Mumbai: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has recommended slashing the country’s proposed Asian Games delegation by a third and sending only medal hopefuls to South Korea’s Incheon later this month.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has sent a list of 944 athletes and officials for government approval to travel to the 19 September-4 October Games.

However, the SAI wants that figure cut down and for the country to only send athletes with genuine medal chances to prevent India’s athletes being embarrassed on such a big stage.

The SAI wants the sports ministry to approve a delegation of around 600 people to participate in 26 disciplines at the Incheon Games and expect at least 70 medals.

“We have set a criteria for athletes to be ranked at least eighth in Asia to participate in the team events and minimum sixth for individual events," Ajit Sharan, India’s sports secretary, told Reuters on Friday. “We have spoken to the sports minister (Sarbananda Sonowal) on the issue and it will be up to him to take a final call."

India sent 609 athletes in a delegation of 933 to the Guangzhou Games in China four years ago where they participated in 35 disciplines and won 65 medals, including 14 gold.

Last week, the SAI said India was not likely to compete in baseball, bowling, fencing, karate, modern pentathlon, rugby, soft ball, soft tennis and triathlon in Incheon because of the athletes’ poor standards.

Football, basketball, sepaktakraw, handball and table tennis could also face the axe.

With the individual federations trying to muscle their way into the delegation, Sonowal has sought guidance from the prime minister’s office before announcing the delegation list.

The country’s sports officials have said the issue was not one of cost, but one of prestige and national pride.

“We don’t want the athletes to cut a sorry figure there," SAI director general Jiji Thomson told Reuters on Thursday. “We want to send people with a realistic chance of winning medals since it’s the country’s pride that is at stake."

According to local media, the Olympic Council of Asia have warned the IOA of sanctions if they withdraw athletes who have already been entered for the Games at the last minute.

“The team draw has already been completed. As per the constitution, if the IOA withdraws now, a penalty will definitely be levied and the whole draw will need to be done again," local media quoted the OCA saying in an email to the IOA. Reuters

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