NEW DELHI: The Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi is preparing to host the Wrestling Federation of India men’s trials for the upcoming World Championships on Friday. And it is going to be a hotly-contested affair with quite a few youngsters keen to make the cut. Wrestling is the only sport which has given India medals in the last three Olympics.
Trials will take place for five Olympic categories — 57kg, 65kg, 86kg, 97kg and 125kg.
While the venue was shifted after referees raised concerns over their safety if the event was held at the Sports Authority of India centre in Sonepat, WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar has quashed those rumours stating that the organisational facilities will allow more spectators to attend. “There is no space for fans to sit and watch the proceedings. Hence the decision. The trials will be watched by thousands and Delhi can accommodate them without issues.”
Not that the IG stadium is immune to violence. The trials for the 2018 Commonwealth Games had seen supporters of star grappler Sushil Kumar collide with fans of Praveen Rana. “There will not be such incidents and it is going to be a good quality contest and nothing more,” Tomar added. The WFI has been working to ensure smooth conduct of the entire event.
Another reason behind this is the highly-anticipated return of Sushil to the mat has again been delayed. Trials in the 74kg category have been postponed after Sushil’s main contender Rana made a request for the same owing to an injury. Now the 74kg trial will be held in the second week of August along with the trials for non-Olympic categories — 61kg, 70kg, 97kg and 92kg weight categories.
There will be a lot of competition for places in the 57kg category. There is Olympian Sandeep Tomar, former Commonwealth Championships bronze winner Utkarsh Kale and U-23 World Championships silver winner Ravi Kumar. And national coach Jagminder Singh feels this category will see the most competition.
“All three have beaten each other in various competitions. It is going to be quite a tight affair and anybody could come up trumps on their day,” the coach said. And Jagminder feels such competition is required if grapplers are to improve. “Such close contests can spur on an individual. And overall, it helps the national team as everyone improves and thus all have to remain on their toes or somebody else can take his place.”
Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 57 kg category, Rahul Aware will contest in the 61kg category the coach revealed. Aware, an Asian bronze medallist, clinched his first career Ranking Series title recently in Yasar Dogu 2019 Ranking Series tournament in Istanbul.It is just the opposite in the 65kg category. World Championship silver winner Bajrang Punia reigns supreme and he is not expected to face stiff competition.
Bajrang, who is trying to shore up his leg defence, has not aked for exemption from the trials. “He is a cut above the rest. There is nobody close to him. He is our brightest hope,” the national coach said.Another youngster worth keeping an eye on will be junior Asian Championship gold medallist Deepak Punia in the 86kg category. “Our youngsters are doing really well. Whether they make it this time or not, the future is bright.”Proceedings will start from 8am on Thursday.