File image of Deepak Punia.(File)
File image of Deepak Punia.(File)

Indian wrestlers to have personal coaches too in Tokyo Olympic build-up, says federation official

  • TOPS clear Kamal Malikov for Ravi Dahiya and 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallist Murad Gaidarov as Deepak Punia's coach
By Avishek Roy, Sharad Deep
PUBLISHED ON APR 12, 2021 10:59 AM IST

Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia, who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics, will have the guidance of their personal foreign coaches in the final phase of their build-up. They will travel with their coaches for the Asian Championship in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from Tuesday.


Dahiya will have Kamal Malikov while Punia will be training under Murad Gaidarov, the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallist. The Mission Olympic Cell sanctioned them personal coaches under the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme last week.

Young women wrestlers Sonam Malik and Anshu Malik too are expected to have their personal coaches as the Wrestling Federation of India has agreed, having already allowed Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat to train under her personal trainer.

Sonam (62kg) and Anshu (57kg) qualified on Saturday by winning their semi-final bouts at the Asian Olympic qualifiers at Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Phogat, who made it through last year’s world championships, is training under personal coach, Hungarian Woller Akos. Phogat, Sonam and Anshu would continue training at the national camp in Lucknow’s Sports Authority of Indias centre under chief coach Kuldeep Malik and assistant coach Sahil Sharma while personal coaches will also be allowed access.

Male wrestlers Dahiya and Punia had trained under personal coaches before the pandemic.

“It will be great to have my personal coach back during the Asian meet. With the Tokyo Olympics in mind, I need to prepare well,” said Dahiya, who won 57kg bronze at the world championships to seal the Olympic quota.

Punia too qualified at the world championships winning silver in the 86kg division.

Both will be tested at the Asian championships as the long pause due to the pandemic has halted their momentum. Dahiya was in good form before the pandemic and won gold at the Asian Championships. Coming to the mat after 10 months at the Individual World Cup in Serbia, he lost in the first round by fall to Hungary’s Gamzatgadzsi Halidov. Punia lost his bronze medal bout to Piotr Lanulov of Moldova.

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat will be also be back in action at the Asian championships.

After the tournament, Phogat will travel to Bulgaria from April 25 to May 14 for altitude training. TOPS has cleared her training proposal and she will be accompanied by Akos, a physiotherapist and sparring partner Priyanka. Punia will be accompanied by coach Emzarios Bentinidis and physio Manish Konwar Chhetri. TOPS has so far sanctioned 87.02 lakh in the Olympic cycle for Phogat's training and competition and Rs. 1.16 crore for Punia.

Punia’s preparation will be put to test against some of the best, including Japan’s Takuto Otoguro, who beat the Indian in the final of the 2018 World Championships and again in the Asian Championships final.

Phogat too would have hoped to meet her formidable rival Mayu Mukaida of Japan, the world silver medallist, but the Japanese women’s team pulled out at the last minute following suspected contact with a Covid-positive person.

Phogat was sanctioned a 40-day training camp under TOPS in January and trained at the Vasas Sports Club, Budapest and later at the Olympic Training Centre in Szczyrk, Poland.

“Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have already been allowed to train under their personal foreign coaches and the federation has already sanctioned a similar permission to Sonam and Anshu too, but their personal coaches won’t be allowed to interfere in the training schedule of the official coach at the national camp,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said on Sunday.

“Our Indian coaches taught the finer points of the game to Bajrang and Vinesh and we aren’t objecting to their personal coaches, but at the same time we need to protect the rights of our national coaches also,” said Tomar. “That’s why the personal coaches have been allowed to stay within the premises of training centres, but aren’t allowed to interfere in routine training.”

“Once the routine training is over, one is allowed to have discussions, training and other activities under the guidance of their personal coaches within the campus itself. Even in the past, the federation allowed the wrestlers to train under their personal coaches at different locations. Even if somebody needs to train outside India, WFI would support them as our sole mission is to help wrestlers win as many medals as possible for the country at the Olympics,” he added.

He said Indians still have one more chance to qualify for Tokyo, at the World Olympic Games qualifiers to be held from May 6 to 9 at Sofia, Bulgaria. “Indians who lost in the Asian qualifying can try their luck one more time at the Bulgaria event and the federation will take a decision even on the qualifying of the wrestlers of the non-Olympic categories if they really do great at the (ongoing) Asian Championship.” he said.

Much before leaving for the Asian Olympics Qualifying Championships at Almaty, Kazakhstan last week, select wrestlers were allowed to train under their personal coaches at their respective training centres after the Holi break.

Sonam’s coach Ajmer Malik said: “We are thankful to the federation for such an access for the personal coaches at the national camp. Let her (Sonam) come back from Almaty and we will have our plan for the training after discussing with her.”

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