MTNL, Delhi bags overall championship

A SPORT which has had a stranglehold in most of the northern states so far, made its debut in the south — Tamil Nadu.

K. KEERTHIVASAN

A SPORT which has had a stranglehold in most of the northern states so far, made its debut in the south — Tamil Nadu. Though 50 editions (men) and six editions in women have gone by, there has not been a single Tamil Nadu team — either men or women that has taken part in any of the National championships. The seventh National women's wrestling championship, conducted by the nascent Wrestling Association of Tamil Nadu at the Sivanthi Thidal, Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium, Chennai, aimed at bringing in a wrestling culture to Tamil Nadu, proved to be a limited success. Under the stewardship of its Secretary Rohtash Singh, WTA conducted the tournament, barring some shortcomings from the organisers with regard to media management.

The MTNL, Delhi squad which emerged overall senior champion. Standing from left: Sheenu Jain , Kiran Sihag, Balbir Gulai (Coach), Surinder Singh (Manager), and Alka Tomer. Squatting: Kamini Yadav. — Pic. V. GANESAN-

Around 600 grapplers gave a good account of themselves, braving hectic schedules what with the bouts ending late in the night, and continuing again early in the morning the next day. Seven weight categories in seniors, eight in junior and 10 in sub-juniors were conducted. The mats were specially brought from New Delhi.

In keeping with their reputation, Haryana, and MTNL, Delhi bagged the overall honours. While MTNL emerged champion in senior section (claiming the Trophy for the second time in a row), Haryana came up trumps in the junior and sub-junior categories. Almost all the Internationals with the exception of Manju Shekhawat justified their top billing. Shekhawat lost to Babita of Uttar Pradesh (by fall) in the 52 kg sub-junior final.

Competing in her favourite 67 kg (senior) category, Kiran Sihag emerged champion for the sixth successive time. An International and one of the country's best bets overcame the challenge of Vandana Choudhary of Uttar Pradesh (by fall) in the final. The 21-year-old has taken part in the World cadet championship in Poland and junior Asian championship in France in 2000, senior Asian championship at Mangolia in 2001 and several other International-level tournaments.

MTNL's Alka Tomer is another international wrestler with promise. She went to win the senior 59 kg with an easy victory (by fall) over L. Kiran Chanu of Manipur in the final. However, the pick of the lot was 17-year-old Kamini Yadav. The MTNL girl, a XIth standard student of MK Convent School (New Delhi) was adjudged the best wrestler of the tournament. Kamini came first in the senior 48 kg category defeating Babita Nagar of Delhi in the final bout. "I am happy to win the award. I am at the top of the world," she said. Kamini said she took to wrestling in 1999 on "my own interest". Her inspiration is former wrestler Choudhry Swaroop Singh. With encouragement and guidance from coach Balbir Singh, she finished fourth in the 48 kg category of the Busan Asian Games. The success here helped Kamini gain a berth in the senior Asian championship held in New Delhi.

Favourites MTNL, Delhi hogged the limelight. Rajbir Dhankar, coach of Kiran Sihag, and a SAI coach, said the success of MTNL was because of the facilities the capital enjoys. "It is because of the mats, the coaches, the sports medicine available in Delhi. Moreover, we have internationals such as Kiran (Sihag), Kamini (Yadav), Sonika Kaliraman."

From the host's point of view, the 25-member team borrowed grapplers from Delhi. Of the 25, five established wrestlers were roped from Delhi, while the rest were State boxers and first-timers. Nevertheless, Tamil Nadu clinched a bronze medal through Indu Sharma, a Delhiite, in the senior 55 kg category. While nobody expected the host team to come up with a spectacular show, one particular event suggested how seriously the team took to its task on hand. When the officials announced the Tamil Nadu wrestler's name for the bout, the grappler was busy posing along with the team for a private television channel.

Sheenu Jain who defeated Krishana by fall in the 55 kg final. Kiran Sihag who beat Vandana Choudhry in the 67 kg. _ Pic. V. GANESAN-

Hearing the announcement, she immediately changed from tracksuit to a wrestling uniform, entered the bout, lost in quick time, and soon joined for the team shoot. However it has to be said that the host was in demand from both print and electronic media.

Manoharan, a former kabaddi player, and one of the coaches of the Tamil Nadu team said this being the first time, they decided to rope in Delhi grapplers so that the host can benefit by learning from them. But Ramalingam, another coach who accompanied the Salem team, was sceptical of the sport's progress given the physical contact and how girls and their parents will take to it in a state like Tamil Nadu.

