India to send 634 athletes to Asian Games; Bajrang Punia figures in list

New Delhi: A record number of 634 sportspersons were on Friday cleared by the Sports Ministry to compete at the Hangzhou Asian Games, surpassing the 572 athletes in the last edition of continental showpiece in Jakarta in 2018.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had recommended 850 athletes for event to be held in Hangzhou from September 23.

Track and field events have got the pride of place as 65 athletes — 34 men and 31 women — are part of the huge contingent.

Sportspersons in 38 disciplines have been cleared, with a total of 44 footballers — 22 players in men’s and women’s sections respectively — figuring in the list.

Hockey constitutes the third-highest number of athletes at 36, with the ministry clearing 18 players each in the men’s and women’s sections.

The list also includes the men’s and women’s cricket teams, comprising 15 members each respectively.

Shooting sport, in which India has performed consistently in the continental showpiece, will see a big 30-member contingent competing in Hangzhou, while a 33-member sailing contingent has also been cleared.

The ministry has not cleared any male athlete in weightlifting, gymnastics, handball and rugby. Only two sportspersons have been cleared in kurash (martial art) and weightlifting (both women), while only one gymnast has been included in the list.

Bajrang in contingent

The ministry has included the name of wrestler Bajrang Punia (65kg) in the list, going with the IOA ad-hoc panel’s decision to recommend his name without appearing for the Asian Games trials last month.

Vishal Kaliraman had topped the trials in the weight category and has appealed to the ministry to include his name.

Bajrang, however, has indicated that he might withdraw from the Asian Games if all the khap panchayats that backed him during the protest at Jantar Mantar ask him to do so.

“All those khap panchayats, all those Chaudhury organisation members who joined in the protest at Jantar Mantar, gather them together. Whatever command they give, I am ready to obey that,” the Tokyo bronze-medal winner said on Thursday ahead of the khap mahapanchayat on September 10.

Wrestler Antim Panghal (53kg) name figures in the list after 2018 Jakarta Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat — who too had been exempted from the Asian Games trials and given direct entry — pulled out due to a knee injury.

Indian chess player Koneru Humpy, the double Asian Games gold medallist in 2006 who had indicated earlier this year she might not go for the continental event, is an integral part of a formidable chess team that includes D Harika and R Praggnanandhaa among others.

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