Wrestlers Deepak, Sujeet stuck in Dubai, in race against time to reach Bishkek - Hindustan Times

Wrestlers Deepak, Sujeet stuck in Dubai, in race against time to reach Bishkek

Apr 18, 2024 07:54 PM IST

Continuous flight cancellations owing to rains in Dubai means the wrestlers' chances of making it to Bishkek for the Olympic qualifier hangs by a thread

Wrestlers Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalkal are stranded at Dubai International Airport owing to a spate of flight cancellations triggered by unprecedented rains in the Emirates. The situation has put the duo's participation in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in serious jeopardy.

File picture of Deepak Punia
File picture of Deepak Punia

The wrestlers, along with Punia's coach Kamal Malikov and physiotherapist Shubham Gupta, arrived in Dubai from Dagestan in Russia -- where they had a two-week training stint starting April 2 -- on Tuesday evening to board their flight to Bishkek. Punia competes in the 86kg class while Sujeet fights in 65kg category.

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"Both wrestlers were in great spirits in Russia and were confident of winning a quota. It's really unfortunate that they are in such a mess. They were raring to go to Bishkek," Dayanand Kalkal, Sujeet's father and coach, said.

However, their flight, scheduled at around 10:30pm local time, was cancelled, forcing the group to spend the night at the terminal. The airline booked them on the same flight the next day, but that too got cancelled.

"It's a terrible situation. They are sleeping on the floor. Their diet has gone haywire. They haven't trained for two days. Imagine their mental state at the moment," said Dayanand Kalkal, Sujeet's father and coach.

The wrestlers, both vegetarians, are surviving on sandwiches and slices of bread. "They are eating just enough to quell their hunger. Too much of carbohydrate is not ideal for them since they need to watch their weights too," coach Lalit Kumar, who trains Punia at Delhi's Chhatrasal Stadium, said.

"Punia was 4-5kgs overweight as on Tuesday and he is trying his best to cut the extra kilos. They had planned to reach Bishkek two days before the trials which would have given him enough time to meet the weight," Lalit added.

Unable to grapple, the duo has found a small gymnasium at the airport and are using the treadmill for their cardiovascular workout. "Both of them are conscious about maintaining weight, so they were really happy to spot a treadmill," the coach said.

If they manage to board the flight on Thursday, they will land in Bishkek early morning on Friday and will have to rush to the competition venue for the weigh-ins that are scheduled at 8am. The bouts will follow later in the day.

"I am told there is a very little chance of a flight taking off from Dubai airport tonight. But even if it does and the boys make the weigh-in, expecting them to make the final and earn a quota will be too much," said Dayanand.

The wrestlers also considered the option of flying to India and board a direct flight to Bishkek, but all flights to India were delayed by at least six hours. "That's why they decided to stay put and wait for the situation to change," Kumar said.

Other wrestlers, including Aman Sehrawat (57kg) and Vinesh Phogat (50kg), have reached Bishkek. So far, India has only one Paris quota in wrestling which was won by Antim Panghal in the 53kg division.

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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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