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Commonwealth Games 2018: India possess muscle to have free run in wrestling

Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia, Rahul Aware, Mausam Khatri, Sakshi Malik, Babita Kumari and Vinesh Phogat will be some of the biggest names in the Indian wrestling contingent at the Commonwealth Games 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.

other sports Updated: Mar 29, 2018 10:14 IST
Navneet Singh & Leslie Xavier
Navneet Singh & Leslie Xavier
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Commonwealth Games 2018,Commonwealth Games Wrestling,Sushil Kumar
Sushil Kumar will be the biggest name in wrestling for India at the Commonwealth Games 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.(AFP)

Given the quality of the competition at the Commonwealth Games, Indian wrestlers would be walking on to the mat at the Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre in Gold Coast with a lot of swag, and walk out with gold in most categories.

The team management expects gold in 10 out of the 12 weight categories in the men’s and women’s freestyle segments (there is no Greco-Roman competition at the CWG this time). 

Anything short of that would be an underachievement since the only competition Indians are likely to face would be from Canada and Nigeria in a couple of weight categories, mostly in the women’s divisions, that too.

Nothing to gain

While gold at the CWG is a good tick in the resume of the wrestlers, seasoned Indian grapplers like Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia, Rahul Aware, Mausam Khatri, Sakshi Malik, Babita Kumari and Vinesh Phogat stand to gain nothing from their outings with regards to their journey towards the Asian Games or the World Championships.

The only thing of value would be the prize money and maybe promotions from their employers!

The CWG, in fact, could dampen their build-up for bigger events this year where they would face opponents of substantially higher quality. One needn’t look far back to understand this. The way the Indian Commonwealth Championships winners (held in Dec 2017) failed to impress at the Asian Championships three months later (March 2018) — with Navjot Kaur the only one returning with a gold from the continental event in Kyrgyzstan — best illustrates the CWG trap.

Nurture youngsters

With no real competition on offer, the Indian wrestling think-tank should have ideally focused on nurturing youngsters for the future, using the CWG as a platform to launch some of the junior grapplers on to the senior stage.

But, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), near-sighted as always, has chosen to send a full-strength side, which includes double Olympic medallist Sushil . The injury-prone champion, who is on a comeback trail, in all likelihood, is unlikely to last till the next Olympics. So much for future planning!

Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik will be a tough contender for India in women’s wrestling. (Getty Images)

“It will be clean sweep in the men’s group. The women’s team should also be successful in winning at least four gold medals. The remaining medals will be all silver. And we are not thinking of bronze,” said WFI secretary Vinod Tomar.

“A majority of the participating nations don’t have a tradition of wrestling, so it’s a big advantage for India.”

At the Glasgow CWG in 2014, Canada’s overall tally was 12 medals, seven of them gold. India claimed five gold, three of them in the men’s section.

Matching or bettering that tally won’t be a challenge for India.

But the gold medals would have been much more meaningful for Indian wrestling if the WFI had chosen to field a developmental squad in Gold Coast keeping the future in mind.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 09:26 IST