While the country may be rejoicing that wrestling, the sport that has alongwith shooting given India the most individual medals in the Olympics, is back for the 2020 Games, the wrestlers themselves have a different story to tell.
As things stand, developing infrastructure be damned, the government it seems can't even provide for the diet of our top wrestlers. "If the government really wants to do something for wrestling then it should increase our food budget," said London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt.
SAI stipulates just Rs. 400 a day for an international wrestler's diet and another Rs. 250 for his daily food supplements. This has not changed in the last two years even as food inflation continues to rise in the country.
So the 56 wrestlers at the Sonepat national camp, whose intake is considerably higher than most other sportsmen, have now been forced to add the two and spend Rs. 650 on food alone. They are paying for supplements from their own pockets and it comes to around Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 a month.
Things are worse at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala, which holds camps for boxing, athletics, weightlifting and women's hockey. Escalating costs have forced a cut in the menu there. The quantity of juice has been halved, meat has disappeared from the breakfast spread and quantities of milk and dry fruits have also been reduced. The Teams Division at SAI headquarters in New Delhi had twice proposed to increase the daily food budget of international sportspersons. But nothing has happened till date.
"Our wrestlers had asked for fresh juice, an extra litre of milk and more dry fruits over and above their stipulated diet. They also wanted the food to be prepared in desi ghee. But with escalating prices, it was getting difficult to provide them just the stipulated meal within Rs. 400, forget the extra items," said a coach at the national camp.
"The supplements we were getting here were of no use if we did not have a proper meal. So we requested SAI to divert the food supplement money and spend it on diet. Now at least we are being properly fed," said Dutt. Radhika Sriman, head of SAI, Sonepat, said this was the best that could be done, given the constraints.