CHENNAI: If everything goes according to plans, wrestling coaches Shako Bentinidis and Temo Kazarashvili will board an extradition flight for India for Indians stuck in Georgia on July 30. Shako trains star wrestler Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Jitender Kinha (74kg). Temo coaches India’s Greco-Roman grapplers.
“It’s (travel to India) is almost final. We will get confirmation on Monday. We are scheduled to board the flight from Tbilisi,” Shako told this newspaper from Georgia. The Georgian left India in March after the pandemic led to deferment of the national camp in Sonepat in Haryana. Temo was in Azerbaijan with his team of wrestlers when the lockdown led to the closure of training halls in the country, forcing the Indian contingent to rush back home. The Georgian returned to his country soon after.
“The flight is meant for Indians stranded in Georgia. However, we spoke to the Indian Embassy and explained to them the need to fly us out. Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) coordinated with Air India. Hopefully, we will receive the final clearance,” added Shako.
However, it was not an easy decision as the Georgian government was wary of the coaches leaving the country in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. “The situation is under control here while in India the virus is spreading rapidly. The government did not want us to leave. But when we insisted, it made us sign undertakings highlighting the risks involved.” Both Bajrang and Jitender are training at JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) in Vijayanagar, Karnataka. The coach plans to join them at the facility after serving the mandatory quarantine period.
“I know the risks involved and I would like to take it. It has already been more than four months and the wrestlers need to get back to their training regime. I will undergo the quarantine period and join the duo at the IIS,” said Shako. The coach was recently asked to take a salary cut of 30 per cent for not being in India for the past few months. He, however, clarified that the pay cut was not the reason behind his decision to return to India.