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Spoilt for choice to bear tricolour
- A wide range available to IOA for ultimate honour

New Delhi: With less than two weeks to go for the Olympics, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is still undecided over who is going to be the flag-bearer at the Athens Games.

Tennis player Leander Paes, a bronze-medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, had the honour of carrying the tri-colour at the opening ceremony in Sydney four years ago.

This time, the IOA said it was still scouting for a deserving sportsperson to do the honours. “We are yet to decide who will be the flag-bearer in Athens. There are many candidates… we are deciding on who is the most deserving,” IOA secretary general Randhir Singh told newsmen at a send-off function here on Monday night.

On India’s prospects, Singh said he was confident of the country winning “not just one but a few medals in Athens.

“I have not seen such a strong Indian contingent in the last 40 years. We can win at least four to five medals.”

IOA president Suresh Kalmadi shared Singh’s sentiment. “We came up with our best-ever Asian Games performance in Busan. We also had our best Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Although the Olympics is a different cup of tea altogether, we are still hopeful of winning a few medals,” Kalmadi said.

Several members of the Athens contingent — including Sydney bronze-medallist Karnam Malleswari, Kunjurani Devi, Sanamacha Chanu, Pratima Kumari, Aparna Popat, Nikhil Kanetkar, Abhinn Shyam Gupta and Shikha Tandon — attended the function organised by Sahara, official partners of the Indian contingent.

Kalmadi said those athletes undergoing training or competing in foreign countries would proceed to Athens directly while the rest would go from India in batches on August 5, 6 and 7.

Logic, though should point the finger at Karnam Malleswari, bronze winner weightlifter in Sydney. This will be the same honour accorded to Leander Paes.

Dhanraj Pillay’s name could have been a good deal, except for the fact that he was axed from the team and then brought back under pressure from several quarters. The positive side to his case is that this should most certainly be the hockey star’s swansong.

But so will be case of track star K. Beenamol, who did a fine job in Sydney. This petite athlete will represent India only in the relays in Athens, but maybe, should get a look-in. The other obvious choice should be long jumper Anju Bobby George, who is said to be a medal prospect in Athens, but so is Anjali Vedpathak in shooting. The choice there remains in the balance. (PTI)

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