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Korean surge: Yong Dae/ Hyo Jung:

Vol. 1. No. 9

GUTS A Window into World Badminton For Private Circulation Only

Zhang goes with a bang

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August 2008


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GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

Editorial... What can one do but marvel at Lin Dan? The Chinese stamped his class yet again at the Beijing Olympics, winning the one major title that has eluded him, and claimed his place among the greatest of all time. No other male singles player has achieved more than he –and Lin is just 25. Some might be tempted to call him the greatest ever, but that is a temptation we must resist. There can never be a ‘greatest ever’, for the game changes every few years, and comparisons cannot be made over eras. Lin is remarkable for he has been successful in the older points format as well as the new, and so is fit to be classified among the all-time greats: George Thomas, Frank Devlin, Dave Freeman, Wong Peng Soon, Erland Kops, Rudy Hartono, Morten Frost and Yang Yang. With the curtains down on yet another Olympics, what do the winds portend? Europe’s lacklustre performance will not convince followers that brighter days are ahead, but Indonesia and Korea will have returned home satisfied. Hopefully, Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan’s gold medal performance will inspire a generation of doubles players from Indonesia. As for India, Saina Nehwal came within a heartbeat of a semifinal place. So high was the quality of the quarterfinal – Saina’s incredible retrievals to Maria Kristin Yulianti’s mesmerizing strokeplay – that badminton was the winner that day; there was no loser. The Indian is on her way to the top bracket of world badminton, and so is Yulianti. badmintonmania@gmail.com

BQ

Check your Badminton Quotient Which Chinese left-hander was Olympic champion Lin Dan's childhool inspiration? SMS your answers and name to 9902599822

Answer to last edition's BQ: Gao Ling Winners: TR Balachandran, Parvati Krishnakumar, John T, B Prasad

We’d like to inform our readers that GUTS is contributing Rs 10,000 to the victims of the devastating floods in Bihar. Those who wish to help could contact the publisher.

August '08

A tough pill to swallow Although I did not do as well as I had hoped, the Olympics was still a great experience, to watch so many athletes from so many different sports, all very focused on giving their best in their respective events, quite incomparable with any other event that I have been part of so far in my career. The Olympics comes only once every four years, so everyone wants to plan well, train hard and generally be in the best possible shape for it. I had contracted Tom John as a personal travelling coach from March to August to give me a little bit more push in my preparation for Beijing. I felt like I had been stagnating a bit and wanted to see if working with Tom could give me that extra something that you always need. I felt like the six months went quite well, a couple of injuries notwithstanding. I improved a lot in the physical conditioning department and felt very strong on court. On arriving at Beijing, I expected to see everything organized perfectly, with maximum efficiency, and I was not surprised that it was exactly like that. From the pick up at the airport, to the check-in at the athletes’ village, everything went fine. On the way to the village, I saw the Bird’s Nest athletics stadium and the Water Cube aquatic centre. I thought both looked amazing but I personally preferred the Water Cube, which looked amazing, especially at night. The volunteers were extremely friendly and helpful, and the accommodation at the village was also superb. The Indian contingent was staying in the block A-1. It was nice to meet Indians from other sports. It was a really good sign to see that everyone was there to put up their best performance and not just to be a participant. I was having trouble with my ankle, so I decided to skip the opening ceremony because it would have involved a lot of standing and walking, and while that would not be a problem, I just wanted to avoid any unnecessary strain, especially since I was playing the next day. As far as my matches went, I prepared for them as I would in any other tournament. I got through the first one okay, but I was quite disappointed with the loss to Shoji Sato in the second. I felt I didn’t start off very well, and was always struggling to find some rhythm, and never really got going. It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow, to accept that I came away from Beijing without playing my best, which I’d promised to do. When you’ve seen yourself do something in your head so many times, and it doesn’t happen, I guess it takes a

