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Record Indian contingent for Asiad

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Union Sports Ministry has cleared a record 843-member Indian contingent for participation in the Asian Games to be held in Guangzhou, China, from November 12 to 27.

The contingent includes 609 sportspersons in 35 disciplines.

The ‘feel-good' factor following a record medal haul of 101 in the recent Commonwealth Games has obviously contributed to the liberal clearance of the Indian contingent by the ministry.

There is also an apparent desire to test teams in a variety of sports having given them training and exposure at considerable expenditure.

With triathlon and beach volleyball (men) having not been part of the action plan for the Asian Games, these sports have not been cleared at cost to the Government.

The numbers

The contingent includes 127 coaches, eight doctors, six masseurs / masseuse, 33 officials and one manager (women's hockey) who have been cleared at cost to the Government. Forty-three managers have been approved at no-cost-to-Government basis while nine technical officials have been cleared with only air passage cost.

With 71 competitors, including 31 women, and 18 coaches, athletics forms the largest chunk of the massive contingent with 97 members.

Though the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) did formulate its own selection criteria, they were ignored in many cases just as they were for the Commonwealth Games.

The Asiad selection, incidentally, was done without the Chairman of the Selection Committee, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, who had resigned prior to the CWG, protesting against the arbitrary manner in which the federation had inducted athletes into the team for the Commonwealth Games.

Basketball, tenpin bowling, fencing, football, handball, karate, rugby, sepak takraw and soft tennis which were not at cost to the Government for the last Games in Doha, have now been cleared at cost.

For the first time, a women's kabaddi competition will be part of the Asian Games and the Indian contingent includes a women's team which, like the men's, should fancy its gold medal chances.

For the last Games, the Government had cleared a 387-member contingent (27 of these at no cost).

The Indian contingent finished eighth in the medals tally with 53 medals including 10 golds.

A committee formed by the ministry including representatives from the Sports Authority of India and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) took up the complaints received in boxing, equestrian, karate, soft tennis and wrestling about selection. It was decided that wrestling (men's freestyle 74kg) and soft tennis federations would hold fresh trials.

The wrestling federation has, however, stuck to its stand regarding the selection of CWG gold medallist Nar Singh Yadav in the 74kg class without giving a chance to Sumit Sherawat, who is among those who tested positive for methylhexaneamine and was dropped from the CWG squad.

The ministry was satisfied with the explanations regarding quarantine procedures for the horses conducted by the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) and the team was cleared.

The size of the teams in fencing and sepak takraw was reduced from 24 to 18 and from 30 to 24 respectively. A study carried out by the SAI has projected a tally of 74 to 108 medals for the Indian contingent, with a maximum of 10 to 12 medals expected from athletics.

Last time the athletes contributed nine medals including one gold in the women's 4x400m relay.

The 35 sports disciplines cleared are (with number of competitors in parenthesis):

Aqautics (9), archery (8), athletics (71), badminton (17), basketball (24), ten pin bowling (10), boxing (13), canoeing and kayaking (12), chess (10), cue sports (17), cycling (13), equestrian (9), fencing (18), football (20), golf (8), gymnastics (9), handball (32), hockey (32), judo (8), kabaddi (24), karate (8), rowing (28), rugby (24), sepak takraw (24), soft tennis (8), shooting (40), squash (8), taekwondo (10), table tennis (10), tennis (12), volleyball (24), weightlifting (13), wrestling (18), wushu (10) and yachting (8).

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