Wrestling Federation of India firm on selection, India look ahead after Rio low
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Wrestling Federation of India firm on selection, India look ahead after Rio low

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has announced that their rules regarding the qualification policy will stay the same as last year.

other sports Updated: May 17, 2017 01:20 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Wrestling Federation of India,Wrestling India,Sushil Kumar
Sakshi Malik (L) and Vinesh Phogat pose with their silver medals at the Asian Championship in New Delhi.(PTI)

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics might be three years away, but Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is firm its qualification policy of the grappler earning the qualification berth representing the country will stand. Vinod Tomar, WFI secretary, said: “It’s final; there will be no change in the selection policy for the Olympic Games.”

A bitter lesson was learnt before the Rio Olympics after double Olympic medallist, Sushil Kumar, fought unsuccessfully to force a trial bout against Narsingh Yadav, who had won the quota place for the 74kg freestyle event by winning bronze at the world championships.

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Sushil Kumar’s demand for a trial was rejected by the national governing body and though the wrestler petitioned the Delhi high court, the case went in Narsingh’s favour. However, India’s spot was not taken at Rio after Narsingh Yadav failed a pre-Games dope test and was unsuccessful in his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

However, the selection criteria for world championships, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games will be different. There will be selection trials, according to the WFI official, and in case the winner is unfit, the next best will go. Tomar said: “Since the grapplers are aware of the new strategy of the federation, we hope there won’t be any controversy.”

Marquee player

During the just-concluded Asian wrestling championships in New Delhi, there were few spectators to watch the country’s top grapplers, hinting that the federation will need to chalk out a new strategy in the post-Sushil Kumar-Yogeshwar Dutt era.

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Chief coach Jagminder Singh said the event should have been advertised better after they stayed away even for Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sakshi Malik’s final bout against Japan’s Olympic champion, Risako Kawai in the women’s 60kg class.

Jagminder, however, was optimistic. “Outstanding performance is the only way to promote an event. There is always a huge number in the domestic meets as fans come to support their favourites.

New face

However, the Asian meet also gave hope for the future in the shape of men’s 65kg champion, Bajrang Punia, who is being mentored by London Olympics bronze medallist, Yogheshwar Dutt.

Jagminder feels Punia has shown promise that he can excel at world level. “He doesn’t give up, and fights till the last second. This kind of attitude makes him different from others,” he said.

Since Yogeshwar is his guide, Punia follows the same technique as his mentor. The coach has also pinned hopes on Jitender Kumar (74kg) and Sandeep Tomar (57kg).

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After the 2016 season, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt have stayed off the mat, though they are yet to officially announce their retirements.

Among women, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, who has returned after a long lay-off due to the knee injury suffered during a bout in the Rio Games, are still among the best in the country.

However, the August 21-26 world championships in Paris will be the real test for the Indian wrestlers. Top wrestlers have got a 15-day break and will join the national camp from June 1.

First Published: May 17, 2017 01:20 IST