Indian results Anup Sridhar: 1st round: Bt Marco Vasconcelos (Portugal) 21-16, 21-14; 2nd round: Lost to Soji Sato (Japan) 21-13, 21-17 Saina Nehwal: 1st round: Bt Ella Karachkova (Russia) 21-9, 21-8; 2nd round: Bt Larysa Gryga (Ukraine) 21-18, 21-10; Pre-quarterfinals: Bt Wang Chen (Hong Kong) 21-19, 11-21, 21-11; Quarterfinals: Lost to Maria Kristin Yulianti (Indonesia) 28-26, 14-21, 15-21

while to get over. When we heard that Abhinav Bindra had won gold in his event, it gave us such a big boost. Just knowing that he’d done so well made us feel like we could as well. Everyone was very happy of course, and we had a small printout congratulating him stuck on our IOA office door. Saina Nehwal has been an inspiration to all of us in the last few years. She got through a couple of rounds before beating Wang Chen in a very good match. Unfortunately, she missed out in the quarters after being ahead, but it’s hard to say what she had done wrong. Her opponent Yulianti played unbelievably to get through. To wrap up, I think being in such an event lets you know where you are in comparison with everyone else in the world, and how hard you need to work to get to their level. I think the way the Chinese went about their business, in every sport, was fantastic. I hope we are able to put up a good show in Delhi in two years’ time at the Commonwealth Games. All of us athletes are working very hard towards ensuring a good result. I hope our administrators and officials do the same and organise a great event.


August '08

GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

Oh-so-close for Saina

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Saina Nehwal was unlucky to miss out on a medal after a brilliant run, but Anup Sridhar was disappointing. Abhijeet Kulkarni gives us a wrap of the Indian performance

THE STORY of Indian badminton at the Olympics has been a story of also-rans. Ever since the introduction of the sport in the quadrennial event in 1992 none of the country’s top shuttlers have made made a mark in the competition. Pullela Gopichand was expected to change that in the 2000 Sydney Games but fell to eventual silver medalist Hendrawan in the pre-quarters; eight years later the former All England champion’s pupil, Saina Nehwal, came close to rewriting history. The 18-year-old became the first Indian to reach the quarterfinals and was a few minutes away from reaching the last four before nerves got the better of her. There was a definite buzz around Saina and compatriot Anup Sridhar, given their impressive performances in the run up to the Games. Saina had made it to the semifinals of the Singapore Super Series and Anup had accounted for a few top stars, including defending Olympic champion Taufiq Hidayat of Indonesia, in the last 12 months. A favourable draw was all they were hoping for and the roll of the dice proved helpful to the 18-year-old Hyderabadi. Sania had two easy rounds and the national champion wasted little time and energy in packing off Russia’s Ella Karachkova and Larysa Gryga of Ukraine. But it was the pre-quarterfinal tie against fourth seed Wang Chen of Hong Kong that raised hopes of a medal for Saina. Having lost to the experienced Wang twice before, Saina came up with a stirring performance, wearing Wang down with her blistering pace and taking the match in three games. The upset has been one of Saina’s best-ever performances, and proof that she is now ready for anyone in the top ten. Having rallied to win the opening game, the 18-year-old showed great tactical acumen to take it easy in the second after having conceded a big lead and preserved her energy to launch a ferocious attack in the decider. Saina began the quarterfinal against Maria Kristin Yulianti as a favourite but the tenacity and strokeful repertoire of her Indonesian opponent wore her down. To add to it was the AC drift in one half of the court that proved difficult to handle for the Indian. The Hyderabadi took a 11-3 lead in the decider but after changing sides, tried to finish every point quickly since she was more bothered about the drift. She appeared in a daze as Yulianti notched one point after another, and then left the court heart-broken as the Indonesian stalled the great Indian dream of a medal at the Olympics. “I was in a hurry to finish the points as the drift played on

my mind,” she said after the match. In the men’s singles Anup managed to win the opening round against Marco Vasconcelos of Portugal with relative ease but the Indian ace was never at his best. Struggling with a heel and knee injury in the run-up to the Games, Anup was well below par in the second round tie against Shoji Sato of Japan. He hardly used his jump smashes and was repeatedly caught near the net by Sato’s steep drop shots.


