CHENNAI: The newly appointed national freestyle wrestling coach Kuldeep Malik says his immediate target is to ensure that four to five make it to the Rio Olympics. Talking to from the training camp in Sonepat, the 50-year-old, former women’s national trainer, said the target is not impossible to achieve and with the kind of talent at his disposal, India can earn so many Olympic berths.
“With the kind of support we are getting from the sports ministry and federation officials, we have to give them something in return and I feel 4-5 Olympic slots would be a nice one,” Kuldeep said.
“We have seasoned campaigners like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, who are of world standard. Apart from them, we have Bajrang, Amit Kumar and Narsingh Yadav, who are potential medal winners. We expect all five to qualify for Rio. With the amount of hard work they have put in and the talent they have, it won’t be a big ask,” he added.
The race for qualifying starts with the World Championship in the US in September. Kuldeep felt the competition will give grapplers a chance to judge where they stand.
“Winning is of course our main concern. But apart from that we would like to use the championship as an opportunity to test how good our preparations have been,” he added.
Asked whether his training programme would be different from his predecessor’s, Kuldeep replied in negative. “The basic programme remains the same. We have fine-tune techniques. Techniques have to change with opponents. We can’t be one dimensional. We have to asses the styles of wrestlers whom we feel could challenge us and then modify our plans accordingly. It’s tiresome but we have to do it,” he said.
He also raised concerns over the endurance of the wrestlers and added that issue needs to be addressed before major competitions.
Kuldeep was appointed the new chief coach after Vinod Kumar was sacked by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) due to the lacklustre showing of the team in the recently finished Asian Championship. The federation also held Vinod responsible for indiscipline in the national camp.
Kuldeep, employed with Northern Railway, declined to step into the controversy but said he would take strict action against those who ‘err’ while in the camp. Federation officials were miffed at the rate of absenteeism in the camp and recently suspended 15 wrestlers for breaching discipline.
Sources said some wrestlers in the super heavy category take leave from the camp to take part in mud wrestling, which helps them rake in good money. Kuldeep said he will maintain an attendance register and that he has full support from the federation on this.