Summary of sports events and persons who made news on Wednesday.
Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal Wednesday pulled out of the Indian Open BWF World Tour Super 500 which begins in New Delhi on Tuesday, after failing to recover from an acute gastroenteritis problem.
Saina, who turned 29 last Monday, had played through pain during the All England Championships after suffering from an acute gastroenteritis and mild pancreatitis ahead of the tournament.
She was forced to withdraw from Swiss Open last week and was admitted to hospital for treatment.
On Wednesday, Saina informed Badminton Association of India (BAI) about her decision to withdraw from the $350,000 tournament on medical grounds.
"She has not been well since the All England Championship. She sent the letter to withdraw citing stomach pain," a BAI official said.
Last week, Saina, who had reached the quarter-finals of the All England Championship, had broken the news that she was advised to get admitted to get treated for her illness.
"So some sad news was really going through acute stomach pain from last Monday... managed to play few matches in All England with lot of pain ... decided to skip Swiss open and come back to India and find out the issue," she had written in her social media account.
"... and I found out it's acute gastroenteritis with mild pancreatitis and the doctors have recommended me to get admitted and hopefully I recover soon out of it."
Saina had won the India Open women's singles title in 2015. Olympic silver medallist and former champion P V Sindhu will now be India's only title contender in women's singles.
India maul Bangladesh 4-0, enter final
Four-time defending champions India stormed into the final of the SAFF Women's football championship with a resounding 4-0 win over Bangladesh in Biratnagar, Nepal on Wednesday.
Dalima Chhibber opened the scoring for India, which was followed by a brace from Indumathi Kathiresan and an injury-time strike by Manisha as the defending champions took their tally to 15 goals in three matches in the tournament at the Sahid Rangashala Stadium.
The match began with both teams going hard from the first whistle as Bangladesh looked to make the most of their physical prowess and pressed the Indian defenders with rigorous pace.
The Indian centre-back duo of Ashalata and Sweety Devi, however, stood tall and denied the opposition forwards any sniff at goal.
After a tense start, the Indians found their foothold and in the 18th minute, Sanju curled in an excellent delivery from the left that fell to Dalima inside the box and the right-back made no mistake as she placed the ball into the back of the net.
The tempo of the match went up a notch after the opener, with both sides creating good scoring chances.
Bangladesh centre-back Mosammat Khatun skied an effort from close range while Sanju was denied by the rival custodian in a one-on-one situation in quick succession.
India scored their second goal in the 23rd minute through midfielder Indumathi, who showed excellent composure to slot the ball past the keeper after being played through with a delightful reverse through-ball from Sanju.
Bangladesh then looked to hit back, trying their luck from distance, only to be denied by a confident Aditi Chauhan in goal.
India, who scored 11 goals in their first two matches of the tournament, showed their prowess with a classic counter-attack goal in the 37th minute to triple their lead.
Dalima played the ball out from the right after an attack from Bangladesh and in no time, Sanju and Sandhiya combined well to put through Indumathi once again, who found the net with a well-placed finish for her second strike of the day.
After the change of ends, it was India that started out stronger and controlled most of the possession.
Sanju and Dangmei Grace were a handful for the Bangladesh defence down the flanks and it was the latter who came close to scoring at the hour mark but saw her shot sail past across the goal.
Coach Maymol Rocky brought on Anju Tamang and Manisha in place of Ratanbala Devi and Grace respectively, and both substitutes produced impactful performances as soon as they came on.
In the dying minutes of the game, Manisha pounced on a loose ball inside the box, rounded the keeper and scored her first goal of the tournament to make the scoreline 4-0 in favour of India.
India will take on hosts Nepal in the summit clash on Friday.
Neeraj, Hima named in India's Asian Championships team
Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was Wednesday named to lead a 39-member Indian athletics team for next month's Asian Championships in Doha, with sprint sensation Hima Das also making the cut in 400m despite her recent below-par show.
