In 2020 Tokyo buildup, Wrestling Federation of India grapples with lack of depth
India won two gold medals and one bronze in wrestling at the Asian Games but the haul did not match the desired expectations. India had won five medals in the previous edition four years back in Incheon.
The Wrestling Federation of India is therefore worried about the lack of depth in the national squad and is looking for fresh talent, keeping in mind the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh did not elaborate the reason for poor bench strength but admitted that barring Asian Games champions Bajrang Punia in men 65kg and Vinesh Phogat in women’s 50kg, outstanding grapplers in other weight categories are missing.
Looking forward, the WFI is planning to scout talent from the inaugural edition of under-23 national championship that will take place from September 27-30 at Chittorgarh, Rajasthan.
To bridge the gap between the junior (u-20) and senior group, the world governing body had introduced U-23 World Championship last year. India won three silver medals through Bajrang (65kg), Vinod Kumar Omprakash (70kg) and Ritu Phogat (48kg).
Singh said the Chittorgarh competition will ‘act as good platform’ to scout young talent.
“Outstanding players will be immediately included in the national camp,” he added.
The emphasis, according to the WFI chief, will primarily be in 57kg, 74kg and 86kg weight categories in the men’s group. Also, after Sushil Kumar’s not-so-encouraging show in the Asian Games, the federation is looking beyond him. “We need to build up,” Singh said about future planning.
In 2015, Narsingh Yadav won bronze in 74kg in World Championships held at Las Vegas and also claimed bronze in Asian Games in Incheon.
Since he failed dope test in 2016, there was a vacuum. On his comeback Sushil won gold medals in 2017 Commonwealth Championship and 2018 Commonwealth Games, but failed to impress in recently-concluded Asian Games. “We have Parveen Rana and Jitendra Kumar, but they aren’t consistent in their performance. Hence we need more dependable grappler,” said WFI chief.
Going by Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik’s poor run in the Jakarta, federation isn’t banking on her in future.
“Currently she might be the best in the country, but hasn’t performed up to her potential this year,” he added.
Amit Dahiya, world silver medallist (55kg) in 2013 and gold medal (57kg) in 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, too hasn’t lived up to his potential.
This year WFI also added under-15 competition to its calendar, having organised inaugural edition in June at Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.
With addition of two new groups, total number of national competitions will go up to five. Cadet (u-17), junior (u-20) and senior are the other events.
Focus on foreign coaches
In the post Asian Games meeting with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), delay in appointment of foreign experts was one of the issues on agenda. It has been over two years the proposal is still in pipeline.
Federation though has shortlisted experts including Andrew Cook from USA (women’s team), Iran’s Hossein Karimi (men’s freestyle) and Georgia’s Temo Kazarshvilli (Greco Roman). The procedure for appointment is yet to start. Hence none of them will be able to join the team ahead of the World Championships starting October 20 at Budapest, Hungary.
On Wednesday, WFI once again reminded SAI importance of foreign coaches. “Hope things will move fast this time,” said an official of WFI.