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Kullu overwhelmed at being flag-bearer - 'This is compensation for Arjuna which I was denied'

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By JAYDEEP BASU in Doha
  • Published 2.12.06
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Doha: On April 26 last when Jyoti Sunita Kullu tied the wedding lock with a local hockey player in her native village in district Sundergarh in Orissa, her family members and friends carried a series of torches during the wedding procession.

“It was necessary because our village still has not any electricity connection,” said Jyoti, who on Friday was the proud flag bearer of Indian contingent during the opening ceremony of the Asian Games here.

The first adivasi girl to be given the honour of carrying the Indian flag in a multi-event international sport, Jyoti on Friday morning was overwhelmed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA)’s decision to select her for the top job.

“It is one of the biggest honours in my life,” said the captain of the Indian women hockey team. “I have been denied the Arjuna award this year. It broke my heart though I never went public about it. This honour, I feel, has come as a compensation for the Arjuna award.

It may be recalled that Jyoti’s name was recommended to the Union sports ministry by the Indian Women’s Hockey Federation for Arjuna Award, but the choice fell on Viren Rasquinha. Unfortunately, Rasquinha has been sacked from the men’s hockey team for the Asian Games at the last moment that kicked off a controversy.

The coach of the women’s hockey team, Maharaj Kishan Kaushik, himself a gold medallist in the Moscow Olympics, said that there was a tug of war between the men’s and women’s hockey teams in 1994 over who would be the flag bearer in the Asian Games march past.

“Rajbir Kaur (now the manger of the women’s team here) was supposed to carry the flag in the Hiroshima Asian Games. But at the last moment she was pipped by Dhanraj Pillay.

The girls were upset, but that’s part of life. So I am even more happy that a woman hockey player has been entrusted with the job.”

Meanwhile, the Indian football team could not participate in the march past as their ceremonial kits did not arrive in time.