NEW DELHI (AFP) – India are seeking a record Asian Games medal haul despite a chaotic build-up, with their jumbo squad slashed at the last minute, their boxers under a cloud and top athletes either injured or opting out.
With just 10 days to go, the intended travelling party of 942 athletes and officials was cut by nearly a third in a cost-saving move which discarded 146 competitors seen as having little chance of a medal.
Separately India’s boxers, led by multiple world champion Mary Kom, face the prospect of not being able to fight under the national flag following a row with the International Boxing Association. Star boxer Vijender Singh is out injured, while Olympic medal-winning wrestler Sushil Kumar and India’s number one tennis player Somdev Devvarman are both concentrating on other competitions.
In a further blow to tennis hopes, doubles specialists Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza were granted permission by the All-India Tennis Association on Wednesday to skip the Games.
India will not even compete in its strongest sport, cricket, because the Indian board refuses to take part in multi-discipline events.
Organisational headaches are not new to India, whose athletes marched under a neutral flag at this year’s Winter Olympics following the suspension of the Indian Olympic Association.
And despite the problems, India are bullish about their prospects at the Asian Games, a 36-sport spectacular in Incheon, South Korea which will open on September 19.
India’s best Asian Games performance was winning 65 medals, including 14 golds, four years ago in Guangzhou, when they were coming off hosting the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.