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Sports Shorts: Hamilton can equal pole record; ISL gets AFC nod

Last updated on: July 26, 2017 18:58 IST

Hamilton can equal pole record, take F1 lead in Hungary

Lewis Hamilton

IMAGE:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

If all goes to plan for Lewis Hamilton in Hungary this weekend, the Mercedes driver will equal one of Michael Schumacher's all-time records and head into Formula One's summer break as sole leader of the championship.

Hamilton remains a long way off Schumacher's record 91 race wins but Saturday's qualifying at the Hungaroring could see him equal the great German's hitherto unmatched 68 pole positions.

A 58th career win for the Briton, and sixth at the circuit outside Budapest, on Sunday would send the triple world champion off on vacation with at least a six-point advantage over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

Four-times champion Vettel has led since winning the Australian season-opener in March, jointly with Hamilton after China, but the German arrives in Hungary only a point clear after 10 of 20 races.

Hamilton, beaten by now-retired team mate Nico Rosberg to the 2016 title, but winner in Hungary, has not led the championship on his own since last September but has the momentum after a crushing home victory at Silverstone.

"There’s lots more things that can come up in the future but I think the team’s really energised," he said after winning from a career 67th pole position, adding that Mercedes had "absorbed all the energy" from the fans at Silverstone.

"So I hope we can take that into the next races."

Mercedes are 55 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' standings but team boss Toto Wolff was wary of suggesting the champions were the favourites again rather than being the 'underdogs' he had talked of after Monaco.

With 250 points still to be won in the drivers' championship, Wolff said it was too early to pick a favourite.

Harikrishna shares spoils against Nico in Biel Chess Festival

Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna staved off a staunch challenge to hold local Grandmaster Nico Georgiadis to a draw in the second round of the Biel Chess Festival, in Biel, Switzerland.

The World No 20 Indian, playing with white pieces, committed mistake early on in the clash and had to be at his defensive best throughout, to eke out half point from the game on Tuesday night.

"I made a mistake in the opening stages and got into a bad position. From there on it was an uphill task to defend and save the game," the 31-year old from Guntur said.

After two rounds in the classic time control tournament, Harikrishna has a point and sits joint second in the standings.

He will take on Russian Grandmaster Alexander Morozevich in his third-round encounter.

India's franchise-based league gets AFC nod

Nita Ambani

IMAGE:  Nita Ambani said that ISL had ‘rekindled’ love for the beautiful game in India

The franchise-based Indian Super League (ISL) has received the approval of the game's continental governing body with the winners of the tournament granted a berth in the AFC Cup preliminary stage from next year.

Promoted by billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries and Rupert Murdoch's Star India TV, the ISL has grown in popularity and gained ground on I-League, the national league, since its 2014 launch.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been toying with the idea of merging the private competition with the national league before deciding to let both tournaments continue for the time being.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said as a short-term "bridging solution", its competitions committee has given "special dispensation" for the ISL winners.

"AIFF's recommendation to the AFC was that the ISL will replace the Federation Cup, whose winner is currently allocated an AFC Cup preliminary stage place," the continental governing body said in a statement.

"Therefore, the Committee approved that the I-League champions will play in the AFC Champions League Play-off round and the ISL Champions will play in the AFC Cup preliminary stage... from 2018."

The AFC confirmed that the ISL will be played simultaneously with the I-League for six or seven months in the next two seasons.

The ISL has been expanded to 10 teams from the next season from the current eight, the organisers announced last month.

Somdev Devvarman all set to head Centre of Excellence at DLTA

Somdev Devvarman

IMAGE:  Somdev Devvarman, once India's brightest tennis talent. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters.

A Centre of Excellence, under the guidance of Somdev Devvarman, will soon be established at the DLTA to provide coaching to budding players but the development has cast a doubt over the future of the grassroots level program, which has been running there for four decades.

Scouting has begun for coaches, sports psychologist and physios, who will work in tandem at the upcoming National Academy, which will have involvement of the Sports Ministry.

Under the supervision of India's former number one singles player Somdev, who is also a government observer for the sport, a comprehensive plan has been submitted by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to the Sports Ministry for approval.

It has been learnt that coaching in various age groups has been planned and a foreign coach will also be roped in.

A sports science centre is also being planned at the Academy and qualified physios and sports psychologist will be hired for all round development of the players.

The Academy will accommodate about 300 kids for coaching and at least 100 of them will be able to stay after relocating from their respective states.

The Centre would require an annual budget of at least 20 crore to sustain and the plan is being scrutinised by the Ministry.

King, Peaty, Masse smash world records

The world championships came alive on Tuesday as Lilly King of the United States won the women's 100 metres breaststroke title in one of three world-record swims at the end of a breathtaking evening session.

Adam Peaty of Britain continued his breaststroke trail-blazing with his second world mark of the day to reach the 50m final and Canada's Kylie Masse produced a world-best time to win the women's 100m backstroke gold medal.

There was more history too for Katie Ledecky following a routine gold in the women's 1500m freestyle. The American claimed the 12th world title of her short career.

The evening will be long remembered by Olympic champion King, who posted one minute 4.13 seconds to overhaul the world-record mark set by Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte in 2013.

King held off the threat of Russian rival Yuliya Efimova, in a race billed as a grudge rematch of their acrimonious Olympic final, and the US secured a memorable one-two as Katie Meili touched for silver in one minute 5.03 seconds.

King, 20, has voiced her disapproval at Efimova being allowed to compete at global level after the Russian had twice been caught using banned substances.

The spiky relationship continued in Budapest with King celebrating her world record wildly and failing to make eye contact with Efimova who had to settle for bronze.

A disbelieving Peaty became the first man to dip below 26 seconds in the 50m breaststroke a day after winning the 100m title.

By touching in 25.95 seconds, he lowered his record mark from the morning's heats by a massive 0.15 seconds.

Masse produced an outstanding world-record swim of 58.10 seconds as Australia's quiet world championships continued with Emily Seebohm failing to defend her title.

Kathleen Baker of the United States, the Olympic silver medallist, had to settle for the same prize as she beat Seebohm by 0.01 seconds.

The dominant force in women's distance swimming is Ledecky who clocked 15 minutes 31.82 seconds to win the 1500 by 19 seconds from Spain's Mireia Belmonte.

Earlier, Sun Yang of China came back from sixth position at the 100m mark to win his first men's 200m freestyle title at a world championships in dominant fashion.

The Chinese, who has now won two of his four individual freestyle tilts this week, powered to gold in an Asian record time of one minute 44.39 seconds.

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