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Facile wins, big financial rewards for medallists at Commonwealth Wrestling Championship

Commonwealth Wrestling Championship doesn’t even come anywhere close to the National Championships in terms of quality competition. But there is a windfall for medal winners. As per the sports ministry, an athlete becomes richer by Rs7.5 lakh, Rs5 lakh or Rs2.5 lakh.

other sports Updated: Dec 16, 2017 20:35 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
New Delhi
Sushil Kumar is competing at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Sushil Kumar is competing at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Johannesburg, South Africa. (AFP)

The Indian wrestling contingent is celebrating a ‘pre Christmas party’ in the South African city of Johannesburg, or so it seems.

On the opening day of the Commonwealth Championship, India made a clean sweep of medals in Graeco-Roman --- winning gold and silver in all 10 weight categories. But the huge haul has nothing to do with outstanding performances. On the contrary, the Commonwealth Championship doesn’t even come anywhere close to the National Championships in terms of quality competition.

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The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) secretary-general, VN Prasood, admitted the participation was very poor in some weight categories. “There are only three competitors in some weight categories, of which two are Indians.”

Asked why the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) doesn’t cancel events where there are fewer than three competitors, Prasood said, that “It is not possible”. “If there are fewer teams or competitors, the event is not cancelled. As per International rules, if there are more than five competitors, two bronze medals are awarded. If there are less than five, one bronze is given.”

But there is a windfall for medal winners in Commonwealth Championship. As per the sports ministry, an athlete becomes richer by Rs7.5 lakh, Rs5 lakh or Rs2.5 lakh. respectively depending upon the colour of the medal. Strangely, there is no monetary benefit if they win a national title, where the competition is extremely tough.

While India may have bagged 20 Graeco-Roman medals in Johannesburg, their presence on the world stage is negligible, where even a first-round victory in the World Championships or the Olympics is considered a big achievement.

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In the Graeco-Roman 63kg category at Johannesburg, Vikas won gold, while Gaurav Sharma settled for silver. Pakistan’s Abdul Wahab, the only other competitor in the fray, got bronze. The other weight categories having three wrestlers --- two of them Indians --- were 67kg, 82kg, 87kg and 130kg.

In the men’s and women’s freestyle events, India are expected to win another 20 gold and an equal number of silver. In men’s 92kg, there are only two competitors and India’s Somveer will take on Pakistan Umari Ahmad in the gold-medal bout.

In 74kg, twice Olympic Games medallist Sushil Kumar is expected to face Parveen Rana in the title round. In all, there are five grapplers in the fray, including one each from Canada and New Zealand.

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Rio Olympic Games bronze medallist Sakshi Malik is also expected to win gold in women’s 62kg without breaking a sweat.

Vinod Tomar, the WFI office secretary, said that the Commonwealth Championship has become an “excellent platform to improve credentials”. “Medal winners get financial rewards and departmental promotions,” he said.

Former national coach and Dronacharya Awardee Mahavir Prasad said the government’s cash-award policy was a motivating factor. “Wrestling has become expensive, the money earned will help them invest in their training,” he said.