new 2008 Chevy Malibu

I drove with a bunch of friends to Yosemite this weekend. The original plan was to rent a Mazda 6, but we got a free upgrade to the new 2008 Chevy Malibu, with less than 2,000 miles on it. The best part was that there was plenty of trunk space, so the upgrade was worth it in that regard - we completely filled the trunk, and even had stuff left over for the back seats!

It had an inline 4-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower. Now I drive a 300+hp monster of a BMW 335i, so I was expecting a disappointing drive. However, given my lower expectations, the Malibu did well. It had decent pick-up, nice and comfortable at top speed. The only hitch came when the accelerator was floored while driving on the freeway; the engine screamed loudly, the car shuddered a bit, but it took perceptible seconds before it started accelerating. I would be cautious about overtaking in tight situations.

The car’s exterior looks have changed a bit. I like the new aggressive front grill. But Chevy had better know what its doing - the grill looks like it would appeal more to younger folks; but I can’t imagine the 20 - 30 year old set buying a Malibu over a Honda Accord, a Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, or even the Ford Fusion. So they might completely miss their current older market segment, who might prefer a more relaxed look.

The interior is nice and relaxed, though, and very spacious, specially in terms of leg room. I do also like that there is a single “info” button on the steering wheel, which gives you major car data, including tire pressure. Thing to note, though - seemed our tire pressure readings were off, way off. The interior has no major bells or whistles, but that’s ok in this price range.

Ok, on to the one major flaw - you can’t drive it aggressively on turns. The car can’t maintain its grip, and skids if you aren’t driving carefully. Again, that means the Malibu is really for the 40+ age group, or at the least for the cautious and conservative type…. who like a dash of danger, delivered by the grill.

2008 Chevy Malibu2008 Chevy Malibu 2008 Chevy Malibu front grill

Finally, a close-up of the aggressive grill

Maria Kirilenko

Nationality : Russia
Date of birth : 25-1-1987
Place of birth : Moscow, Russia
Current residence : Moscow, Russia
Height : 176 cm
Weight : 57.6 kg
Status : Pro (since 2001)
Preference : Right handed
Coach : David Taylor

WTA Rank : 26
Career Singles Titles : 2
Career Doubles Title : 3
Career Price Money $1,393,722

Maria was very much fond of sport from the very childhood. When she was five years old she started dancing, and when she was seven, her father brought her to ''Dinamo'' Moscow Central Stadium, one of the best tennis schools at the time. He had used to play tennis and to really enjoy it - though he could not imagine that this sport will become such an important part of his family's life.
When Kirilenko was twelve years old, an Honored Master of sports, Elena Brioukhovets, saw her while training. All the next year Elena watched Maria making progress and then offered her to work together. A three-year program was made and a special team was selected. In less than three years Maria became the number one in her age group and the number two in the group under eighteen. The well-known tennis-players Yevgeni Kafelnikov, Andrei Olhovskiy and Max Mirnyi, who had created an organization supporting young tennis-players, helped Kirilenko to arrange her training-process and to attend tournaments. She is currently dating Amit Dhupelia from Australia.

