Bajrang, Vinesh, retired Sakshi invited by WFI to appear for national trials

New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI) The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Monday invited protesting grapplers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and retired Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik to come for the national trials in March to select the team for two top Asian competitions, including the 2024 Paris Games Qualifiers in Kyrgyzstan.

One of the conditions put by the United World Wrestling (UWW) while lifting the suspension on WFI earlier this month was that the three grapplers would not be discriminated against for protesting against former national federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

The three have been demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan for his alleged sexual harassment of women wrestlers. The sports ministry had also suspended the WFI last year in the wake of the serious allegations and instituted an ad-hoc panel to run the affairs of the sport.

The ministry had also ordered fresh elections, which were held in December last year, but the newly-elected body under Sanjay Singh was suspended by the ministry three days after its formation for not giving enough time to age-group wrestlers to prepare and travel before announcing the dates for the nationals.

The ministry again instituted a three-member ad-hoc panel to run the affairs of the sport.

The WFI, while announcing the trials on March 10-11, also included the names of Bajrang (65kg freestyle), Vinesh (55kg) and Sakshi (62kg), who had announced her retirement from the sport in “frustration” the day Sanjay Singh was elected president.

“I would like to inform all affiliated units of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) that the selection trials to select the teams for participation in the following events are being conducted on 10th and 11th March 2024 at K.D. Jadhav Wrestling Indoor Stadium, IGI Sports Complex, New Delhi,” said Sanjay Singh in a statement.

The trials are being held to select the teams for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championship in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) from April 11-16 and the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Tournament at the same venue from April 19-21, the statement added.

“All state units are requested to intimate the wrestlers as per list attached to participate in the said trials,” added the statement.

The three wrestlers did not take part in the nationals organised by the suspended WFI in Pune and instead competed in the national championships conducted by the ad-hoc committee in Jaipur earlier this month.

The UWW lifting the suspension on WFI on February 13 has made things confusing in the Olympic year.

While the WFI continues to remain suspended by the ministry and the reins have been given to the ad-hoc panel, the WFI is the only body which can send teams abroad because they are recognised by the international body.

The suspension was imposed by UWW on August 23 last year after the national federation failed to hold elections in time.

Sakshi and Bajrang have also accused WFI of using devious means to get the UWW suspension lifted and threatened fresh protest.

The trials will be conducted in all the weight categories — Olympic and non-Olympic — in free-style and greco-roman.

Haryana’s Vishal Kaliraman, who could not go to the Hangzhou Asian Games last year despite winning the trials, would be Bajrang’s main opponent in the 65kg category if the Olympic medallist decides to come for the trial next month.

Several khaps had then supported Kaliraman and criticised Bajrang for going to the Asian Games despite not appearing for trials.

Antim Panghal, the only Indian to have qualified for the Paris Olympics so far, will be appearing for trials in the 54kg category.

Source: PTI News

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