Well begun is only half done. This is true for the 1st Hari Ram Indian Wrestling Grand Prix. Though the tournament has witnessed the participation of 22 countries, most of them, including powerhouses like Georgia, USA and Iran, have come with second-string teams. However, each team has a reason to share. USA, who till Saturday were on top of the medals tally, feel their focus is on the ongoing World Cup in Tokyo.
“We have not come here with our best team as our top wrestlers are competing in the World Cup, which is a bigger event,” said assistant coach Erin Tomeo, who was all praise for the facilities at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.
Tomeo explained that the top nations were targeting the London Olympics. “Top teams can't risk their best wrestlers as they can get injured before the Games,” he said.
Even Pakistan, who have not qualified for the Olympics, have come with their junior-most team. Coach Anwar Ali was clear that they were using the event to try out youngsters ahead of the SAF Games.
The organisers are hopeful that things would improve in the future. “Just managing to get most of the top countries in a short period of time is a good enough start,” said Ashok Agarwal, chairman of the organising committee.
He said there were plans to conduct the competition a fortnight after next year's Indian Premier League in order to attract more attention on TV.
Gold for India
India won three medals, including gold, on Saturday. Rajneesh (60kg) bagged the top prize by defeating Kim Jin Cheol of Korea. The other two medals were won by women grapplers. Neha Rathi (51kg) won silver while Kamlesh (59kg) claimed bronze.