The Sports Ministry has cleared with cost the four Indians who have qualified for the Winter Olympics to be held in the Russian city of Sochi in February even though they are not participating in the quadrennial event under the national flag.

Due to the suspension of the IOA from Olympic fold, the four Indians — Shiva Keshavan, Nadeem Iqbal, Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur — are taking part in the February 7-23 Winter Olympics as Independent Athletes under the banner of the IOC.

“I have approached the Sports Ministry, which said that there would not be any issue on the participation of the four athletes. I have been told they will be cleared on government expenses,” Winter Games Federation of India Secretary General Roshan Lal Thakur told PTI from Manali.

Keshavan in luge, Iqbal in cross country skiing, and Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur, both in Alpine skiing, have already qualified for the Games.

Thakur said he was waiting for the official communication from the International Olympic Committee regarding the registration of the athletes who have qualified for the Games.

“Federation de International of Skiing (FIS) has intimated us that four athletes have qualified for the Sochi Games but we are yet to get the official documents from the IOC so that we can do their registration.

“The IOC headquarters are closed now due to new-year holidays and I am hoping to get the pro forma by January 7 at the latest,” he said.

Thakur also said that Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur would take part in ski competitions in Iran next month in a bid to improve their rankings.

“It is a domestic competition in Iran but will carry ranking points. This event will also serve as preparations for the Winter Games.”

Three Indian athletes had taken part in the 2010 edition of the Winter Games in Vancouver in Canada, while four represented the country in 2006 in Torino, Italy. Keshavan was the lone Indian athlete in Salt Lake City in United States in 2002 and in Nagano (Japan) in 1998.

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