Sports

Rumble In The Dangal: Wrestlers Furious At Trials Exemption To Phogat, Punia

WFI rules allow the Selection Committee to pick past winners of Olympic/World Championship medals without trials, but only if that is recommended by the Chief Coach/ Foreign Expert.

Punia plays in the men’s freestyle 65kg category, and Phogat in the women’s freestyle 53kg category.
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The chaos in Indian wrestling continues, and the valiant have now turned into villains.

Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, two of the lead figures in the year-long protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, have been granted free passage into the Asian Games, while others will have to go through selection trials.

This decision was taken by the IOA (Indian Olympic Association) ad-hoc panel, which was created in April to run the WFI after charges of sexual harassment and intimidation mounted against Brij Bhushan.

WFI rules allow the Selection Committee to pick past winners of Olympic/World Championship medals without trials, but only if that is recommended by the Chief Coach/ Foreign Expert.

Phogat and Punia are former World Championship medalists. Punia also has an Olympic medal. But the coaches were not consulted before they were granted an exemption.

"I am not even aware that such a decision has been taken. The ad-hoc panel had stopped calling us for meetings. We have not made any such recommendation, we favoured trials in all categories," men's free-style national coach Jagmander Singh told PTI.

Women’s national coach Virender Dahiya said, "We don't know in what shape Bajrang and Vinesh are in. They have not competed in the last eight months. You get to know about speed, strength, weight, only during the competitions. And they have not competed after (Birmingham) CWG and World Championship last year, so we do not know how good they are at this moment."

Punia competes in the men’s freestyle 65kg category, and Phogat in the women’s freestyle 53kg category. Dahiya said there were enough contenders in both groups.

"In both 53kg and 65kg categories, there are solid youngsters who can compete well. Their strength is good. The ad-hoc panel has overruled us in making this decision,” he said.

Secondly, the other wrestlers who participated in the protests to varying degrees and also qualified for concessions, such as Sakshee Malikkh, Ravi Dahiya, Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor, did not get any exemption.

The decision has deeply upset other wrestlers.

“What is so special about Vinesh that she is being sent [for the Asian Games without trials]? Just organise trials. I am not saying that I will defeat Vinesh. There are many female wrestlers out there who can do so,” Antim Panghal, the under-20 World Champion, said in a video post.

In a cryptic message to ‘Outlook’, another female wrestler, not wanting to be named, said, “Yeh sab ek saath mil jaate hai par phasta koi aur hai in sab me (All of them get together at some point and someone else takes the fall for it). I’m just focussed on my trials.”

The Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23.

No exemptions are expected at the World Championship trials, however. Coach Gian Singh, a member of the ad-hoc panel as technical expert, said that the trials for the Olympic Qualifying World Championship will be held separately in August.

"The trials for the Worlds will be held between August 5 and 10. All will have to appear in those trials, including Bajrang and Vinesh. No one will be given an exemption for that. The finer details of the trials will be formulated by the ad-hoc committee," Singh said.

Belgrade, Serbia, will host the World Championship from September 16-24 and the top-four in each of the six Olympic weight categories will qualify for the 2024 Paris Games.

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