CHENNAI: A quarterfinal loss in 90 seconds derailed Sushil Kumar’s comeback at the Medved International Tournament in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday night. Returning to the mat after a shocking first-round exit from the 2018 Asian Games, the wrestler had a chance to make up in the repechage round, but he lost the closely-contested bronze medal bout on Saturday.
His defeat shifts the focus back on the 74kg selection trials for the upcoming World Championships. The trials in this weight category were delayed due to injuries to Parveen Rana and Jitender Kumar. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has already selected wrestlers for the other five Olympic categories at the trials held in New Delhi on July 26.
The two-time Olympic medallist might have been given preference over others as far as participation in the Belarus event was concerned, but a tough challenge awaits him in the trials. Jitender and Amit Dhankar, who are practising at the national camp in Sonepat, will be his opponents even as Rana frets over his fitness. It might prevent him from taking part.
“I’ve started exercising but not returned to the mat. My doctor has hinted that the injury, which I suffered on my left shoulder, might take another two weeks to heal. I will speak to him on Monday as I am keen to take part in the trials,” Rana told TNIE. The wrestler asserted he will do his best to be fit for the competition, even though the situation looks grim, given that the trials are likely to be held as soon as Sushil returns to the country.
Jitender has recovered from a back pain he was battling for the past month. “I’m fit and practising rigorously at the camp in Sonepat. The date has yet not been decided but whenever the WFI organises the trials, I’m ready to compete,” Jitender said.
Dhankar, who won a silver medal at the Asian Championships in China in this category earlier this year, also looks battle ready. “I’m concentrating on my preparations for the trials. I won a silver in an event in China in April and hope to qualify for the Worlds by winning the trials,” Dhankar said.
Irrespective of the recent setbacks, Sushil might still be the favourite to win the trials. But his show in the Belarus event has certainly given his rivals a ray of hope to breach his defence and book a World Championships berth.