CHENNAI: Even as Indian wrestlers, including Sushil Kumar and Sakshi Malik, head for Belarus for the Medved International Tournament, Bajrang Punia will be conspicuous by his absence. The reigning World No 1 in 65 kg has decided to skip the event and participate in the Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia.
The meet in Belarus is scheduled from August 9 to 11, while the Georgia event is from August 7 to 11.
The Medved Tournament in Minsk will also be two-time Olympic medallist Sushil’s first international event after a shock defeat in the first round of the 2018 Asian Games.
“Bajrang will participate in Georgia event. He will be accompanied by his coach Shako Bentinidis,” Vinod Tomar, assistant secretary of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), told TNIE. Coach Bentinidis, who is from Georgia, wanted this event as he felt it will provide adequate practice to Bajrang ahead of the World Championships scheduled in Kazakhstan next month.
“The Indian squad also wanted to participate in Georgia but the Worlds selection trials left us with no time to apply for visas. Bajrang has a Schengen visa, hence he can participate.”
The WFI has decided to send Suraj Rajkumar Kokate in the 65kg category to give him exposure. He had won a bronze at Junior Asian meet last year.
Three Indian women wrestlers, though, will skip the Belarus event due to different reasons. Shoulder injury forced Manju Kumari (59 kg) out, while Divya Kakran (68kg) skipped the event to practise in Lucknow for the Worlds. Seema Bisla (50 kg), who got a job offer from the Sports Department of Haryana, wanted to complete resignation formalities with her current employer Indian Railways and requested the federation to allow her to skip the tournament.
Meanwhile, Vinesh Phogat, who on Sunday won gold in 53 kg at Poland Open, will join the team in Belarus. The squad will leave for Belarus on Thursday.