Wrestling stares at uncertain future
With just a week left to conduct elections, India’s grapplers may face the ignominy of playing under a neutral flag
CHENNAI: Indian wrestling heading towards suspension if elections are not held soon. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has not yet named a returning officer (a high court judge) to begin the Wrestling Federation of India election process. The IOA had formed an ad hoc committee on April 27 and had said that a retired high court judge would be appointed soon to conduct the elections. However, the 45-day deadline that had been communicated to the United World Wrestling is ending on June 10.
If suspended, it might create a problem for Indian wrestlers to qualify for the Olympics. Without a federation, qualification will depend on UWW’s sole discretion. The only solace is that the Olympic qualification for wrestling starts from World Championships in September.
The UWW in its statement, issued on May 30, indicated what lies in store for the country’s grapplers. “The 45-day deadline that was initially set to hold this elective assembly shall be respected. Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag,” the statement read.
“It is reminded that UWW already took a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year,” it added. Already in a mess since the protest broke out in January, the warning means Indian wrestling may touch a new low if the situation persists as grapplers will be left with no option but to compete under the neutral flag unless elections are held within the deadline.
Notably, a minimum of 21-day notice has to be given to call an annual general meeting (AGM) to hold the elections. Apart from this, the UWW has to be intimated in advance so that it can send an observer for the election. Given the situation, it looks highly unlikely election can be held in the stipulated time.
What’s interesting is that the ad-hoc committee will be occupied with U-15 and 20 selection trials for the upcoming Asian Championships from June 5 to 8. Soon after that, it will get busy with teams departing for the U-17 and 23 Asian Championships scheduled from June 10 to 18 in Bishkek. After that, it will be holding selection trials for the Asian Games in six weight categories followed by trials in the remaining four weight categories to declare teams for the World Championships.
“Our priority is to carry on with the activities. We had already organised trials for U-17 and 23 wrestlers. We will soon hold trials for U-15 and 20 wrestlers. Asiad trials are also pending. As far as elections are concerned, the process could begin once the retired High Court judge is appointed,” Bhupender Singh Bajwa, a member of the ad-hoc committee, told this daily.
The controversy has already started to take a toll on wrestlers’ performance and the biggest example was freestyle wrestlers’ below-par show at the Asian Championships in April where they finished seventh among the participating nations. The previous worst was in 2018 when they ended eighth but back then India didn’t send its best team for varied reasons. In between these two extreme ends, the country’s freestyle team had finished second for four consecutive years.
It would be too early to comment on the ongoing Ranking Series in Bishkek but results from the first two days of the competition are not encouraging at all. India have fetched only a bronze medal so far with all three women wrestlers in action on Day 2 bowing out in either the first or second round.