CHENNAI: He was 18 seconds away from booking a flight to Birmingham for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Instead, the 125kg wrestler Satender Malik would probably not be able to take the mat anymore for official competitions after the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) banned him for life for allegedly assaulting a referee.
It all happened on an action-packed day at the IG Stadium, New Delhi during the selection trials to pick up the men's freestyle team in six Olympic weight categories for the CWG on Tuesday.
On a day when favourites Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) overcame their respective challengers to make the cut, it was Services' wrestler Satender who hogged the limelight.
He was leading 3-0 with only 18 seconds left in the second and final period when his opponent Mohit apparently effected a two-point take-down move and also pushed him out of the mat for another point tying the score 3-3
The referee, however, didn't award two points for take-down making Mohit's coach challenge the decision.
According to wrestlers present at the venue, the Jury of Appeal comprising Satyadev Malik was supposed to review the video but he excused himself from the decision saying he belongs to Mokhra village of Haryana from where Satender also hails.
"Another jury member then overturned the challenge and awarded one technical point to Satender as per rules giving him a 4-1 lead," the wrestlers added.
However, the WFI office-bearers including president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and members of the selection committee present on the occasion apparently were not satisfied with the decision and directed the jury to review it again.
"Incidentally, office-bearers including the president was watching the bout and they saw everything. That is why another referee Jagbir Singh was asked to watch the video," a WFI official told this daily.
Jagbir then overturned the previous decision and awarded two points for take-down to Mohit. As the score was 3-3 after the bout, Mohit was adjudged the winner on criteria as he won the last point.
This probably infuriated Satender, who walked across to Mat A where Ravi and Aman were locked in the 57kg final, went straight to Jagbir, and began to assault him.
"That bout got completed and I was watching another bout when Satender approached me and started hurling abuses. He then slapped me," said Jagbir from LNJP Hospital where he went for procuring a medico-legal certificate required for registering an FIR.
Satender remained unavailable for comments.
Video of incident
Video purported to be from the trials suggested that the referee was the one who slapped Satender before the wrestler retaliated.
Close win for Bajrang
Bajrang has not been at his best ever since he bagged an Olympic bronze last year. Sans his attacking moves, he has looked like a pale shadow of himself. Tuesday was no different as he again registered a narrow 2-1 win over Vishal Kaliraman in the final. Earlier, he had defeated Sujeet 4-0 in the semifinal.
On the contrary, the Tokyo Games silver medallist Ravi won the semifinal and final in a dominant fashion to stamp his authority. Deepak (86kg) and Naveen (74kg) were the other wrestlers to qualify.
What the UWW Rules say
Here are the United World Wrestling International Rules which deal with such cases
During the video review, the Jury of Appeal will render its decision without consulting the refereeing body. If the Jury of Appeal reaches a unanimous agreement, it will be considered final and irrevocable. No further appeal will be possible. The decision of the Jury of Appeal is final.
Under no circumstances should anyone — including UWW Bureau members, UWW delegates, coaches, wrestlers or team leaders — attempt to interfere or influence the Jury of Appeal. Any persons violating this rule shall be expelled from the field of play for the duration of the tournament.
It is not possible to request a “counter challenge” once a final decision has been made by the Jury of Appeal.