India’s star wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat will not get exemption from World Championship trials, said the sports governing body, citing the need to give all grapplers “equal opportunity to qualify” for Tokyo Olympics.
The Wrestling Federation of India will conduct the men’s trails on July 25 in Sonepat while the women will compete on July 26 in Lucknow.
The World Championship, to be held in Kazakhstan from September 14-22, is an Olympic qualification event.
Vinesh has won back-to-back gold medals – Yasar Dogu and Grand Prix of Spain – in her new 53kg category while Bajrang has lost just one bout – the 2018 World Championship final – in his last 10 international assignments.
But WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said it’s only fair that trials are conducted in all categories.
“We don’t want to deny opportunity to any wrestler who dreams of competing in the Olympics. World Championship assumes significance in that respect. Wrestlers in all categories are training hard and looking to create their own space. So all wrestlers have to go through trials, including Vinesh and Bajrang,” Tomar told PTI.
Asked if celebrated wrestler Sushil Kumar, who is struggling to find form, will be part of the trials in 74kg or the younger lot will be preferred, Tomar said the WFI won’t stop him from competing.
“If he wants to compete, we will allow him. We have not yet heard from him but if he is training in Russia, he must have Worlds in mind. Even if he informs us on July 23, he is in for trials,” said Tomar.
A general feeling in the WFI is that there is no replacement for the double Olympic gold medallist as yet in the 74kg category.
“He is still our best. Jitender had a chance but neither he nor Parveen Rana did something noticeable. Have they? They did not win even at Asian level. Parveen even moved his category up to 79.
“There is this junior guy Parveen Malik, who seems good. He might be the one for future in this category. As of now Sushil is our best bet even when he is not in great form,” said another WFI official.
The Tokyo Games will feature competition in 18 categories – six each in men’s freestyle, men’s Greco-Roman and women’s wrestling.
The men’s freestyle will have competition in 57kg, 65 kg, 74 kg, 86 kg, 97kg and 125 kg while Greco-Roman style will offer medals in 60kg, 67kg, 77kg, 87kg, 97kg and 130kg.
The women’s freestyle competition will be held in 50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg and 76kg.