Wrestling was one of the disciplines that earned India glory at the 2008 Beijing Games. But the sport is mired in controversy ahead of the crucial Olympic qualifying round beginning on March 29 in Astana (Kazakhstan), with the chances of a woman grappler clinching a London berth in the 48kg category looking bleak.
Caught in a legal battle
If the warring factions in the federation were not enough, the Olympic hopefuls too have jumped into the fray. Instead of sweating it out on the mat, India's top two wrestlers in the 48kg category - Neha and Babita - are fighting a legal battle against each other. While Neha has secured a court order to get a place in the team, Babita's petition will come up on Monday.
The controversy has arisen because of the defunct Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), which was dissolved by a court order recently.
The ad-hoc president of the federation, secretary (sports) Sindhushree Khullar, appointed by the court in the interim, announced the trials to select the player for the 48kg category on Friday, whereas Neha had already been 'selected' to represent the country by the WFI before it was dissolved.
What the wrestlers had to say
Neha, who is the reigning national champion, told HT, "Participating in the trials close to the Olympic qualifiers would have spoiled my chances in Astana. Hence, I went to court to fight for my rights. I knocked at the doors of the Delhi High Court, which stayed the trials."
The court, quashing the trials, in its order said, "The first priority should be given to
Neha as she is the national champion."
An upset Babita, the 2010 Commonwealth Games silver-medallist, too went to court on Friday.
"The WFI, before it was dissolved, deliberately knocked off my name from the list," she told HT from Patiala.
In February, Babita was disqualified from the Asian Championship in Korea for being overweight. So, when the team came back, the WFI replaced her with Neha, who had won bronze in the 51kg category in the same championship.
In the event of Babita too getting a stay from the court on Monday, it could further mar the prospects of the wrestlers in the weight category.
The team is scheduled to leave for Astana on March 28.