Jitender wins trials after Sushil’s exit
Jitender got a respite as Sushil pulled out of the trials to decide the Indian team for upcoming international competitions, citing an injury to his hand. It was an opportunity Jitender grabbed with both hands.Updated: Jan 03, 2020 23:05 IST
Five months ago when Jitender Kumar left the mat after the selection trials for the world championships at the IG Stadium here, it was with both physical and mental scars. His opponent in that ill-tempered fight was double Olympics medallist Sushil Kumar. Jitender’s left eye and left elbow were injured and it took him a month and a half to recover and return to the mat. More than the physical nature of the injury, two losses against Sushil—Jitender had also lost the trials for the 2018 Commonwealth Games—had unsettled him psychologically. “Both bouts were very close and it was rough, naturally he was disturbed and not very confident before this trials,” said his longtime coach Jaibir Lohchad.
Jitender, however, got a respite as Sushil pulled out of the trials to decide the Indian team for upcoming international competitions, citing an injury to his hand. It was an opportunity Jitender grabbed with both hands on Friday, coming on top of a formidable field in 74kg that included 11 contenders including Asian championship silver medallists Parveen Rana (79kg) and Amit Dhankar (74kg) and the promising Gaurav Baliyan, current national champion. Jitender defeated Sandeep 3-2, Vinod 6-1 and Dhankar 5-2 in a thrilling final.
The trials were used to pick the participants for three tournaments—a ranking series event in Rome (Jan 15-18), the Asian Championships in New Delhi (Feb 18-23) and the Asian Olympics qualifying tournament in Xian, China from March 27. In case a wrestler performs poorly in the first two, the WFI may decide to hold closed trials for that specific category for the Olympic qualifiers.
After every bout, Jitender was engaged in long conversations with Georgian coach Shako Bentinidis, who has been training him for close to a year now.
“Jitender has improved a lot. He is physical but today he played a good tactical bout in the final. Whatever I told him he executed it well. He has to improve technically,” Bentinidis said.
Before the final against Dhankar, Bentinidis, who is also the coach of Bajrang Punia, advised Kumar to wrestle from a close distance and not give his opponent enough room for leg attacks. Seasoned Dhankar had launched fast leg attacks against Baliyan in the semi-finals and led 5-1 in the first period. 18-year-old Baliyan made a strong comeback but Dhankar managed to edge past 7-5. Jitender too had a weak leg defence and Dhankar and Rana had made him pay for it in the past, revealed coach Lohchad.
Jitender had spent the last few months strengthening his leg defence and the result was there to see. Dhankar’s repeated attempts to attack his legs were foiled by Jitender, who pushed him out of the red zone and then with a swift takedown led 4-0 in the first period.
Jitender offered a solid defence to thwart Dhankar’s comeback attempts in the second period. “It was difficult after my loss to Sushil last time. Once you lose a trial, you are almost out for a year. The idea was not to give Dhankar points in the first round. Once he has a lead he defends it well,” Jitender said
In other Olympic weight divisions, Satyawart Kadian and Sumit Malik won in 97kg and 125kg categories respectively. Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia, who have already booked Olympic berths for India, comfortably won the 57kg and 86kg trials.