In 2002 Kirilenko became one of the youngest winners of the Canadian Open and the US Open Junior Tournaments.
Since September 2002 Kirilenko started participating in WTA events. She made a lot of progress in WTA events but was setback by injury in 2004 and dropped down the rankings, whilst missing out on valuable experience. At the end of 2005 she had climbed right up the rankings and won her first title in Beijing. She has been recognized as one of the up and coming players of 2006 and, despite being off her best form during the Summer, she has broken into the top 20 for the first time on June 12th, 2006.
Kirilenko made her debut for Russia at the nation-based Fed Cup tournament on 22/23 April 2006 on the World Group Quarter-Final tie against Belgium. Maria lost a singles rubber against '05 US Open champion Kim Clijsters and won her doubles rubber against multiple major champion Justine Henin-Hardenne and the same Kim Clijsters partnering Dinara Safina. Russia ended up losing 3-2.
At the 2006 US Open, Kirilenko received the 20th seed of the tournament and reached the 3rd Round, eventually being defeated by Aravane Rezai.
In January 2007, she advanced to the third round of the 2007 Australian Open, before being defeated by third-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, immediately after which she competed in the 2007 Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she advanced to the second round upsetting #15 Shahar Peer of Israel, before being defeated by Ai Sugiyama. She then competed in the Dubai Tennis Championships in Dubai, where she reached the second round, before losing in a close match to Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 4-6 6-7 (4/7).[2]
At the Acura Classic in San Diego, California, Kirilenko upset second seeded Jelena Janković of Serbia with a score of 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 to advance to the quarter-finals, before losing to fellow Russian Elena Dementieva 6-2, 6-4.
At the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, California she also reached the quarters, upsetting #6 seed Marion Bartoli in straight sets, 7-6(2), 6-3, along the way.
Her current event is the U.S. Open. Unseeded, she faced Martina Müller of Germany, defeating her in straight sets 6-3, 6-1. She then beat #22 seed Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia in straight sets too, 6-4, 6-3. She then lost to the unseeded Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine in easy straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
After the U.S. Open, she appeared in the Sunfeast Open. There, Kirilenko won her second WTA Tour singles title, defeating unseeded Mariya Koryttseva of the Ukraine in straight sets 6-0,6-2. En route to the finals, she had beaten some very in form players namely Daniela Hantuchova, Flavia Pennetta, up and coming Ekaterina Ivanova and Indian qualifier Neha Uberoi. This win will proppell her back into the top 30 with a chance of going higher.

Maria Kirilenko

Maria Kirilenko

Residence : Moscow, Russia
Date of Birth : January 25, 1987
Birthplace : Moscow, Russia
Height : 5′ 8” (1.73 m)
Weight : 127 lbs. (57.6 kg)
Plays : Right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Coach : Eric Van Harpen
Manager : Octagon

Interests : reading, music, computer gaming, basketball, football
Favorite players : Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeni Kafelnikov

Maria was very much fond of sport from the very childhood. When she was five years old she started dancing, and when she was seven, her father brought her to ”Dinamo” Moscow Central Stadium, one of the best tennis schools at the time. He had used to play tennis and to really enjoy it - though he could not imagine that this sport will become such an important part of his family’s life.

Maria started to make progress. In less than one year after starting to play tennis Maria won her very first competitions. Since that, she attended all kinds of competitions and tournaments, and soon the idea of becoming a professional tennis-player seemed quite reasonable. Soon she became the number one in her age group in Russia and the CIS. Maria practiced at Dinamo and TsSKA sport grounds. Almost every day her parents brought her there by car from Yubileyny - a small town in Moscow region, where they lived. Right after school - into the car. She could eat or have a rest on the way to the stadium.

This was a hard time. It was not easy to work on the technique for normally there were several people practicing at the same time, although she was lucky to have very experienced teachers. Sometimes she even had a chance to attend international tournaments and to show good results there - but usually it was very difficult to arrange everything for her to visit such an event.

When Maria was twelve years old, an Honored Master of sports, Elena Brioukhovets, saw her while training. She noticed her at once - if one could pay more attention to this girl, - Elena thought, - she might show very impressive results. All the next year Elena watched Maria making progress, and then offered her to work together.

From now on tennis became not only a profession but sort of a life style for Maria. A three-year program was made, and a special team was selected. Uncertain romantic dreams of having a success turned into a strategic task - to be one of the best junior tennis-players in the world. And in less than three years Maria was the number one in her age group, and the number two in the group under eighteen. Working hard and making progress, she started to believe in herself - and many others also believed in her, too. For instance, the well-known tennis-players Yevgeni Kafelnikov, Andrey Olkhovsky and Maxim Mirny, who created an organization supporting young tennis-players. They helped Maria to arrange her training-process and to attend tournaments. All the rest depended on her and her progress. She was lucky to have a good chance - but she had to make an effective use of it.

