Five months after losing a controversial bout to Sushil Kumar, 74kg wrestler Jitender now has the chance to end the veteran’s Olympic dream altogether. The 25-year-old earned the right to represent India at both Asian Championships and Asian Olympic qualifying tournament by winning the latest selection trials that were held in New Delhi on Friday.
Two-time Olympic medallist Kumar had decided to skip the trials after his request to postpone the trials was denied by the Wrestling Federation of India. He had put in the request claiming that he had injured his shoulder.
But there is still a glimmer of hope for Kumar as WFI president Brij Bhusan Sharan Singh said that they will analyse the performance of wrestlers participating at Asian Championships and may decided to conduct a fresh trial if the performance is not up to the mark.
“All winners will have to perform well in ranking series and the Asian Championships,” Singh said after the trials. “If the performance is not satisfactory then we may have a new trial for the Olympic weight categories in which Indian wrestlers have not qualified.”
The first tournament of the year will be in Rome from January 15 to 18 and the Asian Championships will be held in New Delhi from February 18 to 23. Jitender, along with winners of other weight categories, will participate in both these tournaments.
Up against the experienced Amit Dhankar in the 74kg final, Jitender prevailed 5-2. While Dhankar did try to stage a comeback after trailing 0-4 at the end of the first period, Jitender controlled the bout to perfection and only gave away two points.
Forgetting the past loss to Kumar, Jitender is now focussed on improving himself for the future and claim a Tokyo Olympic quota for India.
“If you miss a chance to win the trials, you are out for a year,” he said. “If the federation wants to have a fresh trial based on performance then I cannot help it. My job is to wrestle.”
Jitender began the day by avenging his loss at senior national championships to Sandeep Mann as he defeated him in the first round. The second bout against Vinod Kumar was another tough one but he managed to scrape through.
“All three bouts were tough and it gives me confidence that I won,” he said. “Against Dhankar, I had to take the lead early because he is very good when he has the lead. He will constantly attack you in first period and then sit on that lead. I had to reverse that.”
Dhankar had reached the final with a very tough win over 74kg national championships gold medallist Gourav Baliyan. After taking a 5-1 lead early in the bout, Dhankar was under the pump as Baliyan fought back to make it 4-5. In a sequence that saw Baliyan and Dhankar both grab each others leg, the latter used his experience and took two points from the move while Baliyan could take only one.
With Kumar not taking part in the trials, it is yet unclear if Jitender is the first choice for the two remaining Olympic qualifying tournaments. The condition also applies to Satyawart Kadian and Sumit Malik, both of who won 97kg and 125kg weight categories respectively.
Participating in the selection trials only for the Asian Championships, Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia too won the 57kg and 86kg categories respectively. The two have already qualified India in the weight categories for Olympics.
The selection trials for women’s wrestlers will take place at the Sports Authority of India in Lucknow on Saturday.