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GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

August '08

I will remember... By Rap hael Sachetat/ Chief Editor, Badzine I will first remember the smiles on people’s faces. Arriving a bit early in China’s capital, and staying away from the official media village in a typical Beijing quarter, I was lucky enough to meet the real “Beijingers”. Those who were surprised to see someone with an Official Olympic accreditation around his neck actually living in a building like theirs. Together with some other reporters and officials, I had managed, thanks to a friend, to rent a flat that was about 15 minutes from the city center. The sight of those faces, all smiles, is something I will never forget. The dedication, the generosity in their time and patience: this kindness from all the volunteers made these Games a success. Of course, they were asked, at times, to implement stupid rules – but they always did so with a smile and always said they were sorry. They

all did their job in an amazing matter and it should remain China’s biggest pride. I will remember the badminton venue. It was just perfect: nicely decorated, well done with the usual Olympic colors – similar to Athens and Sydney. Blue all over, and no commercial ads anywhere, which, for a change, made this tournament peaceful for the eyes. Of course, as is often the case with the Olympics, finding photo positions around the courts was a nightmare for the few pool photographers accredited to go on court. I will remember the morning, where BWF granted Yves and me tickets to go to the Opening Ceremony. I had missed it 4 years earlier in Athens, and this last-minute miracle was like a dream come true. Ever since I had watched the Olympics on TV, as a kid, I had dreamed of being part of an Opening Ceremony. And here we were, in the Bird’s Nest, with stars in our eyes, looking at these magnificent paintings and

colorful scenes that will stay forever in my mind. It was four hours of pure spectacle, with the traditional parade of hundreds of the world’s best athletes, including some top badminton players wearing the traditional costumes. It was a magical night, but it fell just before the morning kick-off of the badminton event, which explained why some shuttlers had skipped the ceremony, known to be tiring for the legs. I will remember the emotion of the first players to come on court. One could see that this event was special because of the pressure, because of what was at stake. There was something in the air, for the players, but also, the officials, all dressed to the nines in Olympic Blue. The venue, filled almost to capacity even for the early rounds, would be packed from the quarterfinals onwards. What a clear change from the venue in Athens, which had remained sadly empty most of the week. And here, spectators were not only cheering for their


August '08

GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

own players, but also for whomever they found charming, or hardworking, or simply trailing in their0 matches. The atmosphere was just brilliant. I will remember my friend Pi Hongyan during her match against Zhang Ning. I was not a reporter anymore, all the way up there, I couldn’t sit still during the whole second and third games, crossing my fingers in the hope that Hongyan would turn the tables and qualify for the semifinal. I knew what kind of work she had put in to reach this level of play. Once she lost, I was as desperate as she was, as her coach was, and seeing her going from one interview to the other, trying to keep her composure with a sad smile, after losing 19-21 in the last game, broke my heart. I couldn’t make it through an interview but just held her in my arms and we broke into tears together. I guess only the Olympics can bring such emotions to the surface and it was a precious moment. She had proven that she was a great athlete and fought till the end. And Zhang Ning proved what an amazing shuttler she was, during this match that she thought she would lose, when she was crying during and right after the match. And she was to prove a few days later what an extraordinary fighter she was when she grabbed gold while everyone thought it was Xie Xingfang’s all the way. I will remember these moments of joy and despair, which are so unique in the Olympics. There was Olga Konon, the sweet girl from Belarus, who had never gone out of Europe to play, making it to the third round in China’s Olympic Games. A dream come true, surely. And Nathan and Gail, winning that incredible first round before bowing in the second to the eventual gold medallists. Gail was just magnificent in saying that she had given her best and will now move on to other things. She will be missed, as will many of the shuttlers who were competing in these Olympics for the last time. I will remember Lin Dan, of course. Lin Dan. Super Dan, as I had called him for the first time while he was only a junior in 2000. I guess I am proud of having called him that as the whole world took that expression, for he proved in Beijing he was indeed a Super Hero, not to mention a perfect badminton ambassador. And in spite of my empathy for Lee Chong Wei, whom I respect and find immensely talented, Lin Dan was the number one at home, no questions asked. Brilliant. Amazing. He put on the show, throwing his badminton shoes in the crowd after his racket. This Fujian Kid deserves to stay in history books for his talent, character and personality. He is not the “bad boy” of badminton, he is simply an outstanding player – maybe the best China has ever had. I will remember crossing paths with Lee Hyo Jung and Lee Kyung Won in the Olympic Village (I had been granted temporary access to the restricted athletes’ side of the village). They didn’t realize it was the French reporter until I waved and answered back. Later on, I was to chat for a few minutes with Steen Pedersen on his way to the Cyber café. The village was just out of this world, where the biggest names in sport were living together with unknown figures, yet all gathering in the same excitement. I will remember the end of the badminton tournament, when all volunteers asked for photo sessions, to remember what an intense week it had been. Handshakes, name card exchanges between reporters, most of whom were leaving for other sports. A mixed of tiredness and sadness, even if most of the people working at the badminton venue had only a one-day break before working again. for the Gymnastics event, held in the same place. I will remember going to the Great Wall for the first time, together with the umpires and officials, who kindly invited me to see one of the Seven Wonders of the planet. And it was indeed a great trip. On top of the landscape – beautiful - the most striking fact was the diversity of the people. One could see on their faces that they came from all over China with their eyes wide open to see this incredible and never-ending structure.