It feels great when you wake up and realize you are a star. But first, you have to win eleven matches one after another. In 2002 Maria has become one of the youngest winners of the Canadian Open and the US Open Junior Tournaments. Now, there is a further step to be made. Since September 2002 Maria has started participating in WTA events.


It is quite different from the life of other people of her age. First she practices in Odessa - the place where her coach comes from - then goes to a tournament somewhere in the U.S. or in Australia. One would need years in order to go see all the places where Maria has been to. She has visited Louvres, Madam Tussaud’s Museum of Waxworks, and almost all Disneylands in the U.S. She can tell you about terrible monsoons in Thailand, or… how friendly Japanese people are. By the way, it was Japan, where she played her first ”grown-up” tournament. Of course, she felt a bit nervous, but - because young generation is treated very kindly in Japan, and all undertakings are welcome, or - because Maria is not taller than the Japanese themselves, - she was met with encouragement. Press conferences, autographs, taking pictures…

But this is some kind of a compensation for the hard work, frequent trips and long flights. Maria practices at the tennis-court for about three hours per day; the rest of time is spent for physical training. Because of her firm schedule she had to give up school - it is difficult to go to one place for a month, and then, for two months - to another. Maria had to look for some other variants of getting education. When she was twelve, she started to attend external studies for sportsmen. There are some subjects she works on herself, and some she studies privately with teachers.

Tennis is not the only thing she likes. She loves football and other sports. Whenever she goes, she takes her computer with her. And - what makes her different from many other sportsmen - is her love for classical music. She can listen Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach or Beethoven for hours. Once she visited a concert of Mstislav Rostropovich. She was lucky, for she could get acquainted with the maestro. Since then, he has started to pay attention to tennis, and always asks about Maria’s results.
She is still interested in dancing, and is in love with ballet. When she has some free time, she likes to read. Her favorite books are Dumas’ ”The Three Musketeers” and ”Twenty Years After”, Victor Hugo’s ”Notre-Dame de Paris”, ”White Fang” by Jack London, and short stories by O’Henry. She likes ”The Twelve Chairs” and ”The Golden Calf” by Ilf and Petrov. Masha also reads ”Harry Potter” and enjoys detective stories.

Maria loves watching movies. Her favorite ones are: ”The Barber of Siberia” and ”The Story of a Knight”. Generally, she prefers comedies.

After tournaments she and her parents, and sometimes also her coach and other ”team” members, go to the country. It’s great to spend the whole day with a rod by a river (Maria loves fishing), or to bake potatoes, sitting around a fire with friends. This is her favorite meal - although, having no special diet, she is very experienced in food. The only restrictions concern pastries. Maria has tried European and Oriental cuisine, foreign delicacies… and fast food in a hurry. That is why her favorite meals are those her mother cooks for her at home, or - something like baked potatoes in the open air.

Masha has time not only for practicing, playing tournaments and baking potatoes. She drives a car, a boat, a small yacht…
But, certainly, the number one in her life is tennis. Even when she has free time - which she usually lacks - Maria watches TV translation of interesting matches, enjoys the way Yevgeni Kafelnikov or Jennifer Capriarty play. She is anxious about the results of the Russian tennis players.

Anju Bobby George

Anju with her husband-coach Bobby George on arrival in New Delhi after winning the silver medal in the World Athletics Final at Monaco recently.
CALL it overconfidence or call it self-belief, there is this streak in Bobby George that refuses to accept that anything is impossible.
Maybe, that is the way the George brothers have been brought up back home in Peravoor, Kannur district, Kerala. "Everything is possible" must be the family motto.
Anju George, the current athletics face of India on the international stage, just follows Bobby's commands. He is her coach, manager and masseur. He is her motivator, friend, philosopher, agent and escort. And he pushes her beyond imagination.

But he knows her limits.
"You can't push your trainee beyond a point. She needed the extra break this year. How long could she have continued? She has been at it from 2001, almost without a break," he said in answer to a query about the late start she had this year.

"The Olympics effort had drained her mentally and physically," Bobby added as he explained the reasons for the late start. It was past midnight that day at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. She had just returned with the silver from the World Athletics Final in Monaco, her second biggest achievement in a decade-long career.

