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Home / Sports / Postponed Tokyo Olympics gives wrestler Narsingh Yadav new hope

Postponed Tokyo Olympics gives wrestler Narsingh Yadav new hope

sports Updated: Mar 25, 2020 23:58 IST

Avishek Roy

New Delhi

One Indian athlete, and possibly one athlete alone, will not be complaining about the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. Narsingh Pancham Yadav. The wrestler Yadav is currently at the end of a four-year doping ban that came into effect just before Rio Olympics in 2016. With the ban set to finish in July this year, Yadav has plenty to smile about.

“It is destiny that this opportunity has come my way,” Yadav told HT on Wednesday. “This is not the time to feel elated because the world and our country are battling a big crisis. But yes, I will be looking to make a return to the mat the moment the ban is over in July.”

Had the coronavirus outbreak not taken place, Yadav was all set to miss the Olympics in July and August this year. But he says that he has been training hard regardless of that fact. “Now that the Olympics is postponed, if I get an opportunity to represent the country, I will definitely want to win a medal for the country in Tokyo,” he said.

“I know it will be a challenge to compete at that level (again), but I am training well and I have the experience. I have not been in touch with the federation but once things get better I will talk to them about my return,” he added.

Yadav’s claim to fame was an infamous one. Back in 2016, Yadav and double Olympic-medallist Sushil Kumar were engaged in a bitter and controversial court-battle, with both vying for the only spot to represent India in the 74kg category at the Rio Olympics that year.

Back then, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had backed Yadav, who sealed the berth by winning a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas. However, in the eleventh hour, Yadav tested positive in two separate anti-doping tests for methandienone. He was still given a clean chit by the National Anti-Doing Agency (NADA), which upheld his ‘sabotage’ theory. But the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) challenged NADA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which in turn overturned the decision and handed Yadav a four-year ban.

Yadav, who works for Mumbai Police, said that the support of his family kept him going during the tough period. “It has been a testing time for me right through these four years,” he said. “As an athlete, it has been so difficult to train and motivate myself. But I had the support of my family and coach and also Mumbai Police—they all kept me encouraged. And I also continued to keep myself fit and competed in dangals.”

Yadav is certain that he would still want to fight in the same category that he eventually missed out on four years ago – 74kg. If he does make a return, it will result in an interesting three way battle for the berth. Sushil Kumar, who continues to train for a ticket to Tokyo, competed at the recent World Championships but could not win a quota. Kumar then pulled out of the selection trials in January due to an injury.

Meanwhile, Jitender Kumar won those trials in the 74kg category and got the opportunity to fight in the Asian Championships here in February, where he won a silver medal and sealed his place to compete in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. But that was postponed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The World Championships is the only qualification event held so far in wrestling. That leaves the Asian and World qualifying events yet to be scheduled.

When contacted, the WFI said that if Yadav wants to make a comeback he will be given a fair opportunity. “If Narsingh wants to participate then federation will give him a chance,’ said Vinod Tomar, WFI’s assistant secretary. “Now that the Tokyo Olympics are postponed for a year, there will be some time before the qualification tournaments start. We will decide once the picture is clear.”