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I will remember Usain Bolt. I was lucky enough to see this guy live, sprinting his way through 2 world records. During his 200 metres, his girlfriend was just behind us, waving a big Jamaican flag. This was yet another emotional moment when we felt like we were part of history. I wish I had had time to watch many sports, but time was limited and venues were far from one another, even if traffic was much better than usual and the new subway very efficient. I will remember the “one world, one dream, one nightmare, one headache” sign on my Friend’s MSN motto spot. She, as any Chinese living in Beijing, was ambivalent during these Olympics. There was the excitement, of course, because this was a lifetime experience. But of course, there were other feelings as well, with problems driving in their own city (the locals were allowed to drive every other day), or because factory closures put so many people out of work, just to make the sky clearer. There were so many sacrifices made by the local population, which was, however, always so kind towards foreigners. When asked whether the Olympic Games should have been given to China, (such questions generally related to human rights, etc.), I often answered that one would have to see in long term what the benefit would be for China and the rest of the World. On site, it was clearly a success. This country is amazing, with its bad sides and good sides, like any other. There is still a need for progress in many fields but these Olympics have opened a door and the Chinese people should be proud of their Olympics. They’ve worked hard. They’ve given all they had to benefit this great sporting fest. And I was only too happy and proud to be part of it all, hoping that somehow, this open door will widen to let Chinese people climb the long ladder of fairness and freedom…as they deserve.


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GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

Big sister's last bow ZHANG NING’S gold medal in the women’s singles marked the final triumph of a career marked by astonishing success as well as prolonged struggles with injury. The ‘Big Sister’ of the Chinese team, who wasn’t even sure of making the Olympics team after a listless season, ended a stirring run at Beijing by defending her Athens gold medal and ringing the curtain down on a glittering career. With her win over compatriot Xie Xingfang, Zhang became the oldest woman ever to win an Olympics badminton singles gold. “I am already a miracle,” said a tearful Zhang after a nailbiting win over Indonesia’s Maria Kristin Yulianti. “I just see it as my opportunity to make new history and new miracles.” Most of her contemporaries have retired, but Zhang continued to push on, prompting head coach Li Yongbo to call her ‘The Miracle’. Zhang, a soldier’s daughter from Liaoning, has trained with the national team since 1991, an era that spawned the last generation of Chinese badminton stars like Gong Zhichao and world champion Ye Zhaoying. Those were not good years for Zhang, who had a rough start to her career. The low point of her career came during the 1994 Uber Cup final against the host Indonesia. China was aiming for a historic sixth consecutive Uber Cup title, but the home team was going to be China’s toughest challenge. The two teams were tied 2-2 when the 19-year-old Zhang took on 15-year-old Mia Audina-Tjiptawan. Zhang lost in three games, ending China’s shot at a title. Zhang has been haunted by that match ever since. “I can’t remember how I lost that match. It may seem absurd, but I pretty much finished that match with my mind almost blank,” Zhang recalled. “Now I realize why my coach often told me I was single-minded back then. It’s because I never knew how to cope with different rivals,” she said. She did not attend either the Atlanta or the Sydney Games, and won her first major world title at the age of 28. When she got to Athens, she was not considered a goldmedal hopeful even though she was the no. 2-ranked player in China. But after her world no. 1 teammate Gong Ruina was knocked out, Zhang got the chance to avenge her defeat in Jakarta, beating Mia Audina in an epic three-game battle to become the oldest woman to win an Olympic badminton women’s singles title. Zhang Ning became a household name. Zhang considered retiring from badminton after her Athens gold, but found she was still able to compete among the world’s elite. A knee injury she sustained a year before the Beijing Games threatened her chances of making the team. But just like she has throughout her career, she pushed on, knowing her team would need her experience if it was to perform well on home turf. “I’ve played each match as if it were my last,” she said after beating Thailand’s Salakjit Ponsana in her first match.

