Focus on Narsingh Yadav at freestyle wrestling national championships
- With big names missing, the focus will be on Narsingh Yadav, who is making a return after serving a four-year doping ban.
The senior national championships in men’s freestyle wrestling starts in Noida on Saturday making it the sport’s first domestic competition in a year. In order to avoid large gatherings in the time of Covid-19, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) will organise freestyle, Greco-Roman and women’s competitions separately in different cities. The women’s championships will be in Agra (January 30-31) and Greco-Roman competition in Jalandhar (February 20-21)
Around 250 wrestlers will compete in the two-day freestyle meet with big names like Narsingh Pancham Yadav (74kg), Jitender Kumar (74kg) and Satyawart Kadian (97kg) in the fray.
The four wrestlers who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics will skip the national championships. While Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53) are training abroad, Deepak Punia (86kg) and Ravi Dahiya (57kg) have been exempted.
India’s top wrestlers had a disappointing run in the World Cup in Serbia last month. The contingent returned with only one medal – the 57kg gold won by Anshu Malik. Their training has suffered since the hard lockdown last March because of delays in organising national camps. Many wrestlers also contracted Covid-19 and are slowly coming back to full fitness.
With big names missing, the focus will be on Yadav, who is making a return after serving a four-year doping ban. Yadav is eyeing a Tokyo Olympics berth. He competed in the World Cup and lost a close opening round against Germany’s Osman Kubilay Cakici.
Yadav will face stiff competition from established names such as Kumar, Parveen Rana and Amit Dhankar. The biggest name in 74kg - double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar has pulled out and has yet to reveal plans for Olympic qualification.
“Sushil is a big name and if he decides to compete in the qualification event, we will have to give him a chance in selection trials later,” said WFI assistant-secretary Vinod Tomar. “Based on the results of nationals, the selection will be made for national camp and then trials can be held later.”
Besides 74kg, India is yet to win Olympic berths in two upper weight classes - 97kg and 125kg.
All participants have been asked to produce negative test reports for Covid-19, the referees will be wearing face shields and mats will be sanitised. Haryana, Railways Sports Promotion Board and Services Sports Control Board have been allowed to field two teams for the 10 weight classes and the remaining states have entered one wrestler each in every category.
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