Poonia may duel Dani for $ 20,000 on Jan 22

Poonia may duel Dani for $ 20,000 on Jan 22

In what could be the first of its kind contest involving an Indian, the proposed USD 20,000 winner-takes-all discus throw duel between Commonwealth Games gold medallist Krishna Poonia and world champion Dani Samuels is moving ahead with the Australian proposing January 22 as the date.

Samuels' coach Hayden Knowles told PTI from Sydney that the plan is to hold the contest on January 22 at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Center as part of Pirtek Athletic Allstars Meet and hence the event will have to be in Australia though the date could be worked out.

The Meet is billed as athletics counterpart of Twenty20 cricket with celebrities from Hollywood and athletics world taking part. Recently on September 15, world and Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt took part in men's 100m relay event though he did not run in 100m dash because he did not want to stress himself much due to his injury.

In that Meet, Samuels won the discus throw event with a 61.90m effort to beat Olympic champion Stephanie Brown Trafton of United States and former world champion Beatrice Faumina of New Zealand, who finished fifth in the Commonwealth Games.

"Pirtek Athletic Allstars organiser is offering the contest. The event has a few sponsors with Pirtek being the major one and the event has enough sponsorship dollars to stage such a featured event. The sponsors want me to bring the best athletes and they are right behind providing quality opposition for Dani," Knowles said.

"We did some different things that attracted great public interest and increased the profile of many athletes. My training and management company looks after Dani but we also run an event called 'Pirtek Athletic Allstars' and my sponsors would put up the USD 20,000 for the winner. The September 15 event in Sydney was great success with great corporate support.

"We plan to hold another meet and if we can get the girls together for a battle between the current world champion in Dani and current Commonwealth champion in Krishna it would be a feature event and we would build the whole meet around them both. The money of USD 20,000 would and is still on offer but I would have to stage the event in Sydney," he said.

Knowles said Samuels has agreed to the contest but made it clear that it was his company and not the athlete who had proposed the duel.

"The suggestion of this event is an appealing one and has far and wide interest. Dani has agreed to do it and I believe Krishna and her coach are also keen. I have tentatively booked the (Sydney) stadium for January 22 but this may not suit so we would try again another time if the interest is still there. This date suits us, or there could be times later in March during the Australian track series which could be looked at but this would depend on Krishna's plans for the year leading up to World Championships," he said.

"Bringing Krishna here, she would be treated with nothing but respect and will have a great time .... and I'm sure she plans to leave 20k richer! I will also work with the governing body Athletics Australia as they supported the recent contest (on Septemebr 15)," Knowles said.

"This is not an offer by Dani to challenge her anywhere it is an offer from my company to both of the girls to stage the event here in Sydney. I must emphasise it is the 'Pirtek Athletic Allstars' event organisers who put out this challenge. Dani Samuels has not personally put this challenge out. She welcomes it the same way she welcomed the other champions coming to Australia but I must emphasise it is not her personally putting out this challenge," he said.

Knowles, who is also Physical Performance Coordinator of Pirtek Parramatta Eels Rugby club, said he had e-mailed to Poonia's husband Virendra and also sent text message but had not replied back as apparently the contact details could have been wrong.

"I have emailed Virendar and text him on the contact details I was given. I have asked if they are interested but I have not heard back but am very happy to hear (from the media) they welcome this type of challenge.

"They would be very welcome here in Sydney with a large Indian community living here and will be made very welcome by the sporting public and in the same way we recently welcomed athletes to our event and our city. They would be given five star treatment. I would like to contact them personally. Maybe I have wrong details," he said.

Knowles said the possibility of showing the proposed duel live in Indian television could be looked into if Poonia agrees to the event.

"The venue is the Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre and the TV possibilities in India would be investigated when both the girls agree on the contest. I am positive it will be the most watched discus competition ever in Australia and no doubt India ... possibly the world. I would do everything possible to make sure everyone can watch the contest across India. This can't be organised until the contest is locked in," he said.

Knowles said he had proposed the idea of such a contest and the sponsors of the training and management company he runs -- which also looks after Samuels -- will offer the USD 20,000 prize money.

Asked if Samuels was upset by the media reports about Poonia reportedly saying that her pulling out of the CWG could be due to "poor form", Knowles said the support staff -- and not she -- was offended but also agreed that the Indian's comments could have been taken out of context.

"No, Dani was not offended, her support team were disappointed in incorrect and misleading comments being made about our athlete. we have no hard feelings. Dani is happy for the contest to go ahead. She is very happy for Poonia and knows what a star she will be in Sydney with the large Indian community here. Dani actually carried Indian Flag at the India Australia friendship fair this year in Sydney and has great respect for Indian people. Dani is ready to lock in a date," Knowles said.
Knowles, however, said he and the support staff would have wanted Poonia or her husband Virendra avoid the reported comments that Samuels might have pulled out of the CWG due to "poor form".

"We care for Dani and obviously he (Virendra) cares for Poonia. He is right in what he is saying ... nobody is unbeatable. He is correct but we did not like them trying to say Dani avoided the competition (CWG) for poor form. This is untrue but I believe him if he said he did not say this. I totally understand if he may have been taken out of context.

"We respect Poonia's husband, we respect how hard they have worked, we know and appreciate success comes from making sacrifices and I believe they as a team have made many. Those who work the hardest are the happiest people, I know this and right now Krishna Poonia deserves this happiness."

"But, we would have preferred for her name to have not been mentioned at all once she wasn't going but this obviously wasn't going to happen as she is world champion so this is how it turned out. Dani was at peace with her decision and had moved on focusing on next years world championships.

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