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Independent Olympic Athletes celebrate gold in the women''s kabaddi.
Independent Olympic Athletes win both kabaddi gold medals


03 Jul 2013
Incheon, Korea: No flag. No problem. This was the mood of the Indian players at the Ansan Sangnoksu Gym on Wednesday after the women’s team and then the men’s team won gold in the indoor kabaddi competition of the 4th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. With the Indian Olympic Association suspended by the International Olympic Committee due to government interference in the autonomy of the country’s National Olympic Committee, the Indian athletes are competing here as Independent Olympic Athletes (AOI).

The suspension means that the IOC flag must replace the Indian flag at all ceremonies, so it was the five rings of the IOC that was raised to the roof on each occasion as the players watched from the top of the medal podium. “I am very proud and so happy because we won the gold medal. I am very proud to be Indian,” said the women’s team captain, Bai Tejeswini.

“Iran gave us a tough game but we played a nice game,” she added. “The team unity between coach and players gave us the joy of victory.” Regarding the absence of the Indian flag, the captain added:  “We felt something bad somewhere in our hearts but it will not remain for too many days. We think the problem will be finished soon, so next year we will come to the Asian Games as India.”

AOI beat Iran 54-31 in the women’s final, after which the AOI coach, Sunil Dabas, thanked the Olympic authorities for allowing the athletes to compete, even though the NOC is suspended. “The problem is between the country, the government and the IOC and that is separate from the athletes,” she said.

“The athletes are happy to be here. It is a very good thing that they take care of the athletes and give us the chance to participate here.” The men’s team made it a golden double by beating Iran 42-32 in a rough and frequently bad-tempered encounter, enabling the Independent Olympic Athletes to climb to sixth place in the medal rankings with two gold medals by mid-afternoon.

* The manager of Iran’s silver medal-winning women’s team, Zahra Rahimenejad, thanked her NOC for bringing the kabaddi teams to the AIMAG. “It is very important for the future of kabaddi,” she said. “We hope and dream that kabaddi can go to the Olympic Games. It is the hope for kabaddi players in Iran and for all the kabaddi players in the world.”
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