Grapplers Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have all written to the Wrestling Federation of India, asking to be excused from the selection trials for the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang, according to a report in the Tribune.
The federation will hold the trials for the men’s categories – freestyle and Greco-Roman – on June 10 at the Sports Authority of India centre at Sonepat, where a training camp for both the categories is going on. Similarly, the training camp for women wrestlers is being held at SAI, Lucknow, and the trials will also be held there on June 17. These dates are still being regarded as tentative as the WFI has not formally announced them.
The federation cannot do away with trials completely because of a 2014 court ruling but exemptions can be made in weight categories where one of the competitors is dominant. For two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, it would quite a change of course if he does get to skip the trial, as he had taken the WFI to court after the federation had decided not to hold a trial for the 74kg freestyle category in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics.
At that point in time, the WFI had defended its stance in court, stating that the quota had been awarded to Narsingh Yadav, since he had won the spot after winning a world championship medal and was hence the top pick in the 74 kg class.
“Yes, all three have written letters to the federation requesting us to skip the trials,” the newspaper quoted a WFI official as saying. “They think that their training will get affected if they were to take part in the trials. We haven’t made up our minds yet. But one thing is sure that we will take all the performances, both past and present, in consideration before taking a definitive call in this regard.”
Although Sushil did manage to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the run-up to the event was less than smooth for the veteran wrestler. After defeating Parveen Rana in the CWG trials, he was accused of instigating his supporters to beat up his opponent, as Rana would state later in a police complaint.
Rana replaced Sushil for the Asian Championships but with the former out injured, the path to the spot is considerably easier for Sushil. World championship medallist Bajrang Punia and Gold Coast gold medallist Vinesh Phogat are believed to be in a similar position in their respective weight categories and could receive exemptions as well.