Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar returns to the India squad for World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan after beating Jitender Kumar 4-2 in the trials of the 74 kg category. This will be the first time in eight years that the 36-year-old will be a part of the World Championships.

Junior world champion Deepak Punia will be a part of the 86kg category. All eyes, though, will on Commonwealth and Asian Games champion Bajrang Punia, who is the best in the world in his category.

The event starts on September 14 and will be the first qualification event for the 2020 Olympics. Sushil was at his gritty best during the trials to book his spot for the event. The veteran raced to a 4-0 lead before Jitender fought back.

The trials in 79kg category are still pending. So, it still is not over for Jitender as the Federation has given him the option to book a World Championship berth in 79kg by challenging today’s winner Virdev Gulia.

The consistent attacks from both the wrestlers in the fast-paced final bout had the fans on the edge of their seats as close to 1500 gathered at IGI stadium to watch Sushil in action.

Sushil ended up causing an eye-injury to Jitender early in the second period. The veteran, whose return to mat after a year at an event Belarus met with a disappointing end, apologised immediately.

Later, another attacking move from Sushil had Jitender wincing in pain as he suffered an elbow injury. Nevertheless, Jitender did not give up and thrice he had got hold of Sushil’s right leg but lack of proper grip meant that he could not convert it into points.

Sushil was feeling the heat and it was obvious that the two medical breaks he took was a ploy to catch some breath. With two push-out points, Jitender reduced the margin of defeat.

“Everyone saw how he [Sushil] fought. I was just doing wrestling and he was ... I had trouble seeing after that eye injury. I had prepared well. He was also taking unnecessary breaks,” alleged Jitender, his left eye still red-shot and elbow wrapped tightly. “In a day or two I should be fit. I will try to make it to squad in 79kg,” he added.

His coach Jaiveer accused Sushil of indulging in unfair practices. “He did it on purpose,” alleged Jaiveer. “He has been doing it for years. He employed same tactics in the 2012 Olympics. It was definitely deliberate. The referees were also hand in glove. They don’t want any other win against Sushil.”

Sushil, though, rejected the charge: “It was not done deliberately. He is like my younger brother. It was a good fight and if such bouts are fought consistently, the country will see good results,” he said.

“My style is not rough. My style is to win by technical superiority or pin the opponent. Today the instruction from the coaches was to just win the bout. It’s an art to win wrestling bouts. I wish Jitender all the best. He respects me and even touches my feet whenever we meet,” he said.

The Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh also backed Sushil. “It was not rough. When Vinesh Phogat suffered a broken knee [during the Rio Olympics], was her opponent rough? It happens in wrestling. No wrestler comes with their hands tied on wrestling mat,” said Singh.

When asked if it was fair on Gulia to be asked to fight again despite winning the trials today, WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said: “This is not to favour any one particular wrestler. We want to send a strong team. Jitender is an excellent wrestler and should be given a chance to go to World Championships.”

Rahul Aware (61kg), Karan (70kg), Praveen (92kg) abd Viderv Gulia (79kg) won trials in non-Olympic divisions.


57kg Ravi Dahiya,
61kg Rahul Aware
65kg Bajrang Punia
70kg Karan Mor
74kg Sushil Kumar
86kg Deepak Punia
92kg Praveen
97kg Mausam Khatri
125kg Sumit Malik

(With PTI inputs)