11 December 2023
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Defender Varun Kumar and mid-fielder Simranjeet Singh are set to make their Olympic debuts after they were added to India’s men’s hockey squad following the IOC’s decision to allow “alternate athletes” in team events because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hockey India, which had originally named 16-member men’s and women’s squads for the upcoming Games, has now added two players each in both the teams.

While Varun and Simranjeet were late inclusions in the men’s team, defender Reena Khokhar and experienced mid-fielder Namita Toppo were added to the women’s side.

“Varun and Simranjeet have been added to the 16-member side. Now it is an 18-member side. Though they are additional, both of them are up for selection in every match as per IOC’s special guidelines for Tokyo 2020,” an official told PTI.

Traditionally, hockey teams in Olympics comprise 16 players each but the International Olympic Committee has made an exception this time around, allowing every competing nation to have two extra players in their squads for the COVID-hit Summer Games.

As per the IOC, the sports in which “alternate athletes” will be able to replace permanent players in each match are hockey, football, handball, rugby and water polo.

In previous Olympics, stand-by players used to travel with hockey teams but could only take…

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Abdul Gh Lone