Indian contingent prepares for Zika virus risk at Rio Olympics

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Indian contingent prepares for Zika virus risk at Rio Olympics

Some top athletes have withdrawn from the Rio Olympics due to the Zika virus epidemic, but Rio chef de mission Rakesh Gupta is confident of the safety measures undertaken for the Indian contingent. He further exuded confidence that India would double their medal tally from London this time around.

After London in 2012, it is Rio de Janeiro which is all set to host the Olympics 2016 in August. A couple of days back, India announced its largest-ever Olympic contingent with the inclusion of the boxers and track and field athletes who earned quotas last week at the qualifiers.

But, many athletes from around the world have decided to back-off from this event in view of the spreading Zika virus. In an attempt to boost the athletes’ participation, chef de mission of the Indian Olympic contingent Rakesh Gupta on Wednesday said they are taking all possible measures to address any probable risk.

“We are concerned about Zika virus but we are taking every possible precaution for the Indian contingent that will travel to Rio. Whatever advisory we have received from the international body we have forwarded that to the players and federations,” Gupta said, reported PTI.

When enquired about the preventive measures taken, he added, “We will also provide repellents to the athletes so that they can use them in Brazil. Also, we are providing full sleeves T-shirts to the players. None of the athletes have raised any concern so far and I am also hopeful by the time the Olympics gets underway, things will be better.”

World No.1 golfer Jason Day had recently decided to withdraw from the games in August along with other golfers like Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Vijay Singh, and Rory McIlroy. But this list of withdrawing athletes does not end here.

When asked about India’s preparation for the Games, Gupta said that he was hopeful that the country will win more than 10 medals at the Rio Olympics. India had managed to fetch just 3 and 6 medals in 2008 and 2012 respectively.But Gupta said, “We are hopeful of doubling our medal tally this year. We have lots of hopes from Saina Nehwal in badminton, Jitu Rai in shooting, Vikas Krishan in boxing. Also we hope to get medals in tennis doubles, archery, wrestling and Indian hockey men’s team. I am confident we will reach our target. Also till now more than 100 Indian athletes have qualified and I am hopeful it will cross 115 to 120 in the run up to the Games. We are hopeful of more qualification in golf, aquatics, and athletics,” reported PTI.

When questions were raised about the impact of the issues afflicting the boxing and wrestling federations on the Rio-bound, IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta, who was also present at the event, said: “It will affect the morale of the wrestler but we can’t interfere as it is a matter of the federation. I am still hopeful of a medal from wrestling.” In addition to this, Gupta said “Indian boxing federation might not be there but the boxers will fight under the Indian flag. They might have got less exposure before the Games but they won’t suffer in this event.”

Finally when asked if Salman Khan will continue as the Goodwill Ambassador of the Indian contingent after the “rape” comment controversy, Mehta said, “Yes, he remains our brand ambassador,” reported PTI.

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