Ahead of crucial wrestling trials, officials hold parleys to solve crisis - Hindustan Times
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Ahead of crucial wrestling trials, officials hold parleys to solve crisis

ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi
Mar 09, 2024 11:58 PM IST

Wrestling federation will send officials and coaches to lend legitimacy to the trials, being held by the ad hoc body on court orders

From Bajrang Punia to Ravi Dahiya and Vinesh Phogat, top wrestlers of the country will headline the two-day selection trials for the Paris Olympic qualifiers and Asian Championships to be conducted by the ad hoc panel in Sonepat and Patiala.

India's Bajrang Punia celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony (REUTERS)
India's Bajrang Punia celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony (REUTERS)

A day before the crucial trials, United World Wrestling’s missive on Friday that it will accept India’s entries for the competition only through WFI -- it remains suspended by the union sports ministry -- came as a big jolt. After the matter was heard in the Delhi high court on a plea against WFI by protesting wrestlers, the ad hoc panel was given the responsibility to hold the trials.

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However, during a day of hectic parleys to find a solution to the crisis, it was learned that WFI reached out to the sports ministry saying it can send its officials and coaches for the trials and that medallists from the Pune Senior Nationals held by it should be allowed to take part in the trials.

“WFI is going to send two officials and three coaches in the two venues to monitor the selection trials,” said an official on condition of anonymity. It was learned that WFI has instructed the coaches to leave forSonepat and Patiala to oversee the selection trials.

The move will give official status to the trials and clear India’s entry for the two important tournaments in April.

The trials for Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestlers will be held at SAI Sonepat on Sunday while trials for women wrestlers will be held at NSNIS Patiala on Monday. Winners of the trials in the Olympic weight categories (six each in freestyle, Greco-Roman and women) will get to represent India in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers (April 19-21) and World Olympic qualifiers (May 9-12). The runners-up in the Olympic divisions will represent India at the Asian Championships.

Several top wrestlers like Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya, world championships medallist Anshu Malik and Asian Games medallist Sonam Malik are coming back from injuries. Antim Panghal (53kg), the only Indian to win an Olympic quota so far, has been given a direct entry to participate in the Asian Championships.

It will be an important competition for two protesting wrestlers, Tokyo Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, who made a comeback at the ad hoc panel held National Championships in Jaipur in 55kg. Phogat is coming back after a knee surgery and though she won the National title, the trials will be a big test for her to assess form and fitness. To compete in the Olympics, she will have to beat Antim Panghal in the final qualifying trials in May, but her road to Paris will begin in Patiala on Monday.

Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia (65kg) will have to win the trials in Sonepat on Sunday to stake claim for a Paris berth in the Asian Olympic qualifiers. Bajrang has been training in Russia spending his own money and it remains to be seen if he has regained fitness. He competed in the Asian Games, but returned without a medal. National champion Sujeet Kalkal and Vishal Kaliraman might pose a challenge, but Bajrang on his day is still the best in the country.

The 57kg will be the most exciting as Ravi Dahiya, coming back after ACL surgery, and rising star and Asian Championships medallist Aman Sehrawat will both be eyeing a berth. The two train together at Delhi's Chhatrasal Stadium.

Promising Yash and Sagar Jaglan are likely to fight it out for the 74kg berth while Tokyo Olympian Deepak Punia is still the biggest name in 86kg.

Women’s 59kg class will see another key contest with Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor in the fray. Both are world championships medallists and the last time they met at the National Championships in Jaipur, Anshu beat Sarita to win the title.

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