I had disappeared, as got them under control and over the next four years of my playing career, I had some of the best performances of my life.

From that moment of implementing those mental skills, and information, which had a huge impact on my performance, I said to Dr Jacques, ‘Well, I need to get this information out to as many people as possible because this information should be readily available, but it’s not’.

Everywhere that I’ve looked, I haven’t been able to find information in a really simple way to understand in a way that I can apply it to any performance. From that moment, I ended up working with him and he taught me how to teach this information. Now I’m very fortunate to have access to his IP to be able to then put it into my own words and get the information out to as many people as possible.

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Q. You also talk about the fear of facing the short ball coming after the tragic death of Phil Hughes. How did you overcome it?

A. It was just one of the biggest, if not the biggest tragedy in world cricket, seeing one of our mates get killed by a ball coming at him. From there, I started to believe and think there’s no reason why the next ball coming to me couldn’t have the same effect on me and my family’s life.

From that moment, the fear of the short ball came into my mind and game, which as a top order batter means you are sabotaging your own performance because of the new mental environment being created via that fear.

Meeting with Dr Jacques made me understand that I could turn things around via one of the rules of the mental road – rule number two, which is your mind can actively process one thought at a time. By deeply understanding that if I put the right thing into my mind at the right time, then the wrong thing can’t come in.

The wrong thing coming with fear of short ball, as a batter, was if you pre-meditate the short ball, then you’re slow on it anyway. If it’s not a short ball, you’re out of position and exposed, which means there’s a good chance you’ll get out.

By putting the right thing in my mind at the right time as the ball came out, and the word I put for me is aggressive because that’s me ready to react and not have any thought of what’s coming down. By implementing that, I’m tapping into all my instincts, and muscle memory that’s so deeply ingrained in me.

Immediately by understanding that, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do that’. I had to develop that trust in my technique of playing the short ball and worked hard it for six weeks to sort of retrain that. But by putting the right thing into my mind, so the wrong thing couldn’t come in, I never had that fear on my game again.

Q. In those last four years, there was that 117 not out in the IPL 2018 final for the Chennai Super Kings against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Going from zero off ten balls to making a century in an IPL final, what did take for you to do it mentally?

A. It was really a culmination of putting all of those mental skills together. I started learning these skills at the end of 2015 and had a couple of years of really just pulling all that information and learning how to be able to make the most of it. Like, what were the right and wrong thoughts in the lead up to the game? What was the best way to maintain & sustain my mental energy without burning it out before a big game like that?

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Even when I was zero off 10 balls chasing in the second innings, every ball was about staying in the moment, being fully focused on the present and it was about breaking down each ball. After I faced a ball, what happened technically, mentally, where was I at? I just kept doing that.

I was just in the process, staying fully present, working through to bring the best version of me as the ball came out. Even five years ago, being none off 10 balls, there would be much chance of me panicking and going, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to really get on with this and play a rash shot’.

Whereas I was just pulling myself into the ultimate zone that you’re chasing, I knew every step along the way was getting me closer to that ultimate space you’re trying to get into in performance – the zone. So by pulling myself into it, it took a bit of time, about 15 or 20 balls.

Once I got there, then I just stayed there in the moment and that’s when I had a great day in one of the high pressure games. That innings was just a culmination of my skills that I had been training for since I was a kid at the age of 36 and then applying those new mental skills that I’d been integrating into my performances as well.

That really was a perfect storm – by applying that in a pressure game was again a confirmation that these mental skills are so powerful. I wish that I had this information as a teenager because it would have meant that I was able to perform more consistently and significantly reduce the pressure, stress, anxiety and worry that goes with being desperate for getting the best results every single time.

Q. Do you think that if you encountered these mental skills early in your career, it would have helped you a great deal mentally?

A. There’s no question it would have helped a crazy amount, especially from a Test cricket perspective as well. The biggest issue I see in society now and working with a lot of different people is mental fatigue. There’s so much over stimulation that we’ve always got things available to us, whether it’s messages, social media, or notifications, life is incredibly busy and overstimulating.

Plus, our desire to be able to perform every single time and being obsessed with results, with me certainly being one of those. I wanted to be the best I possibly could be and would put so much pressure on myself to perform because of desperation to get the best results possible. I used to overthink situations in the lead up to a big series like an Ashes or a World Cup.