August '08


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GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

August '08

Bounty hunters!

Yong Dae/ Hyo-Jung Korean mixed doubles gold medallist LEE HYO-JUNG’s battles haven’t just been on the court – her father has been in and out of hospital after an accident ten years ago, and her family has had its share of financial worries. She saved most of her match earnings to buy them an apartment in Busan. Her Olympic gold might help them tide over many of those difficulties. Hyo-Jung has been afflicted by poor eyesight and needs wear contact lenses while playing. She carries four to five pairs of glasses when she goes out. Partner Lee Yong-dae, who became a national hero after winning a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in the mixed doubles, was given the name “Yong-dae (great figure)” by his parents.

DU JING and YU YANG maintained China’s stranglehold in the women’s doubles, but the Olympics gold was won after months of doubt whether they would make it to Beijing. Constantly plagued by injury, they were forced to skip a few events last year. Their worst fears came when Du was diagnosed with a cyst last August, just a few days before the World Championships. Their absence from the World Championships meant that had to make the quarterfinalists of all of the following six to seven international events. Du went off the bed after the second day of surgery and walked for exercise. Within a month she returned to the court. “The gold is not the end but a start for our career,” said Du after their Olympic final victory. Du and Yu, 24 and 22 respectively, are expected to set the trend of women's doubles in the next couple of years. as no. 1 Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen, the Athens Olympic champions, plan to retire after an early defeat at Beijing.

Du Jing/ Yu Yang

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Presenting the pairs who performed – the doubles winners of the Beijing Olympics

Cheng Zhiliang/ Chinaview

<<Markis Kido/ Hendra Setiawan>> For Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan, world champions and newly-crowned men’s doubles gold medalists, badminton has run in the blood from an early age. As youngsters, they joined the same club, teamed up when they were teens and now share the joy of becoming the world’s best. What do they think about each other? “Hendra is very diligent, patient and serious. I can’t find any negative side to him,” Kido said of his partner. Hendra: “Kido is very energetic.” However, he added that Kido could not talk to him for a week if he ever thought Hendra was the cause of one of their defeats. “That’s the bad side.” Hendra, who was born in Pemalang, Central Java, on August 25, 1984, was raised the youngest of three sons. His two older sisters – Sylvia Anggraini (who later married 2000 Sydney Olympics silver medalist and 2001 world champion Hendrawan) and Ivonne Anggraini – used to play the sport too. “My father began taking me to play badminton when I was seven. He used to take me to practice at Sinar Mutiara club in Tegal (a nearby town, less than an hour away) by motorbike.” Kido – who was born in Bekasi, east of Jakarta, exactly two weeks before Hendra – shared a similar story. With his younger brother Bona Septano and younger sister Pia Zebadiah Bernadet he trained at the national badminton center in Cipayung, East Jakarta.