But with M.S. Malik, President, WFI, announcing on the final day a cash prize of Rs. 1000 to each member of the team and the AKHARA scheme (whereby Sports Authority of India gives coaching, mats and gym facilities to the wrestlers) coming soon, it is only a matter of time when the sport will gain popularity. The final day had a fair amount of crowd (curious onlookers).

Alka Tomer gets the better of L. Kiran Chanu in the 59 kg category . — Pic. V. GANESAN-

There were many loose ends during the championship, which the organisers may do well to take note of. The first day of the championship was chaotic, with the officials totally unaware of the demands and requirements of the media. Conducting a prestigious tournament is one thing, and ensuring that the event reaches the public is totally another. The officials were least bothered of the latter.

There was some negative publicity from the local press about the announcements being made in Hindi. In a sport like wrestling, where each bout finishes in a matter of five minutes, it is important to announce the winner in a language that is understandable to the audience. Even if the majority of grapplers were from north India, the announcement could have been in Hindi and Tamil. The sparse gathering, during the first two days, did not know what was happening as the announcement was made in Hindi. Bowing to pressure, a local announcer was put in charge on the final day. Throughout the championship, confusion prevailed about the format of the event. "We have read the reports that have appeared in print, and will make sure that we do not repeat it. Since this was the first time, we accept that there were mistakes," said Sridhar, Treasurer of WAT.

Geetika Jakhad (red) who lost to Manjeet Kaur in the 63 kg final. Kiran Sihag who beat Vandana Choudhry in the 67 kg. _ Pic. V. GANESAN Pic. V. GANESAN-

There was some confusion on the final day, when it was announced that only Doordarshan would be allowed to shoot the final bouts as it had secured the exclusive rights. The private channels were taken aback by this, arguing that they had come only on invitation. But within minutes, all was forgotten, and the channels were seen taking shots — a small example of the organisational and communication hiccups that dominated the three-day event.

When the National boxing championship for women was held in Chennai two years back, the media management with regard to getting the results, was entrusted to a mass communication institute, which did a fairly decent job. Something similar could be worked out if and when the next championship is hosted.

Overall championship:

Kiran Sihag who beat Vandana Choudhry in the 67 kg. -- Pic. V. GANESAN-

Seniors: 1. MTNL, Delhi 67 pts, 2. Haryana (49), 3. Manipur (43); Juniors: 1. Haryana (69 pts), 2. Punjab (61), 3. NCR Delhi (41); Sub-juniors: 1.Haryana (77 pts), 2. Rajastan (70), 3. Punjab (63).

Seniors (final bouts):

48 kg: Kamini Yadav (MTNL, Delhi) bt Babita Nagar (Del) by fall; 51 kg: Sumail (MTNL, Delhi) bt Neha Rathi (Har) on points; 55 kg: Sheenu Jain (MTNL, Delhi) bt Krishana (Har) by fall; 59 kg: Alka Tomer (MTNL, Delhi) bt L. Kiran Chanu (Man) by fall; 63 kg: Manjeet Kaur (Pun) bt Geetika Jakhad (Har) by fall; 67 kg: Kiran Sihag (MTNL, Delhi) bt Vandana Choudhry (UP) by fall.

Sub-juniors (top-two):

38 kg: 1. Minaxi Garg (Raj), 2. Manjit (Har); 40 kg: 1. Geeta (Har), 2. Neetu (UA); 43 kg: 1. Rachna Shekhawat (Har), 2. Sumesh (UA); 46 kg: 1. Guddi Pawar (UP), 2. Rekha Rathod (UA); 49 kg: 1. Lromila Devi (Man), 2. Pinky (Har); 52 kg: 1. Sunita (Har), 2. Ychan-Changani (Man); 56 kg: 1. Gurjit Kaur (Pun), 2. Mukesh (UA); 60 kg: 1.Rajni Bhalla (Pun), 2. Meena Suman (Raj); 65 kg: 1. Suman (Raj), 2. Minaxi Garg (Har); 70 kg: 1. Neeru (Har), 2. Uma Deswal (Raj).

Juniors (top-two):

44 kg: 1. Ritu Bala (Pun), 2. Pushpa (Del); 48 kg: 1. Nirmal (Har), 2. Rupinder (Pun); 51 kg: Meena (Har), 2. Santosh Sharma (Del); 59 kg: 1. Anita (Har), 2. C. Lalvul Mowil (Miz); 63 kg: 1. Poonam Bamal (Har), 2. Shuhwinder Kaur (Pun); 67 kg: 1. Suman Preet (Pun), 2. Jyoti (NCR Delhi); 72 kg: Kavita (Raj), 2. Seema (UA).