Asian Games: Frustrated wrestlers approach Delhi court

Staying away from his twin sister to prepare for Asiad trials, Sujeet's dream got shattered when Bajrang was given direct entry; he along with Antim moves court challenging panel's decision.
Distressed wrestlers Sujeet Kalkal (left) and Antim Panghal have moved to court
Distressed wrestlers Sujeet Kalkal (left) and Antim Panghal have moved to court

CHENNAI: He has been following a strict diet regime so that he could maintain weight. He was staying away from his family and had not met his twin sister for almost eight months. All to take part in the Asian Games trials. It can now remain an unfulfilled dream.

Wrestler Sujeet Kalkal watched in joy and excitement as his favourite player Carlos Alacaraz heralded a new era in men's tennis when he defeated 23-Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon on Sunday. Like the Spaniard, 20-year-old Sujeet too had to beat his famed and established counterpart, Bajrang Punia, if he wished to fulfil his long-cherished dream of winning an Olympic medal. In their first meeting last year during the 2022 Commonwealth Games selection trials, he lost narrowly to the Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist.

But the upcoming trials to pick the national squad for the Asian Games was his chance to avenge the loss. Alcaraz's win over Djokovic has given him hope. He was ready to take on multiple World Championships medallist Bajrang on the mat.

Unfortunately, the ad-hoc committee running the sport in the country in the absence of the Wrestling Federation of India gave direct entry to Bajrang and Vinesh Phogat in the men's freestyle 65kg and women's 53kg to dent the hope of Sujeet. "How can they deprive wrestlers who have been working hard for years a chance to compete?" he questioned. "We all have sacrificed a lot to reach here. I am not asking for a direct entry. The only thing I am asking for is a fair trial to claim the spot in the national team."

The wrestler along with Antim Panghal, who competes in 53kg, on Wednesday moved the Delhi High Court challenging the direct entry given to Bajrang and Vinesh by the ad-hoc panel. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday. "We hope the court listens to our plea and gives us justice," added Sujeet, the reigning national champion in 65kg.

Staying away from twin sister

Sujeet's family lives in Dadri but his father-cum-coach Dayanand Kalkal has shifted with him to Sonepat so that he can focus on wrestling and training regularly at Raipur Akhada. "It's been more than two years since we rented a flat here in Sonepat. I have not met my mother Manjeet Devi and twin sister Sujata for almost eight months now. Staying away from my sister is a difficult part as we are twins and she misses me a lot. But that's the sacrifices we have to make if we wish to play for the country and win international medals," said the wrestler, who had won a gold medal each in the U-23 and junior Asian Championships last year apart from finishing first in the Tunisia Ranking Series.

With the Asian Games trials around the corner, Sujeet has been trying to maintain weight. It meant he was forced to stay away from his favourite sweet dish churma, which is prepared by mashing up chapati in ghee and jaggery. "My mother used to send churma earlier but for the past two-three months I have not eaten it. I have asked her not to send me churma. Though she has been insisting, I have been avoiding it," added Sujeet. While his father was busy completing the legal formalities to file a writ petition in the court, Sujeet on Wednesday decided to skip the training in the evening and watch his favourite travelling show on Discovery channel. "I like travelling. Besides tennis, I watch football. Neymar is my favourite footballer. Watching my favourite sports stars and TV shows helps me get calm and focussed. It also helps in relieving stress."

Protest in Hisar, Delhi

Antim's fellow wrestlers, her family members and others from the community on Wednesday held a protest in Hisar, Haryana against the decision of the ad-hoc panel. Antim also released a video slamming the decision to give quota to Vinesh.

Meanwhile, Vishal Kaliraman, a trainee from the iconic Chhatrasal Stadium in New Delhi, also spoke to the media and raised objections. Vishal, who competes in the 65kg weight category, said the panel's decision will have a lasting impact on his and many other wrestlers' career. The wrestler along with his counterparts also staged a protest in the national capital. "If the protest at Jantar Mantar can secure direct entry for Bajrang and Co, we will also take to the street to ensure our wrestlers get a fair chance to qualify for the Asian Games. We are waiting for the court's directives. We will not shy away from staging a huge protest if the panel doesn't reverse its decision," one of the coaches of Chhatrasal Stadium, told this daily.

All eyes will now be on Delhi High Court on Thursday as relief from it can give several wrestlers including Sujeet and Antim a chance they deserve.

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The New Indian Express