No selection trials in wrestling, Tokyo medallist Ravi Dahiya gutted - Hindustan Times
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No selection trials in wrestling, Tokyo medallist Ravi Dahiya gutted

ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi
May 22, 2024 10:10 AM IST

Five women wrestlers have bagged a spot at the Olympics, while only Aman Sehrawat in men's freestyle has earned the quota

The Wrestling Federation of India announced on Tuesday that no selection trials will be held for the Paris Olympics and all six wrestlers who had won quota for the country will compete in Paris. The decision has come as a jolt for several wrestlers, including Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya, who were preparing for the trials.

Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya(Getty Images)
Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya(Getty Images)

Five women wrestlers -- Vinesh Phogat (50kg), Antim Panghal (53kg), Reetika Hooda (76kg), Nisha Dahiya (68kg) and Anshu Malik (57kg) have bagged Olympics berth, while only Aman Sehrawat (57kg) in men's freestyle has earned the quota.

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WFI president Sanjay Singh said the seven-member selection committee that met on Tuesday unanimously decided to exempt quota earning wrestlers from trials for the Paris Olympics "a one-time exception in the current peculiar circumstances."

He said the committee members, including the two chief coaches Jagmander Singh (men) and Virender Singh (women), were of the view that conducting selection trials at this short time might impact the performance of the wrestlers at the Olympics and it will also increase chances of injury.

"Five wrestlers had written to us to not hold trials as it will affect their preparation. They will have to reduce weight and it will shift their focus on trials. Since there is little time left for the Paris Olympics, the selection committee has decided to not hold trials and select the quota winners for the Olympics team, as WFI has been doing previously," said Singh.

With no trials, it meant the end of the road for Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya who was looking to challenge Aman in the selection trials. Dahiya, who is coming back after an ACL surgery, had lost to Aman in the selection trials in March for the two qualification competitions for Paris Olympics. Dahiya went down 14-13 to Aman in a fast-paced fast-paced attacking bout in Patiala on March 10.

"I was preparing for the trials because we were told that the Paris Olympics team will be selected through trials. Now suddenly they are saying that there will be no trials. I don't know what to say," Dahiya told Hindustan Times.

"I was injured for a long time and it has taken time to recover. Since then I have been focusing on my training. The Paris Olympics is all I have been preparing for.. aur kya hai batao aap (What else is there for me?) It is very disappointing. I am trying to reach out to WFI. I will decide on my next step tomorrow," said Dahiya.

Dahiya hardly competed last year due to the knee injury he suffered during training. In July he underwent surgery that put him out of action for six months. "He competed in just one event before the trials in March. It takes time to regain fitness and mental strength after an injury. He is now fully fit and was looking forward to the trials," says his trainer Arun Kumar.

Aman (57kg) competed in three quota competitions and could seal the berth at the world qualifiers last month. The world U23 champion, Asian Championships gold and Asian Games bronze.

In the selection committee meeting chief coach Jagmender suggested that it would be better if Aman represents the country in the Olympics because his performance at the international level is "remarkably excellent." He mentioned that he won all trials held during the year 2023-24.

It is not only Dahiya but many others who will be affected by the decision. Sarita Mor, the world championships medallist, from 2021 was also preparing to challenge Anshu Malik for a Paris berth. "We just came back today from a training stint in the US," said her husband and coach Rahul Mor.

"Now they are saying that there is little time for Paris, but the trials were to take place only after all the qualifiers were over. So why this change of decision? he asked.

Vinesh, on the other hand, felt that the WFI's decision vindicated her call to compete in two weight classes for the Olympic qualification trials in Patiala.

"A lot of people criticised me when I trialled in two weight categories (50kg and 53kg) in March but I knew WFI will be up to some mischief later," said Vinesh. "That's why I participated in two weight divisions in Patiala. All this while, we were told there will be a trial but suddenly they announce there won't be any trial. Is it fair to the wrestlers who appeared in the 53kg trials?"

Vinesh added: "They also claim that coaches will assess the wrestlers during the Hungary Ranking Series and in the camp that'll follow. This will cause more confusion among the wrestlers. We are still not sure whether or not we are going to Paris because they can change the names before the July 8 deadline."

While one selection policy should have been announced in advance, frequent changes in administration of the WFI has left the wrestlers at the receiving end.

In the past India's wrestling team for the Olympics has been selected without trials. The quota winners were given direct berths. However, after the Tokyo Olympics, WFI made a change in policy.

"According to the UWW rules, the quota belongs to the country and not to a particular wrestler who represented the country in the qualification events. Hence, the Selection Committee of WFI will have the discretion to hold a trial for participation in the Olympic Games. However, it will not be compulsory that all the quota earned wrestlers will be asked to appear in trials," states the WFI policy.

The IOA's ad-hoc committee ad-hoc, which came in place after WFI was suspended, announced that selection trials will be held for the Paris Olympics. The trials for the two Paris Olympics qualification tournaments were held under the ad-hoc committee with the Delhi High Court giving them the authority to organise the trials. The two trials in Patiala (women) and Sonepat (men) were also to find four wrestlers who can challenge the quota winner in Olympic selection trials in May. It remains to be seen if the WFI's decision is challenged in the court by any wrestler.

With inputs from Shantanu Srivastava

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