CHENNAI: Due to his background of run-ins with the national federation, wrestler Rahul Aware was left with no option but to miss two big events — the 2016 Olympics and 2018 Asian Games. With Ravi Dahiya winning the 57kg bronze in the 2019 World Championships in Kazakhstan and subsequently earning a quota for the Olympic Games, Aware’s Tokyo hopes were all but over. While postponement of the 2020 Games by a year has given the Maharashtra grappler hope, nomination for the Arjuna award by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) came as a fresh boost to rekindle that dream. “When the Olympics was deferred, I thought of switching to 57kg to give qualification a try.
The Arjuna nomination has motivated me to pursue it seriously,” the 28-year-old told this daily from Nashik. Since his gold-winning effort at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Aware has been competing in 61kg, a non-Olympic division, in international events. He pocketed a gold medal and three bronze in five subsequent events, one of those in the World Championship last year. “Had the quadrennial event been held on schedule, I would not have had a chance. But now, the gap between the qualifying event (2019 Worlds) and the Olympics is almost two years.
It’s difficult to maintain form and consistency for such a long period. Even the WFI would like to check a wrestler’s form before allowing him/her to compete in the Olympics. This opens the door not only for me, but others aspiring to qualify for the Games.” The federation, however, said only quota holders will be allowed to represent the country in Tokyo. “Trials will be conducted only if performance of a wrestler dips drastically,” said a WFI official.
“The 57kg division is locked after Ravi’s bronze in the Worlds. The federation cannot send a competitor in that category in the next two qualifiers, but it can give opportunities to wrestlers in the senior nationals or selection trials to pick the best for the Olympics,” hoped Aware. The World Championship bronze medallist was working as office superintendent with Central Railway in Pune till last year, but resigned to join Maharashtra Police as a deputy superintendent. “I am undergoing training at the Police Academy in Nashik. The one-year period will get over in November. For wrestling, I was training at a club with sparring partners before the lockdown, but now it has been reduced to physical fitness only due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic. I hope to return to the mat once the lockdown is lifted to ensure I stay in the best shape for the trials if they are organised,” Aware signed off.