Wrestling camp starts, Narsingh Yadav set to join
Narsingh Yadav will join an elite wrestling camp after serving a four-year ban for doping. Yadav’s name is among the probables in the 74kg for the month-long camp which began in Sonepat on Tuesday.
Also scheduled to start on Tuesday in Lucknow, the women’s camp got deferred as a number of employees at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) tested positive for Covid-19.
When the men’s camp was called off in February due to Covid-19, Yadav was serving his ban which ended in July. Yadav, a world championship bronze medallist in 2015, had tested positive for methandienone in 2016. He was banned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the World Anti-Doping Agency contested the reprieve given by India’s National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). NADA had cleared Yadav, who had a court battle with double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar for India’s solitary 74kg berth at the Rio Olympics, saying he was a victim of sabotage.
Kumar’s name is not on this list. He didn’t compete in any of the Olympic qualification trials in 2019.
Yadav hasn’t joined but those among the 26 listed who have will be quarantined for 14 days at the SAI campus in Sonepat in keeping with Covid-19 protocol and tested twice in seven days.
Some like Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Amit Kumar Dhankar (74kg) live close-by but all will have to adjust to a diet plan without fresh milk and stock up on dry fruits because entry to the campus is restricted. Indian wrestlers often supplement meals at the canteen with their own but that will not happen this time. While in quarantine, they will get packed food, said a SAI official.
“If they want to stay in the camp, they (wrestlers) have to adapt to the new system in place due to prevalent circumstances. They will have to depend on what they get from SAI,” said Vinod Tomar, assistant-secretary of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
Wrestlers can’t get their sparring partners, a common practice in India, to the camp. “(Only) Those whose names are on the official list will be allowed inside the campus. Others can’t stay or enter the training zone or interact with the players,” said the SAI official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
Sanctioned till September 30, the camp now has wrestlers in five freestyle categories - 57kg, 65kg, 74kg, 86kg and 125kg - while those in the 60kg, 77kg and 87kg weight group have been selected for Greco Roman, said Tomar.
Women’s camp uncertain
In Lucknow, a number of SAI officials, including housekeeping staff, had to be quarantined at home after returning positive tests. Before she tested positive, Vinesh Phogat, awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna on Saturday, was reluctant to join the camp. Phogat competes in the 53kg category.
Divya Kakaran and Pooja Dhanda are other prominent names who were apprehensive due to a spike in caseload in Lucknow.
“Almost all the wrestlers are satisfied with training at their respective places. Training at home looks safer than joining the camp in Lucknow,’’ said a wrestler who did not want to be named given the sensitive nature of the issue.
Tomar said WFI would take a decision around September 15 whether to start the camp or not.