Ahead of match day, I’d just be, ‘Who am I going to be up against? Who am I playing?’. I would have played the game in my mind before it even started. By the time actual game came, I was mentally so tired and fatigued. When you’re mentally fatigued, then your ability to access deeply ingrained skills reduces, and decision-making becomes so sluggish.

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It’s like you are stuck in the mud, whereas when you’re mentally fresh, you’ve got a lot of energy, and decision making is accurate, crisp, and sharp. That time, I had no idea that the concept around your brain is like a muscle. Once I understood this information around conserving and regenerating my mental energy, I made sure to make the most of it.

So I used a few different techniques to be able to conserve my mental energy even when I was in the moment playing the game. Like, I put a song into my head to put my mind on neutral. Different people have different techniques to just do that, whether it’s focusing on breathing, or like Sir Viv Richards used to chew gum. When the ball’s about to come out, they have all the mental energy in reacting to the ball to the best of their ability.

Q. You just mentioned about using music to put your mind on neutral. How did that come about for you to implement it in your performances?

A. Music has always been something that I’ve loved, even as a kid. I learnt playing the guitar in my early 20s and being on tour, especially with Brett Lee, that was a way to chill out as well. I didn’t necessarily do it to chill out, it was more so I had so much downtime on tour and wanted to learn a new skill.

But the thing I realized when I now look back at a lot of my best performances, even before I knew this information, is I had a catchy song in my head that I was just singing along to – whether it was a song I listened to in the lead up to the game or a song that came on while I was batting. It was just in the background there for the whole time.

Glenn McGrath and Michael Clarke always had a song in their head they used. I didn’t fully understand why they used it, but it worked incredibly well for them. It wasn’t until Dr. Jacques explained to me the power of having something that you can move your mind to and put it on neutral.

For me, songs was something that had worked in the past, that it just happened without me consciously putting a song into my head. From that moment, I was like, ‘Well, no matter what, one, if I start to overthink a situation, even in the lead up to the game, jam a song into my head’.

If I was overthinking a situation in any way, shape or form, I put a song into my head, because that means I can trust my gut instincts, intuition, and also not burn my mental energy, so as to access my super highway reactions and be ready to react when the ball comes out.

–IANS

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Squash: Rathika Seelan enters Hong Kong PSA Challenge Cup QF

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Hong Kong, May 30 (IANS) Rathika Suthanthira Seelan advanced to the quarterfinals of the Hong Kong PSA Challenge Cup – 4th leg with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over local challenger Ka Huen Leung.

The sixth-seeded Indian edged out Leung 4-11, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-7 in the second round after receiving a bye in the opening round.

The Tamil Nadu player, who won her maiden Professional Squash Association Tour title at the HCL Squash Tour in Indore last weekend, will meet third-seeded Malaysian Sehveetrraa Kumar in the quarterfinals.

–IANS

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Europe Tour: Indian jr men's hockey team registers shootout win over Germany

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Breda (Netherlands), May 30 (IANS) Indian junior men’s hockey team registered a shootout victory against Germany, while the junior women concluded their Tour of Europe with a draw against Oranje Rood.

The junior men triumphed in the shootouts, winning 1-1 (3-1 SO) after Mukesh Toppo (33’) scored in regulation time. For the junior women’s team, Sanjana Horo (18’) and Anisha Sahu (58’) scored in their 2-2 draw with Dutch club Oranje Rood.

After a quiet first half, during which neither the Indian junior men nor Germany could find the back of the net, Mukesh Toppo (33′) scored off a rebound from a penalty corner early in the third quarter. The Indians held their lead until Germany equalised four minutes into the fourth quarter, adding excitement to the game. Despite both teams’ efforts to take the lead, the score remained unchanged at the end of regulation time, leading to a penalty shootout.

India won the shootout 3-1, with Gurjot Singh, Dilraj Singh, and Manmeet Singh scoring. They concluded their Tour of Europe with a victory in their final game.

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Meanwhile, the junior women’s team played a quiet first quarter against Oranje Rood. Early in the second quarter, Sanjana (18’) broke the deadlock for India. Oranje Rood responded well, earning two penalty corners but the Indian defense held firm, ending the first half 1-0 in India’s favour.

Oranje Rood took the initiative in the third quarter. In their search for goals, Oranje Rood pushed India back, earning three penalty corners and scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. The Indian junior women’s hockey team strove to level the score in the last quarter, achieving a breakthrough when Anisha (58’) scored in the final moments, ending the match in a 2-2 draw.

–IANS

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