KOCHI: India’s medal hopes in the upcoming Asian Wrestling Championship got a shot in the arm as Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik made it to the squad after beating Manju Kumari, reigning national champion in 58kg, at trials in Lucknow.
The 24-year-old easily outmanoeuvred her opponent (10-0), who came first in the initial trials on March 31 which Sakshi had skipped due to her marriage with Satyawart Kadian. The Asian Championship is in New Delhi from May 10-14.
Though the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) maintained that they won’t conduct separate trials after Sakshi had missed the first one, they relented after she requested for one. “Sakshi was in the camp shortly after marriage. That shows her dedication and we decided to hold a bout for her in between the trials for juniors,” said Kuldeep Malik, women’s chief coach.
The WFI officials said they accepted Sakshi’s request as they want maximum medals from the showpiece event. “She returned to the camp less than 10 days after her wedding. Coaches said she was in good shape and could win a medal, if not gold. Since we are hosting, we want maximum returns,” said an official.
However, some of the officials, keeping in mind the Narsingh Yadav-Sushil Kumar controversy, felt the trials should have taken place earlier. “Had Sakshi returned to the camp in April first week, this bout should have been held in the first or second week. Manju, being the winner of the first trial, should have been got the advantage because she had fought more bouts. Fighting in two selection trials is not easy. Especially for a 19-year-old. By dragging it this late, they gave Sakshi a mental advantage. Being insecure about her place, it won’t be easy for a wrestler like Manju to train properly or put up a strong fight,” they said.
However, Kuldeep refuted the claim. “The Narsingh-Sushil episode was different. One of them had won an Olympic quota place. Here there’s no quota. Entries are direct. We picked the best,” the coach replied.