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Home > Sports > News > Reuters > Report

India hope for better headlines at Asian Games

N.Ananthanarayanan | November 28, 2006 12:51 IST

India's weightlifters will miss the Asian Games after the latest in a series of doping scandals but the country is looking to its shooters to restore national pride in Doha.

Indian shooters won 16 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne this year, although Doha will provide tougher competition with China, South Korea, Japan and Kazakhstan in the fray.

"In the last games we won only two silver medals," national coach Sunny Thomas told Reuters. "This time the bare minimum is five medals and surely they would include gold medals."

Pistol shooter Samaresh Jung, 36, who won five golds in Melbourne, will compete in four individual events. Olympic men's double trap silver medallist and Commonwealth Games champion Rajyavardhan Rathore and world trap champion Manavjit Singh boost the contingent.

Doping has soured India's achievements at major events over recent years.

In July, the Indian Weightlifting Federation was banned for a year and fined $50,000 after four lifters tested positive within a year, including two at Melbourne.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, two women weightlifters, Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu, were caught for doping and last year discus thrower Neelam Jaswant Singh tested positive for a banned stimulant at the Helsinki world athletics championships.

Two male weightlifters were stripped of their medals after positive tests at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Distance runner Sunita Rani also lost the gold and bronze medals she won at the 2002 Asian Games after traces of nandrolone were found in her urine although the medals were returned after discrepancies in the testing procedure.

India, as hosts of the next Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, can ill afford another scandal.

Officials preferred to concentrate on the nation's medals prospects ahead of the Doha Games, which open on Friday.

"We hope to win medals in as many disciplines as possible, especially in shooting and athletics where we did well in the Commonwealth Games," said Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi.

India won seven of their 11 gold medals in track and field in Pusan, South Korea, in 2002 when they finished seventh in the medals table.

"I guarantee good performances, much better than the last Games," Athletics Federation of India (AFI) secretary Lalit Bhanot said. "I'm not predicting medals simply because one can't say how well other countries have prepared."

India are expected to retain the kabaddi title, which they have won since its inception in 1990, and expect medals from hockey, tennis, chess, billiards and snooker, archery and boxing.

In hockey, the eight-times Olympic champions have substantially revamped their squad, axing six players from the side which slumped to 11th in the World Cup in September.

Experienced midfielder Viren Rasquinha was among those who failed to find a place in the 16-member squad.

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