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Milkha Singh supports decision to drop Asiad-bound men's relay team

New Delhi: Indian athletics legend Milkha Singh Monday supported the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) decision to drop the men's 4x400 metres relay team due to poor form from the Incheon-bound Asian Games contingent.

"AFI is right in not sending the relay team. All athletes should clear the qualification mark in trials for their inclusion in the team," Milkha said, on the sidelines of an athletics talent hunt programme.

Milkha Singh
Milkha Singh

AFI's selection committee had chosen a 56-member team for the Games based on their performance in the qualifiers but had asked some of the athletes to appear for retrials. The relay squad comprising Arun K.J., Kunhu Mohammad, Jibin Sebastian and Rajiv Arokya failed to meet the qualifying mark of three minutes and 6.49 seconds at a trial conducted by AFI at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala.

The relay team took 7.05 secs, way behind the qualifying mark, and were dropped from the contingent. Kunhu and Arokya, however, were given the nod to participate in the individual 400m race.

Milkha wished the track and field squad luck for the Asian Games but was sceptical of India's medal chances. India had won 12 medals, including five golds in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

"Our present athletes lack sincerity and hardwork. They are more concerned about accolades than winning medals for the country," the four-time Asian Games gold medallist said.

Milkha said chief coach Bahadur Singh should have done his homework properly before setting a target of 15 medals from Incheon.

"Indian coaches should have more responsibility. They should do their homework properly to give the athletes proper guidance. The target of the coaches should be to provide athletes medal-oriented training," the Padmashree award winning athlete said.

"Coaches should be hired on a contract basis and their performance should be judged on the yardstick of medals won by the athletes trained by them."

Milkha was concerned about the poor standard of athletics in the country but said hiring foreign coaches is not the solution to improve the standard.

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