The Wrestling Federation of India will hold the national camp for Olympic weight category wrestlers from September 1, top Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Pooja Dhanda confirmed on Friday.

The training camp for women wrestlers is slated to begin in Lucknow, while the one for male wrestlers will start in Sonepat. The national camps for the sport have been suspended since the Covid-19 lockdown. While the WFI has made attempts to restart the camp, the wrestlers didn’t approve of it due to the health risks. However, the two wrestlers confirmed that the players are ready to return to the camps.

“The federation have told us that the camp is starting from September 1. It will be for all wrestlers who have qualified or are trying to qualify for the Olympics,” Punia told reporters during a webinar organised by Inspire Institute of Sports on the occasion of its second anniversary.

Dhanda, who has struggled to train since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, welcomed the development.

“It’s good that the camp is starting. We have to learn to live with coronavirus. We will begin training with the World Championship in mind,” she said.

The WFI is likely to hold the camp across five weight categories in men’s and women’s freestyle wrestling and in three divisions in Greco-Roman category, WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told The New Indian Express.

The newspaper also reported that the Senior National Championships will be held in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda from December 18 to 20.

The two wrestlers who were also joined by pro boxer Vikas Krishan on the webinar spoke on the challenges that elite athletes have faced during the lockdown and how they have adapted to the situation.

“I have a clear goal that I have to do well at the Olympics. It’s more challenging for those who have not yet qualified. I can’t say if my performance has gone down or not because there is no competition happening,” Punia said.

“We have all been locked. But I have not missed training a day. Much also depends on the kind of support staff you have around you, whether they motivate you or de-motivate you. I have good people around me,” he added.

More than the lack of training, Dhanda lamented the absence of competition.

“The mindset is fixed, one-and-a-half months before a competition and the body also responds in a certain manner. When competition is there we can measure our rivals, so not having competition is definitely impacting the game,” she said.

Dhanda has had her struggled with injury and finds herself facing stiff competition in the 57 kg category with the emergence of junior wrestlers Sarita Mor and Anshu Malik.

“The 57kg category is the most competitive. All good wrestlers are there but I have competed against them. All I need is to take care of my fitness. I had four back to back injuries last year, so rehabilitation took away a bit of time performance,” she said.

“I have now the World Championship (rescheduled to December) in mind, clear trials and then qualify for the Olympics. I am glad that the Olympics got postponed, it gave me another shot,” she added.