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India must play Asian Games to win, not just to participate.

Published: September 15, 2014 12:12:11 am

For decades, India has been sending bloated contingents for multi-discipline events only to return with an embarrassing haul of medals.

This time, the government decided they’ve had enough. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has cut the flab from the list of 950 names — athletes and support staff — proposed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to clear just 682 for the upcoming Incheon Asian Games. That’s the way to go.

The government, in the last five years, has not shied away from spending money on the disciplines, including shooting, wrestling, boxing, badminton, athletics and hockey, in which India has a genuine chance of winning a medal. The ones that have been axed from the Asian Games contingent are sports that surface once in four years, just ahead of the Games, offering little hope of a podium finish. The IOA must realise that merely sending a large contingent does not guarantee more medals. At the last Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, India sent a contingent of 625 and won 65 medals to finish sixth overall. It was the country’s best-ever performance at the continental event. However, nations like Iran (362) and Kazakhstan (365) sent fewer athletes than India but won more medals. This time, SAI and the sports ministry expect India to win at least 10 medals more than the tally in the last Games.

India has moved on from the days when it participated in international events just to add up the numbers. It has evolved as a sporting nation, and we now boast a few athletes who are winners at the international level. Nothing less than a podium finish should be considered acceptable and athletes who don’t stand a chance of winning a medal need not be sent to marquee events like the Olympics or the Asian Games.

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