Advani’s family, coach relieved with his gold medal performance

By Anand Philar, IANS
Sunday, November 14, 2010

CHENNAI - Pankaj Advani could not have ended an otherwise disappointing year in a better way by winning the English billiards singles gold medal at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou Sunday.

Winning the gold medal must have been especially satisfying for the 25-year old Pune-born Bangalorean who lost both his World billiards titles apart from the National crown this year.

Shree Advani, the elder brother of Pankaj and the player’s sports psychologist, said the 3-2 victory against Myanmar’s Nay Thway Oo in the final was of special significance in the light of the disappointments this year.

“People expect so much from Pankaj that even a second place finish is considered as a bad patch or a poor performance. The fact is that at 25, he is still the Asian champion and has won seven World titles, including one in snooker,” Shree told IANS.

“Certainly, by his high standards, 2010 was not such a great year for Pankaj and going into the Asian Games, he did not have the momentum. He had to generate it by himself and I would say that he was worthy of the gold medal. Real champion stuff though he was clearly not at his best today,” he said.

Pankaj had won the billiards singles gold medal at the 2006 Doha Asia Games and that success triggered a remarkable run that saw him winning the World, Asian and National titles over the next three years.

“We spent some time together before he left for Guangzhou and obviously, he was very disheartened after losing his World billiards titles and also the National championship.

“But Pankaj is so strong mentally that I knew he could yet win a gold medal. Considering that the Asiad tournament was 100-up which I feel is a lottery, it is amazing that he pulled it off, especially after losing the first frame and then coming back from 1-2 down,” said a relieved but happy Shree.

Within moments after winning the gold medal, Pankaj called up his mother Kajal and also spoke with Shree, and admitted that he was under a lot of pressure to win India’s first gold medal in Guangzhou.

“Pankaj spoke to us soon after the final. He said there was a lot of pressure on him to win the match and thus India’s first gold medal at the Games.

“He said the pressure was immense especially in the fifth and deciding frame, but he is obviously very happy that he managed to win despite not playing at his best,” Shree said.

Pankaj’s mentor and his first full-fledged coach Arvind Savur, himself a former National champion was equally ecstatic.

“For sure, I am over the moon and though he did not play half as well as he could, it is great that he won the gold medal.

“He gave me palpitations today and obviously, he is a bit low on confidence after the string of losses this year. But he is such a fighter that he eventually fought the odds to win,” the Bangalore-based Savur told IANS.

“His performance was not up to the mark, but then, Pankaj has this special ability to bounce back from tough situations and that precisely what he did in Guangzhou,” said Savur.

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