Bobby should have said, "drained us" and he would not have been off the mark. Bobby and Anju invariably talk in plural. `We' rather than `she' or `he'. "We have to qualify for the World Athletics Final, we have to catch up with the Russians; we have to improve our ranking; we have to plan for next year... " That is the way it goes much of the time.

"It is only because one is young that one can do this running around, this travelling. The body needs a break and I have been trying to get some much-needed rest," says Bobby. He knows of course that Anju needs more rest though she shrugs off any suggestion that the dash from Incheon to Delhi to Frankfurt to Nice to Monaco and back must have been very taxing. "We are used to it," she tells a scribe.

"There was a stage (close to the Paris Worlds) when I felt like leaving everything and going home. The strain of practising, running around for everything you needed, uncertainties about visas, it was proving a little too much," Anju confided a day after she won that history-making World Championship bronze at the Stade de France in August, 2003.

But they took a break from the competitions and intense training, left their temporary training base in Madrid and came over to Paris. Slowly, but steadily, Anju was back to her competition trim. The rest is history.


"It really feels good to have a medal from a competition that had the best in the world," said Anju after her performance in Monaco.

The Olympic year proved tougher. Expectations had soared by then, expectations of that elusive Olympic medal. Not even Milkha Singh or P.T. Usha had achieved that, though they had come agonisingly close to it.

Can Anju do it?

"Why not?" was always the counter from Bobby.

As Bobby looks back, there is disappointment that Anju couldn't get the Olympic medal the country was waiting for, despite a career-best 6.83. There is also pride at the same time that she gave it her best shot despite several hurdles and health problems.

"This year the preparations weren't as good as the Olympic year," says Anju. She had started with a modest 6.42m in the Doha Grand Prix and looked to be reaching nowhere by the time the Helsinki World Championships came in August.

Still, Bobby's confidence and Anju's enthusiasm suggested that there could be a medal. True to their promise, Anju touched a season best of 6.66 metres, but finished fifth, the lesser known American, Tianna Madison, taking the gold at 6.89, with Russian Tatyana Kotova (6.79m) and Frenchwoman Eunice Barber (6.76m) winning the silver and bronze.

"I put up my best fight in the worst climate," said Anju. In the rain and cold of Helsinki, where she needed three windcheaters to protect her, it was a miracle that she managed four other jumps of over 6.50.

Just as it had happened, in the run-up to the Olympics, the topic of a foreign coach cropped up all over again. In 2003, when Anju trained for three months in the US under world record holder Mike Powell, she did gain in confidence and attracted more media attention. There wasn't anything new that Powell taught her, but she as well as Bobby was thankful to him after Paris though his 10 to 4 regimen was not to her liking. The Kerala couple decided not to renew the contract with Powell for 2004.

To give the entire credit to Powell for her Paris bronze (6.70m) would be to forget the fact that she jumped 6.74m twice before that at home and had the National mark of 6.83 in Athens and now 6.75m in Monaco, all under Bobby's charge.

"People including former athletes are ready to pass critical comments without knowing what goes on into Anju's training or why she changes into a diagonal stride as she approaches the board," says Bobby.

Bobby is not against foreign expertise. Someone like Randy Huntington, Powell's coach, who did provide a few tips last year when they were in the US, could be of help. Or someone for a specific task, say to improve Anju's speed. Powell, among others, agrees that she has one of the best jumping techniques in the world.

Foreign coaches of course do not come cheap. Why, Anju would have loved to have a masseur, a doctor and a psychologist in her team through this season and earlier. But they can't afford such a team; they have to fend for themselves.

At Incheon, during the Asian Championships, where Anju won the gold with a jump of 6.65 metres, she had a hamstring strain. "I won't be able to get there, but a professional masseur will," said Bobby. There were two masseurs with the Indian team, both male.

In 2003, the Union Sports Ministry chipped in substantially with funds to help Anju compete and train abroad. Next year, Sobha Developers, the real estate and construction firm from Bangalore, came forward with a handsome sponsorship deal.

