The Indian Olympic Association’s ad-hoc panel has created controversy by granting Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat direct entries into the Asian Games without holding trials, sparking dissent among other wrestlers and their coaches.

The decision was taken without the consent of the national chief coaches and has raised questions about fairness in the selection process. The decision has raised concerns among other wrestlers, who were part of a protest against the outgoing WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Exemption Of Bajrang Punia And Vinesh Phogat From Trials

The ad-hoc panel of the Indian Olympic Association has decided to exempt Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat from the selection trials for the Asian Games. Panel member Ashok Garg confirmed that the two wrestlers have been granted direct entries into the competition, bypassing the mandatory trials. “Yes, Bajrang and Vinesh have been exempted from trials.”

This exemption was based on the criteria of selecting iconic players who are medallists of the Olympic/World Championships, as per the Wrestling Federation of India guidelines.

Jagmander Singh, the men’s freestyle national coach, expressed surprise at the decision, stating that they were not even aware of such a move. “I am not even aware that such a decision has been taken. The ad-hoc panel had stopped calling us for meetings. We have not made any such recommendation; we favored trials in all categories.”

Women’s national coach Virender Dahiya had favored trials in all weight categories, emphasizing the importance of assessing the wrestlers’ current form and abilities. ”In both 53 kg and 65 kg categories, there are solid youngsters who can compete well. Their strength is good. The ad-hoc panel has overruled us in making this decision.

Protest And Court Challenge

While Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have been exempted from trials, young wrestlers Antim Panghal and Sujeet Kalakal have shown promising performances in their respective categories. Antim Panghal made history by becoming India’s first U20 World Champion last year and followed it up with a silver medal at the senior Asian Championship this year.

Sujeet Kalakal is the current U23 and U20 Asian champion and also won a bronze at the U20 World Championship.

Their performances have caught the attention of the wrestling community, and they are considered strong contenders in the 65 kg men’s freestyle and 53 kg women’s freestyle categories, respectively.

Also Read: What Does The Delhi Police Chargesheet Accuse Brij Bhushan Of?

The decision to exempt Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat from trials has not been well-received by other wrestlers and their coaches, leading to protests and the intention to challenge the ad-hoc panel’s ruling in court.

Parents and coaches of wrestlers in the 53kg and 65kg categories are planning to move court, demanding fair trials for their athletes. “Yes, we will move court. Why should our kids suffer due to discriminatory decisions by the ad-hoc panel? All we want is a fair trial,” says the father of a wrestler. 

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik were at the forefront of the protest against the outgoing WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers accused Singh of sexual harassment, intimidation, stalking, and inappropriate behavior. The allegations led to a public outcry and raised serious questions about the safety and welfare of athletes in the wrestling community.

As a result of their protest, the four wrestlers, along with Sakshi’s husband Satyawart Kadiyan, sought time until August 10 to prepare for the Asian Games and World Championships trials.

However, the ad-hoc panel’s recent decision to exempt Bajrang and Vinesh from trials has caused further discontent among the athletes, who believe the decision is discriminatory and unfair to other wrestlers who have been diligently preparing for the competitions.

It remains to be seen whether four other protesting wrestlers, namely Sakshi Malik, Satyawart Kadiyan, Jitender Kinha, and Sangeeta Phogat, will be able to compete in the trials, as they are currently training and competing overseas. Sangeeta Phogat is currently in Hungary, where she secured a bronze medal in the non-Olympic 59 kg category at a UWW Ranking series event.

Meanwhile, Sakshi Malik and Satyawart Kadian are in the United States for training purposes. Additionally, Jitender Kinha is accompanying Bajrang Punia in Kyrgyzstan, serving as the Olympic bronze medallist’s sparring partner.

Implications For Asian Games And World Championships

The Asian Games are scheduled to begin on September 23 in Hangzhou, China. While Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have been exempted from trials for this event, the ad-hoc committee has clarified that separate trials for the Olympic Qualifying World Championship will be held in August, and all wrestlers, including Bajrang and Vinesh, will be required to participate in those trials.

Coach Gian Singh, the ad-hoc panel member, confirms, “The trials for the Worlds will be held between August 5 and 10. All will have to appear in those trials, including Bajrang and Vinesh. No one will be given an exemption for that.

The decision by the Indian Olympic Association’s ad-hoc panel to exempt Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat from the selection trials for the Asian Games has sparked outrage among other wrestlers and their coaches. The move has been met with protests and a plan to challenge the ruling in court. 

The ad-hoc panel’s decision has raised questions about fairness and transparency in the selection process, prompting concerns about the wrestlers’ preparations for the upcoming Asian Games and World Championships.

As the situation unfolds, the wrestling community waits to see how this contentious issue will be resolved and how it will impact India’s representation in these prestigious sporting events.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: Indian Express, The Economic Times, FirstPost

Find the blogger: Katyayani Joshi

This post is tagged under: wrestlers, protest, Asian Games, China, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, world championship, national coach, WFI, olympic medallist

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