Olympics-Boxer Mary Kom, hockey captain Singh named India's flagbearers

FILE PHOTO: India's boxer MC Mary Kom wears her head protection gear during a training session at Balewadi Stadium in Pune, about 190 km (118 miles) from Mumbai, March 12, 2012. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Boxer MC Mary Kom and men's hockey captain Manpreet Singh will be India's flagbearers at the Tokyo Olympics later this month, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said.

The joint flagbearer role for teams is a break with tradition after the International Olympic Committee changed the rules to send a message of gender parity.

A six-time women's world champion, 38-year-old Kom won flyweight bronze at the 2012 Games in London and she is hanging up her gloves after Tokyo.

Hockey skipper Singh, who hopes to end India's 41-year medal drought in the sport, was delighted to be chosen alongside the boxer.

"I think it's a huge honour to be named the flagbearer for the opening ceremony alongside the incredible Mary Kom," Singh said late on Monday.

"I have always been inspired by her journey in boxing and personally for me, this is a big moment in my career, and it is also a huge moment for hockey."

The men's hockey team won eight gold medals between 1928 and 1980 but have not been on the podium since winning in Moscow.

India is sending a 201-strong delegation, including 126 athletes, to Tokyo and hopes to have them all fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they arrive.

The sports ministry on Monday requested help from the external affairs ministry to help get second doses to seven athletes training overseas along with 17 support staff.

The athletes include javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who is currently training in Sweden, four boxers in Italy and two wrestlers in Russia.

"It is likely that the Indian athletes and the support staff will get their second doses in the Indian missions in those countries," the Sports Authority of India said in a statement.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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