August '08

GUTS - A Window into World Badminton

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Yongbo gets on Natu's nerves PUNE: Girish Natu, senior BWF-certified umpire, who officiated at the Beijing Olympics confirmed to an Indian newspaper that Chinese officials tried to pressure him into favouring their players. In an interview with Economic Times, Natu said that the Chinese often dictated terms and many of the umpires decisions were over-ruled to swing in favour of Chinese players. “Such incidents often occurred when Chinese players were playing nonChinese opponents. Li Yongbo, the coach of the Chinese badminton team, refused to accept decisions that were given in favour of the non-Chinese opponents and created a hue-and-cry on the decisions,” he said. China ended up with three gold, two silver and four bronze medals from five events. Natu said there were many incidents where Yongbo walked up to threaten the umpire before venting his anger when ‘faults’ were called. “I was not the only one put through the test,,” Natu said. Other umpires whose decisions were ‘doubted’, according to Natu, were senior umpires Hakan Fosto (Sweden) -- attending his fourth Olympics -- and Japanese Tomoharu Sano. Interestingly, Fosto, is one of the first umpires certified by BWF. “Yongbo once walked up to onto the court (playing area) and grabbing Fosto’s arm and threatened him when he had ruled against the Chinese. He came up to me during the interval and threatened me to meet him first before I stepped out. We complained to the chief referee Dennis Li and instead of disciplining the coach, he attempted to pacify us and told us to continue with the game. The worst of all was during the Japanese umpires’ match where Li walked on to the court to over-rule a ‘slung shot’ foul,” Natu said. Lee wants to get on with life KUALA LUMPUR: Fresh from his successful Olympics campaign, silver medalist and world no.2 Lee Chong Wei wants to put behind the episode of being “used” as a political pawn and concentrate on training to prepare for the Japan Open which begins Sept 13. Lee said he was surprised over the attention he has received since returning home early this week. “Even my coach commented that I am attending too many functions. I am also worried that after all the attention, I would be criticised if I do not perform at the Japan Open. I just want to focus on training,” he said. Lee met the Penang chief minister to thank him for the datukship award proposed by the state government after his triumph at the Games. He said he did not want to be involved in political activities but the events arranged were beyond his control. Bernama

new partner in the next two tournaments, the Indonesian Badminton Association announced. Vita, 27, and Flandy, 32, tuned up before the Olympics by winning the 2008 Asian Championship, but their failure to win a medal at the Games may have sealed the fate of their partnership. “Due to the age factor, Flandy will no longer match up with Vita,” mixed-doubles trainer Richard Mainaky said. Vita will pair with Muhammad Rijal, who used to play with Greysia Polii. “Vita needs a new partner to enhance her performance,” Richard said. “Rijal is young and has potential. He put on a good performance during the Indonesian Super Series with Greysia but we also want to see how he goes with Vita.” The Jakarta Post Glad it's over: Lin Dan BEIJING: Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan says he’s “glad it is all over”. In his blog, the Chinese champion talks of the tough times he has had to endure in the run-up to the Games. With the Olympics at home, the Lin was supposed to be under pressure, but he demolished all opposition, including the challenge of world no.2 Lee Chong Wei in the final. Lin was quoted throughout the world for proclaiming: “The gold medal has proved that I am an outstanding athlete… I can’t describe my current emotions in words. I have put in a lot of effort, so did my opponent. Nobody will give you this gold medal easily so I have made preparations to face it, no matter what happens. I have always wanted a gold medal since the previous Olympic Games. It is proof to the outside world on my ability. There had been many negative things and obstacles for me throughout this whole year. I faced a lot of pressure and attention from the others before this Olympic Games. I’m glad it is all over.”

New partner for Vita JAKARTA: Vita Marissa, who paired with Flandy Limpele to reach the mixed doubles semifinal at the Beijing Olympics, will play with a GUTS is thankful to Badmintonphoto.com for its continued support.

Advertise with us! GUTS reaches a global audience of badminton lovers through its print and online editions. It has readers among club members, corporates, coaches, competitive players, fitness experts and journalists. For ad enquiries, contact: thomas@kunnath.in or call +91-9845027878 Editor: Dev S. Sukumar. Printed & Published by Thomas J. Kunnath. P4, KSSIDC Industrial Area, Mahadevapura, Bangalore - 560 048. Printed at National Printing Press, Koramangala, Bangalore-560 095. Email: thomas@kunnath.in


GUTS - August '08  

The Olympics Special

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