SAI sanctions Zagreb trip, top wrestlers likely to skip Ranking Series

Bajrang, Vinesh, Ravi and Deepak are among the grapplers named in the squad for the tournament, which is scheduled from February 1 to 5 in Croatia

Published: 27th January 2023 12:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th January 2023 12:32 AM   |  A+A-

Sports Authority of India (SAI)

Sports Authority of India (SAI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Even though the Government of India on Thursday approved the participation of wrestlers for the Zagreb Open Ranking Series in Croatia, the country's top wrestlers including Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53kg) are unlikely to compete at the event. The oversight committee (OC) formed by the sports ministry recommended a 55-member team including 36 wrestlers (11 Greco-Roman, 12 women's wrestling and 13 freestyle) for the tournament scheduled from February 1 to 5 at full cost to the government.

The list also has the names of 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya (57kg) and 2019 World Championships silver medallist Deepak Punia (86kg). However, indications are that wrestlers, who recently staged an unprecedented protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh accusing him of sexual harassment, may skip the event despite being named in the team. Incidentally, all these wrestlers were quite vocal against Singh during the agitation.

The entry list comprising 38 grapplers (14 freestyle and 12 each in women and GR categories) was sent for the tournament by the WFI before the protest forced the ministry to direct the federation to suspend its activities and constitute an oversight committee to probe the allegations against Singh. As it is ranking series, two names were also sent for a few categories in three styles.

"It's difficult for the wrestlers who had joined the protest. Since they have not trained for quite a few days, they are not in a position to compete as well," said an official in the know of things. As is reported by this newspaper, Bajrang, his wife Sangeeta Phogat (62kg) and Jitender Kinha (79kg) had already taken back their passports before the protest. Apparently, even Sarita (59kg) is ill and communicated the same to the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Even Anshu Malik (57kg) is still recuperating from the elbow surgery, which also puts her in doubt. It should be noted that the WFI has selected gold medallists of the 2022 national championships for the tournament apart from adding names of top wrestlers.

Friday crucial
The SAI has started the process to procure visas for Croatia, which this year became a Schengen nation. It was learnt that the passports of the wrestlers have already been submitted but a few applications did not have mandatory insurance, which may create problems. "The SAI has Friday only as the Embassy will be closed for the next two days. If the union ministry of external affairs swings into action then only visas can be procured otherwise it will be difficult to get them in time," said a source.

Women's coaches
As many as nine coaches (3 for each style) will accompany wrestlers. As reported by this daily, the women's team will be without its head coach Jitender Yadav. The team will also have physiotherapists and a masseuse apart from an acupuncture specialist and a manager. Three Indian referees will also leave with the team for the event.

Grapplers meet to decide on future
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the wrestlers met in Haryana on Tuesday night to discuss their future move. Sources informed that Bajrang and Vinesh were present in the meeting, where it was decided that the Haryana wrestlers will not compete in any international and national events if their demands were not met.
The wrestlers, earlier, had demanded the removal of Singh as WFI chief, disbanding the federation and its state units. They ended their protest after the ministry assured them of the redressal of their grievances. The oversight committee has been assigned the task of conducting and enquiry and submitting its report within four weeks.

India Matters


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