National record holders, Mohammad Anas (400m), Jinson Johnson (800m and 1500m), Dharun Ayyasamy (400m hurdles), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put), Dutte Chand (100m) and Annu Rani (javelin throw) were also among those named in the team.
Tejaswin Shankar (high jump) and M Shreeshankar (long jump) -- both national record holders -- were left out of the team for different reasons while seasoned campaigners Seema Antil (discus throw) and Arpinder Singh (triple jump) opted out of the continental showpiece to focus on the World Championships later this year.
Sanjivani Jadhav, who recently returned positive for a specified substance, was also named in the team for 10,000m race subject to clearance by the NADA.
The 22-year-old Jadhav was not handed a provisional suspension by the NADA and she won the 10,000m gold in the just-concluded Federation Cup which served as the selection trials for the April 19-24 continental showpiece.
The 21-year-old Neeraj, who won gold in 2017 edition, was given exemption by the Athletics Federation of India from taking part in the Federation Cup. He is currently training in South Africa.
Hima, on the other hand, took a break of one month from training at the national camp to appear for her 12th class examinations in Assam and that showed in her performance in the Indian Grand Prix series and the Federation Cup in Patiala.
In the third leg of the Indian GP in Sangrur on March 2, Hima finished fourth in the quartermile event with a time of 55.19 seconds, the worst of her nascent career.
The 19-year-old reigning world junior champion, who holds the national record of 50.79, won the gold in the Federation Cup on March 18 but with a modest time of 52.88 seconds. She ran below the Asian Championships qualifying standard of 52.75 set by the AFI.
"She had a break as she had her exams. She is young and what is crucial at this stage is to conserve her. The biggest stress for Galina (400m coach) is how to conserve Hima so that she can do some great stuff in 2024 Olympics," AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said on the inclusion of Hima in the team.
Sumariwalla said the AFI was initially reluctant to allow her take her examinations but later relented.
"Initially, we were not OK but we saw that she was getting upset about the prospect of not sitting in her exam and we decided to let her go," he said.
"If she is not going to focus on her training for the next three months, there was no point. So we decided it is better to let her go for the exam so that she can focus on her athletics later.
"It is not an Olympic year, there is enough time for her to recover and come back. Ideally she should not have gone for the exam but there is also a mental make-up for an athlete and that is also important."
Of the 39 named by the AFI selection committee, the participation of as many as 11, including that of seasoned 3000m steeplechaser Sudha Singh, is subject to confirmatory trials to be held in Patiala on April 13.
The number of the athletes can be increased as the AFI will also hold a selection trial for the men's and women's 4x100m relay races.
Regarding Tejaswin, Sumariwalla said that the high jumper was not selected as he did not appear for any of the four legs of the Indian Grand Prix series as well as the Federation Cup though he had written to the AFI about the clash of dates with his examinations in the USA.
The Delhi athlete is studying at Kansas State University on a scholarship programme. He had recently jumped 2.28m at the Big 12 collegiate meet in Texas.
"Tejaswin wrote a letter to us but we made it clear like in the case of Vikas Gowda that you have to come and take part in at least one meet (Fed Cup or four Indian GP series) to show your performance. He is not being able to do that and we have not selected him," Sumirawalla said.
"In the USA, you can take exam anytime. He could have taken the exam before and after the Fed Cup. That is not an excuse," he added.
The AFI president said, "He is not in the TOP scheme of the government. He is not a medal prospect in the Olympics and not even near that. We are OK to miss out on a medal as we don't think him as a medal prospect."
Regarding Seema, who is currently training in Moscow, deputy chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair said, "She has informed us she will be skipping Asian Championships to focus on World Championships. She is currently having a shoulder strain and undergoing rehabiltation."
Sumirawalla said Seema was cleared to train in Russia only after an undertaking to furnish a certificate that her coach was not involved in any doping related activities.