Protesting wrestlers seek training camp in USA ahead of Asiad trials

The wrestlers, however, want at least a month to prepare and want the trials to be held by August 10.
Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and  Bajrang Punia. (Photo | PTI)
Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia. (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: Still awaiting the Olympic Council of Asia's (OCA) reply to their request, the top wrestlers of the country including Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat want to have a training camp in the USA before competing at the Asian Games selection trials. A request in this regard has been pending with the sports ministry.

Expressing their desire to qualify for the Asiad, these wrestlers, who have staged a historic protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its sidelined chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, have requested the sports ministry to extend the date of selection trials so that they can get time to prepare for it. The ministry in turn requested Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to seek time from the OCA. The IOA sends entries for the Asian Games and the last date for sending the final list is July 15. The wrestlers, however, want at least a month to prepare and want the trials to be held by August 10.

"Bajrang, his wife Sangeeta Phogat, Vinesh, Sakshi Malik and her husband Satyawart Kadian have submitted the request to the sports ministry. They want to train in Michigan, USA. They have procured the letter of permission from the centre which specifies expenditure per athlete," sources in the know of things told this daily.

Usually, such requests go through the federation but with the WFI defunct at the moment, it should have been directed to the ministry by the ad-hoc committee, which has been formed to manage the day-to-day affairs of the body. However, sources claimed that the wrestlers have sent the request directly to the ministry."The ministry or the Sports Authority of India (SAI) could get in touch with the ad-hoc committee when it decides on the request. So far, the committee has not been taken into confidence," added sources.

Notably, Bajrang and Vinshes are in the core group of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and their tour can be sanctioned by the ministry under the scheme. The SAI can also allow their sparring partners, coaches and physiotherapists to accompany them as has been the practice. Given the situation, Sangeeta can accompany Vinesh as a sparring partner. But what criteria SAI follows for Sakshi and Satyawart is not yet known.

It should be mentioned here the TOPS approved Bajrang and Vinesh's requests to train in Kyrgyzstan and Poland respectively in March this year. Bajrang had requested to train in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan for 16 days while Vinesh had sought to train at the Olympic Preparation Center in Spala (Poland) for 11 days.

The approval included financial assistance covering athletes' air tickets, camp expenses including the cost of training, boarding, and lodging, and miscellaneous costs such as airport transfer, insurance and internal travel, out of pocket allowance among other expenses. It also agreed to cover expenses for Vinesh's sparring partner — Sangeeta Phogat and physiotherapist Ashwini Jeevan Patil and Bajrang's coach Sujeet Maan, physiotherapist Aanand Kumar, and strength and conditioning expert Kaazi Kiron Mustafa Hasan.

However, the duo later declined to undertake the exposure and training camp fetching the ire of the SAI.
"It all depends on OCA's approval as if it accepts the IOA's request then the camp would be of use otherwise these wrestlers have to appear in trials which can be held before July 15 if they wish to compete in the Asiad," said one of the sources.

Deadline extension looks difficult?

The request from the IOA is still pending with the OCA. Going by the initial discussions, it is understood that the OCA might find it difficult to get an extension from the organising committee. The deadline for sending the final list of athletes is July 15 and if sources are to be believed altering the deadline will be difficult because more than one stakeholder is involved. Also, it's matter of 45 countries and over 35 sports at the Asian Games. If it will be changed for one it has to be changed for others is the logic. Yet it is learnt the OCA is trying its best to give wrestlers some relief.

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