"We were expecting the association with Sobha Developers to continue till the Beijing Olympics," said Bobby. But that has not happened.

Anju has managed a modest sponsorship from Cochin Refineries this year and a bigger deal with Nike, the sports shoes and apparel giant, but unlike what many would like to believe the bonuses (apart from equipment support) for winning major international medals are not so mouthwatering. Say, 3,000 dollars for the silver at Monaco. Of course she had 20,000 dollars prize money from the IAAF for her silver, equivalent to the prize she received for the bronze in Paris in 2003.

But does she consider Monaco on par with World championships and Olympics?

"In terms of competition this was the toughest I had. This medal should be put alongside the bronze (from Paris). Just to get into the World Athletics Final was considered an achievement. And now you have a medal. It really feels good to have a medal from a competition that had the best in the world," said Anju.

She had jumped a season best 6.75m, her only valid jump in four attempts, to beat the Olympic champion (Tatyana Lebedeva), Olympic silver medallist (Irina Simagina) and a former World champion (Eunice Barber.)

Athens Olympics probably was tougher in terms of the star-cast, the three Russians (Kotova, Lebedeva and Simagina) at their peak, Marion Jones, Grace Upshaw, Bronwyn Thompson and Carolina Kluft.

What lies ahead? Will she be able to keep up her motivation by the time the Beijing Games come around in 2008? The age factor will also matter.

"We have a medal from the World Championships, the World Athletics Final, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Asian Championships. Next year we will aim for one in the World Indoor championships," says Bobby. Beijing has to be in focus all the while of course.

With the Sania Mirza fever gripping the country, Anju's achievement in Monte Carlo, by and large, received lukewarm response from the media and the authorities. A headless Sports Ministry could not have been expected to respond to her feat. The previous Government, while acknowledging the feats of all the medal winners with a hiked incentive for the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2002, actually paid lesser for her World Championships bronze (Rs. 6 lakhs) compared to her Commonwealth Games bronze (Rs. 10 lakhs).

Anju and Bobby can take such ignorance in their stride. But not when someone asks, "when do you think you will jump seven metres?"

Quite often he replies, "it will come" and then wonders, "but then no one asks that of our cricket team when it wins by a small margin."

There is also the veiled suggestion occasionally about how doping plays a large part in international athletics. On her part, Anju is a promoter of WADA's `clean sport' campaign.


Anju B. George.

Born: April 19, 1977, Cheeranchira, Changanassery, Kottayam, Kerala.

Educational qualification: Bachelors degree in economics.

Employed with: Customs, Chennai as Preventive Officer.

Personal bests and National records: Long jump 6.83 (Athens, 27-08-04); Triple jump: 13.67m (Hyderabad, 18-12-02).

Major achievements: In long jump: Silver medal at SAF Games, Kathmandu, 1999 (6.22m), gold in Sri Lankan Open meet, Colombo, 1999 (6.32m), gold in International circuit meet at Bhopal, 2000 (6.59m NR), bronze in international meet, Balaton, Hungary, 2001 (6.27m), Asian GP 2002: silver at Hyderabad (6.58m), silver at Bangkok (6.53m), silver at Manila (6.45m); bronze at Commonwealth Games, Manchester, 2002 (6.49m), gold at Asian Games, Busan, Korea, 2002 (6.53m), silver at Super Grand Prix, Stockholm 2003 (6.49m), bronze at World championships, Paris, 2003 (6.70m); gold at Super Grand Prix, Doha 2004 (6.83w), bronze at Grand Prix, Eugene 2004 (6.82w), silver at Super Grand Prix, Madrid 2004 (6.62); sixth place at Olympics, Athens 2004 (6.83m, NR); fourth place at World Athletics Final, Monaco (6.61m); gold at Yokohama international 2004 (6.61m); gold at Asian All-Stars, Singapore 2004 (6.66m); fifth place at World championships, Helsinki 2005 (6.66m); gold at Asian championships, Incheon, 2005 (6.65m); silver at World Athletics Final, Monaco 2005 (6.75m).

