Olympics-India's Sochi-bound athletes receive late funding boost

By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Three Indian athletes have received late funding to travel to next month's Winter Olympics but two of them are still waiting for government assistance to purchase equipment needed to compete in Sochi.

While luger Shiva Keshavan raised money for his equipment through sponsors, Alpine skier Himanshu Thakur and cross-country skier Nadeem Iqbal's participation remains in doubt barely three weeks before the Games open in Russia.

The Sports Ministry cleared all other costs on Wednesday and the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) secretary general Roshan Lal Thakur was optimistic funds for new equipment and clothing would also be freed up soon.

"They've cleared the travel costs, sports kit and daily allowances but are yet to announce funds for equipment," Thakur told Reuters on Thursday.

"I have been asked to submit fresh details of our requirements today and I'm hopeful they'd clear it soon.

"It's late but in India, things get done in the end and I'm optimistic it would be in this case too."

The Sports Ministry blamed the delay on the WGFI, saying the federation failed to apply at least 90 days before the start of the Games, as is the norm for any event.

Thakur, who claimed the federation had placed their orders on time, also allayed fears it was too late for the skiers to practice with their new gear ahead of the opening of the Games on Feb. 7.

"If we can procure them soon, that should not be a problem.

"It's a matter of millimetres. In qualifying tournaments, they are more tolerant but in the Olympics, it has to fit into the exact specifications. Adjustment should not be an issue."

The Indian trio will compete in Sochi under the Olympic flag as the country serves an Olympic ban for electing corruption-tainted officials to its national committee in late 2012. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by John O'Brien)