Wrestling federation-TOPS grapple over Vinesh's Bulgaria trip
The government’s scheme for elite athletes cleared the wrestler’s training trip to Bulgaria despite the federation rejecting the proposal.
A training camp for wrestler Vinesh Phogat in Bulgaria was approved by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) though said it had rejected the wrestler’s proposal.
A statement from SAI on Wednesday said Phogat will “train in Belmeken, Bulgaria, which is a high altitude training area situated approximately 2600m above sea level.”
Phogat has left for the 19-day camp (Nov 7-26) in Belmeken where she will train under Bulgarian coach Serafim Barzakov, a 2000 Sydney Olympics silver medallist. The camp is expected to have other top wrestlers such as Bilyana Dudova (2021 World Championships gold medallist), Evelina Nikolova (2020 Olympic bronze medallist), the statement said. Vinesh is accompanied by her physio Ashwini Patil.
WFI said when its suggestion was sought on the proposal a month ago, it did not give a go-ahead.
“We didn’t think it was going to help the wrestler and we informed the same to TOPS. There is no competition ahead and we thought a camp in Bulgaria makes no sense. The next tournament is the national championships next month. We were also not sure whether she will have quality sparring partners there,” a WFI official said on condition of anonymity.
The proposal was sent to the sub-committee of the Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) that has experts in specific disciplines to scrutinise it.
“Vinesh’s proposal was shared with the federation and their cognisance sought. The MOC committee then recommended the proposal to the sub-committee for detailed assessment of the proposal,” SAI said in statement on the issue.
“The sub-committee consisting of four members including Yogeshwar Dutt found that the training stint at the academy would give the wrestler exposure to international sparring partners and approved the proposal. They were also satisfied with the quality of coaches and infrastructure available at the academy,” it said.
After the Tokyo Olympics, where she lost in the quarterfinals, WFI had raised the issue of MOC approving foreign exposure tours of athletes under TOPS without the federation’s consent. Since then, WFI has been insistent on wrestlers training in national camps and going for overseas tours only when they feel was required.
Phogat, on a comeback trail, won gold at the Commonwealth Games and then bronze at the World Championships in September. Her dismal show at the Tokyo Olympics had led to a face-off with WFI.
TOPS also cleared Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia’s proposal to take part in the Bill Farrell International Wrestling Championship in New York, on November 18-19. WFI said it gave its consent for that. “He is going for a competition. US wrestlers have done very well at the World Championships this time,” the WFI official said.