Asian Games 2018: India’s sambo squad pruned amid allegations of nepotism

Sports World
Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi | Updated: July 8, 2018 2:15:07 am


Lalit Narain, through his exploits over the years, has earned the moniker of ‘Superstar Sambo’. He is 39, won his first international medal, as a junior, back in 1994 and his last medal, a bronze at the Asian Championship, came five years ago. Narain, according to Sambo Federation of India (SFI), was the face of the team selected for the Asian Games, which also included the daughter-in-law of the federation’s secretary while another hasn’t competed even at the national level for the last three years.

When IOA announced last week that India would compete in sambo, along with 35 other sports, at next month’s Asiad, the decision was met with a lot of raised eyebrows. But some of the names in the list have puzzled the set of officials who cleared the sport. Consequently, the IOA struck off the names of all but one sambo player on Saturday, citing ambiguity in the selection process. Out of the six names submitted by the SFI, only one – Shrikant – has been cleared to compete.

Narain was to compete in the 90kg category. The SFI argued that he finished fifth at last year’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, but were unable to convince the IOA because of his age. The rest, sources said, weren’t cleared as allegations surfaced of biased selections – so much so that the daughter-in-law of SFI secretary Deputy Ram Sharma nearly made the cut.

Rishal Sharma, it is learnt, did not compete in the trials last month but was named in the initial list submitted to the IOA. But Sharma, the SFI secretary, insisted otherwise. “We had included her but later she was removed as she is still not fit to compete. She delivered a child just four months ago so it wasn’t advisable,” he said.

Another player, Sarojit Kaur, hasn’t competed in the last three national championship but was included in the Asian Games team. “Since this is the first time sambo has been included in the Games, there should be exception in some cases,” Sharma said.

IOA ‘misled’

One week after it cleared the ‘final list’ of 524 athletes, the IOA met again on Saturday to make changes to the contingent. Sambo wasn’t the only sport that faced the chop. The four-member triathlon team, too, has been disallowed.

IOA sources said they were misled by the triathlon federation, which claimed that relay events were included at the Asian Games for the first time. “But we found out that they were wrong and gave us false information. This event has been held twice or thrice before and the Indian team isn’t even among the top 15 in Asia. Hence, they will not be going,” the source said.

There is deliberation going on over the swimming contingent, with some members saying the 10-member team should be pruned as not all of them meet the government’s selection criteria. The sports ministry’s guidelines have become a huge bone of contention as the IOA has come under pressure from several federations to include their athletes.

It is learnt that a delegation will meet the sports ministry early next week and seek relaxation in the norms, which currently only allow teams ranked among the top eight in Asia and individuals who have matched the performance of the sixth-placed finisher at the previous Asian Games to be a part of the contingent.


(The India News staff does not claim ownership of this content, source sited above)

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