The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) must be patting its back for playing a crucial hand in Sakshi Malik’s progress from an unknown name to an Olympic medallist, a first for an Indian woman wrestler.
While the WFI and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh deserve some praise for providing Sakshi the platform, there is a need to highlight what is wrong in Indian sport.
The WFI’s approach has been cavalier while deciding on crucial matters. The bizarre selection procedure had all but nipped Sakshi’s dream even before it took flight after trials were held at Lucknow in February to select the team for the Olympic qualifying tournaments.
The federation did not enter Sakshi’s name for the World Olympic qualification tournament in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, from April 20-24. Instead, Geeta Phogat was chosen, whom Sakshi had beaten 8-1 in the trials.
The WFI reasoned: “We couldn’t have ignored such a senior wrestler who has brought laurels to the country.” Had Geeta won in Ulaan Baatar, Sakshi’s Rio dreams would have been over as the WFI traditionally sends wrestlers to the Olympics who win the quota for the country.
It’s the same logic that led to two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar’s request for trials in the 74kg category against Narsingh Pancham Yadav being turned down. It was Narsingh who had won the quota with a bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas.
While Sushil failed to get relief from the Delhi High Court, the WFI publicly supported Narsingh since Sushil did not take part in the inaugural Pro-Wrestling League.
The WFI sent the entry thrice in 74kg for Rio. First, it forwarded Narsingh’s name when federations were asked to provide provisional names to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in May.
On July 26, as Narsingh awaited the National Anti-Doping Agency’s verdict after testing positive, Parveen Rana’s name was sent. Once Narsingh was cleared of doping charges, he was again the chosen one with the help of the United World Wrestling.
Later on Thursday evening, the WFI will know if Narsingh can participate in the Olympics. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal against his exoneration will be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and if the plea is upheld, India will go unrepresented in the 74kg category.