World champion and Olympic bronze medallist, wrestler Sushil Kumar, was chosen as the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London on July 27.

Making the announcement at a send-off function organised by one of the principal sponsors of the Indian contingent, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in the capital here on Sunday, the acting president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Prof. Vijay Kumar Malhotra, said that the choice was made after four Olympic medallists were short-listed for the honour.

“We have four Olympic medallists in the contingent. Leander Paes has already carried the flag. Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Singh have competition early in the Games,” explained Prof. Malhotra.

Sushil will be training in Belarus and his competition will be only on the last day of the Olympics, on August 12.

He will specifically be flown to London for the opening ceremony and back to Belarus to continue with his training.

The six-member archery team was in full strength along with the coaches at the function, and was scheduled to leave for London on Monday morning.

The badminton players V. Diju and Ashwini Ponnappa were the other two members of the Indian contingent who made it to the function.

As announced by Prof. Malhotra, most of the players had been training abroad and will be reaching the Games directly from their training base.

Applauding the athletes for good training, Prof. Malhotra advised them that it was “no time for bickering or bragging,” and to focus only on the task ahead.

The coach of the Indian archery team, Limba Ram, said that the current crop of archers would capitalise on the golden opportunity to script history.

Though he praised the women’s team, specifically the 18-year-old world No.1 Deepika Kumari, for her skill, courage and composure, he said the men’s team was equally strong.

“The current team has trained well, has the latest technology. They are capable of doing what I couldn’t. There will not be any mistake this time. It is a golden chance to make history,” said Limba Ram.

Use players’ experience

The Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken goaded ONGC and other such organisations like the Railways to give a career in sports for the sportspersons in their fold, rather than make them work like normal employees at the end of their playing career.

He said that it was important to use the experience of the players as coaches in places near their home.

“It is important to make correct use of their services,” said Maken.

The Sports Minister congratulated the 81 athletes who had qualified for the Olympics, passing through a stringent selection process, from a core group of 720 probables, who were trained by 121 national coaches and 29 foreign coaches, along with 65 other support staff with a budget of about Rs. 200 crore.

“Our players are second to none in the world,” said Maken.

The Chairman and Managing Director of ONGC, Sudhir Vasudeva announced that ONGC would extend the cash award of Rs. 25 lakh for gold in Olympics, Rs. 15 lakh for silver and Rs. 10 lakh for bronze, not only to 20 per cent of its employees figuring in the Indian squad, but to all members of the contingent.

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