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Sharath Kamal a 'nondescript sportsman' to be flag-bearer in Paris Olympics: TN athletics officials

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Chennai, Mar 30 (PTI) The Tamil Nadu's Athletics Association has questioned the IOA's decision to name star table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal as India's flag-bearer for the upcoming Paris Olympics, calling him a "nondescript sportsman" and demanding that ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra be given the honour.

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An Indian Olympic Association (IOA) source, however, told PTI that making Chopra the flag-bearer for the opening ceremony would have been "sheer waste of crucial last minute preparation time" for the superstar javelin thrower as his event starts towards the end of the July 16 to August 11 Games.

Legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George had also reportedly expressed her unhappiness over Olympic and world champion javelin thrower Chopra not being made the flag bearer.

A joint statement issued by TNAA president WI Davaram and secretary C Latha on Friday said the IOA's decision had sent "shockwaves" across the country.

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"The nomination of TT player Sharath Kamal as the flag-bearer of the Indian Olympic contingent has sent shockwaves across the nation. It is not only the sportspersons but everyone who follows sports are aggrieved with the injustice of leaving out Neeraj Chopra, the only Indian gold medallist in athletics during the 130-year-old history of the Olympics.

"Besides being the current Olympic and world champion, he has also been selected to defend his title in the forthcoming Olympics. I cannot imagine him (Chopra) being part of the national team led by a nondescript sportsman Sharath Kamal." The TNAA officials also questioned IOA's logic of announcing the flag-bearer's name so early.

"What is the hurry in announcing the flag-bearer and what is the reason for leaving out the world and Olympic champion. The IOA should explain the needless hurry in announcing the flag-bearer's name." Chopra's event at the Olympics starts on August 6 (qualifying round), while the opening ceremony is scheduled on July 26. If he is made the flag-bearer, Chopra will have to be in Paris on July 25 latest and then return to his training base after the opening ceremony.

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As per Paris Olympics rules, no athlete can enter the Games Village seven days prior to his or her event, according to sources.

"So, either Chopra will have to return to his training base after the opening ceremony or stay outside in Paris in a hotel as he cannot enter the Games Village seven days prior to his event," an IOA source told PTI on condition of anonymity.

"We have taken into account all these factors and we thought it would be sheer waste of crucial last minute preparation time for Chopra from whom the whole country is expecting a gold medal.

"Why should we take the risk," he added. PTI AM PDS AM PDS PDS

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