Asian Games: India's jumbo-sized squad slashed; sports ministry drops 146 athletes

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) heaved a sigh of relief as Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, in consultation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Tuesday cleared the football teams but the Indian contingent for the Incheon Asian Games, was pruned to 679 from 942 that was proposed by the Indian Olympic Association

New Delhi: India's sports ministry on Tuesday slashed the contingent going to the Asian Games in South Korea, leaving out 146 athletes who stood only a slim chance of winning medals.

The Indian Olympic Association wanted government approval for a mammoth 942-member squad that included 662 athletes to travel to Incheon for the September 19-October 4 event. But the ministry gave the go-ahead to only 516 athletes and 163 officials after three weeks of deliberations that ended at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's door.

The contingent will take part in 28 disciplines after several others including bowling, karate, modern pentathlon, rugby, soft tennis and triathlon were axed from India's original list. "The exercise (to prune the squad) was undertaken to ensure that only deserving athletes, coaches and support personnel are participating in the Games," said a release from sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal's office.

Sonowal took the decision "in consultation with the Prime Minister", the release added. The men's and women's football teams, which have been training in China, were given the green light despite media speculation that both could be axed. India had sent 609 athletes in a 933-member delegation to the previous Asian Games in Guangzhou, China four years ago. They took part in 35 disciplines and won 65 medals, including 14 golds.

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