Progression: Long jump: 1997-6.20m, 1998-6.12m, 1999-6.37m, 2000-6.59m, 2001-6.74m, 2002-6.74m, 2003-6.70m, 2004-6.83m, 2005-6.75m.

Triple jump: 1997-13.13m, 1998-13.06m, 1999-13.27m, 2000-no mark, 2001-13.61m, 2002-13.67m.

Anju Bobby George

When Anju Bobby George enters an athletic arena these days, millions of Indian minds stay alert in anticipation around the world. Gold? Silver? Bronze? As the long jump champion battles it out with the best in the business on the global stage, the questions keep coming.

Blame it on Anju’s impressive performances, or more specifically, on one jump that pitchforked her into the limelight and also into the consciousness of the lay man. For the athletics fan, Anju was no unfamiliar name, but on that warm August evening in Paris, Anju transcended the confines of her sport and walked into the common platform that national sport heroes occupy.

It was the 2003 World Championships, and Anju with a fine jump of 6.70 metres in the penultimate round, clinched the bronze, India’s first athletic medal on the global stage. For a nation so short of sporting glory at the world level, it was a moment celebrated and feted in proper measure, with Anju’s every move from then on attracting attention.

Just as a long jump event is never a contest of one jump, Anju’s wasn’t a one-off performance. She had reached that stage step by step, suffering along the way, making sacrifices aplenty and putting in tons of hard work, like every champion performer.

Anju’s journey started in Changanassery, Kerala, where she was born on April 19, 1977 to K T Markose and Gracy Markose. She was initiated into sports by her father and she received early training from Mr P V Welsey at St Anne’s School and Mr K P Thomas, a noted coach, in Koruthode School, which has produced a clutch of athletes over the years.

Anju’s promise was evident early and as she moved up academically, she kept winning laurels. Standing out was her performance in the 1991-92 State schools meet, where she won the 100M hurdles and finished second in the long jump and high jump events. Later, at the Vimala College in Thrissur, Anju came under

T P Ouseph and E.J George, their guidance helped her to become the Calicut University champion.

Around the same time, Anju had started to make her mark at the National level, topping the South Zone junior meet and winning the triple jump at the Federation Cup in Pune in 1996. But the real turning point in her life and career arrived when she came into contact with Robert Bobby George, who was a national triple jump champion.

Bobby, the younger brother of Indian volleyball legend Jimmy George, started training Anju, realising her potential to be a world level athlete. Progress was spectacular since then as Anju left the competition at the national level way behind. Records in long jump and triple jump were under her belt but injuries were a major concern with Anju forced to miss the 2000 Olympic Games as well as the 2001 World Championships due to a dodgy ankle.

Once the injuries were put behind though, Anju was a major threat at the world level, with Bobby, whom she married in 2000, being the major support. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, she clinched the bronze with a leap of 6.49 metres and in the same year, proved she was the best in the continent, topping the Asian Games field in Busan, South Korea with a 6.53M jump. A stint with former world champion Mike Powell in the United States was timely and by the time the Paris World Championships came along, Anju was in the elite list of jumpers in the world.

With the World bronze in her bag, Anju next targetted the Olympic Games, at Athens in 2004. But an untimely bout of illness hampered her and despite a national record breaking leap of 6.83 metres, she had to be content with the sixth place. Battling illness, Anju recovered late in the 2005 season, missing out on a medal at the Helsinki World Championships, where she finished fifth with a 6.66M jump. But consolation came soon enough, with the Indian ace topping the Asian Championships at Incheon, Korea, at 6.65 metres and winning the silver at the World Athletics Finals at Monaco with a superb effort of 6.75M.

A busy 2006 season awaits Anju. She started it off with a silver at the Asian indoor meet in Pattya, Thailand, with a 6.32M jump in a far from perfect arena. The indoor World Championships in Moscow and the Commonwealth Games are the next targets for the Indian, with millions hoping and praying for her success.
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