'Visa issue' set to derail Bajrang's international return?

Wrestler wanted to compete in Romania tournament slated from August 18 to 20 but the visa could not be obtained till late Wednesday night 
Bajrang Punia, centre, with Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik address a press conference during their protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh. (File Photo | PTI)
Bajrang Punia, centre, with Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik address a press conference during their protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh. (File Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: Visa issue may derail Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia's return to international competition. Bajrang, who led the protest against sidelined president of the Wrestling Federation of India Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, requested the ad-hoc committee for participation in an international tournament scheduled in Bucharest, Romania from August 18 to 20 a few days ago.

The ad-hoc panel, which is running the sport in the country, in turn, forwarded the request to the Sports Authority of India (Target Olympic Podium Scheme division). With the competition in the 65kg weight category scheduled to begin on Friday, the 29-year-old Bajrang has to reach the venue at least by Thursday evening. The travel plan, however, looks in jeopardy as the SAI confirmed that the visa could not be obtained till late Wednesday night. However, Bajrang confirmed to this daily that he is not competing in the tournament. "I am not going to Romania," was his reply when enquired about the trip through text messages.

The tournament could have been Bajrang's first international event since his bronze medal haul at the World Championships in September last year. A few months after winning the Worlds medal, Bajrang along with fellow wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik hit the streets accusing Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment.

Bajrang and Vinesh also skipped the Asian Games selection trials last month but the duo was given direct entry in their respective weight categories by the ad-hoc panel. Vinesh on Tuesday pulled out of the Games citing a knee injury paving the way for Antim Panghal, who won the trials in 53kg, to compete at the quadrennial event. In 65kg, where Bajrang competes, Vishal Kaliraman emerged as the winner.As many as six Greco-Roman wrestlers, who won the Asian Games trials, are also scheduled to compete in the Romania event. They had reached the venue a few days ago for an international training camp.

Earlier, the SAI confirmed that Bajrang's proposal was approved by the TOPS. "He had requested to participate in a competition in Romania and it was approved through TOPS where he will be accompanied by his coach Sujeet Maan for the competition. OGQ meanwhile will be covering the expense of his physiotherapist, strength and conditioning expert and sparring partner Jitender," SAI told this daily.The SAI also admitted that the wrestler is still awaiting his visa putting a question mark on the trip with a little over 24 hours remaining in the commencement of the tournament.

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