Predicting a 'bright' tomorrow


FOR centuries, they have been doing things their way. An Indian wrestler has always been edgy ever since mud was removed and mat was placed under his feet. Yet, the obsession with mud continues and several grapplers try their skills on both the surfaces.

The Railways team which excelled in both the men's categories - freestyle and Greco-Roman.-SANDEEP SAXENA

So, when it comes to the serious business of winning medals for the country, at the Olympics and the Asian Games, the wrestlers grapple. At any rate, the mediocre performance continues.

A similar fare was dished out at the 48th senior National wrestling championship in Nidani, a sleepy village located on the land, which was once part of Kurukshetra. Here, one of the greatest mythological battles was fought as described in the Mahabharata. Significantly, the villagers believe that wrestling originated here and they cite the famous "Mall Yudh" between two Mahabharata characters, Bhima and Jarasandh.

With such history, the zest for watching the modern day "mall yudh" was very much evident. Virtually the entire village descended on the venue, on all four days of the championship. If the class was missing in the contests, barring a few, the enthusiasm of the villagers compensated for everything else. At times, when their view got blocked by the photo journalists they threw unpleasantries, both verbal and material.

On the playing field, it was freestyle wrestler Ramesh Kumar, in the 69 kg class, who impressed the most. Deservedly, his employers, the Railways, were the runaway winners in both the men's categories. Host Haryana continued its stranglehold on the women's wrestling, besting the opposition by a distance.

Ramesh, the junior World gold medallist, to a good measure, scored all his wins by fall in the league phase. Ramesh warms himself up for the battle from the second round and he stuck to his tactics throughout. Against Chandigarh's Chand, in the quarterfinals, he met the toughest rival. Though Ramesh prevented Chand from scoring any points, he was unable to finish the contest inside the stipulated three rounds. Ramesh won 3-0 and in the semifinal he got a walkover from Ram Phal of Punjab.

With the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals all slated for the same day, Ram Phal, fully knowing that he was no match for Ramesh, wanted to save himself for the bronze medal bout. But, as luck would have it, he lost that bout too, and the chance to win a medal in the Nationals. Mohinder of Association of Indian Universities, downed him 9-7.

Ramesh then had one last hurdle to cross. In the final against Jai Bhagwan of Haryana, he bided for his time. Jai Bhagwan, country's flag-bearer at the World championships in Sofia, exerted himself in the first round itself. That fetched him one point. In the second round, Ramesh was in his elements. He launched himself on Jai Bhagwan with such speed that the Haryana grappler failed to match. Eventually, Ramesh won the contest on the basis of technical fall as he had taken a 11-1 lead.

Railways' domination was such that it won top five of the eight weight categories. In the heavier weight class, Uttar Pradesh won two gold medals through Anuj Chaudhary (85 kg) and Bhagat Singh (97 kg) while Jagdish Kaliraman of Chandigarh won the super-heavy 130 kg class. Railways' Sujit Mann, who had finished fourth in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, expectedly won in the 76 kg category.

Haryana continued its stranglehold in the women's section.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Though Railways' domination was undisputed, there was a small discord over the outcome of the 63 kg final. Shokender Tomar of Railways and Ombir Singh of Punjab were locked in a fierce battle well into the third round. With scores 3-3 and just a few seconds remaining in the contest, a point was awarded. Everybody thought Ombir was the winner, but after the bout was over the referee declared Shokender as the winner. First, Ombir exchanged words with the technical bench and then refused to take to the podium and accept his silver medal.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), took notice of his dissent and banned him for two years, from taking part in any national or international competition.

In the women's section, the 68 kg final between Geetika Jakhar of Haryana and Kiran Sihag of Delhi was a treat to watch. The host had fielded Geetika in the heavier category to settle old scores. Kiran had been dominating the 68 kg class for four years. She had even defeated Geetika in the Indian style wrestling, on mud, to claim her fourth "Bharat Kesari" award.

Geetika was eager to erase the memories of the past. And, she did it through sheer will power. Though Kiran had more body weight, she struggled to match a determined Geetika and finally lost on points.

The results: Finals: Men:

Freestyle: 54-kg: Kripa Shankar (Rly) bt Joginder Singh (Ben) 8-1. 58-kg: Ravinder Kumar (Rly) bt Bijender (Har) 6-4; 63-kg: Shokender Tomar (Rly) bt Ombir Singh (Pun) 4-3; 69-kg: Ramesh Kumar (Rly) bt Jai Bhagwan (Har) TF; 76-kg: Sujit Mann (Rly) bt Ashish (NCR) TF; 85-kg: Anuj Chaudhary (UP) bt Ram Karan (Ser) 3-2; 97-kg: Bhagat Singh (UP) bt Rakesh Patel (MP) 3-2; 130-kg: Jagdish Kaliraman (Chg) w.o Rajiv Tomar (Rly).

For bronze medal: 54-kg: Sandeep Dahiya (Har) bt Rohtas (Del) fall; 58-kg: Sushil Kumar (Del) bt Jagbir (Chg) 6-2; 63-kg: Jagbir Singh (NCR) bt Shilk Ram (Ben) 4-0; 69-kg: Mohinder (AIU) bt Ram Phal (Pun) 9-7; 76-kg: Sunil Kumar (Del) bt Naresh (UP) fall; 85-kg: Janardhan Yadav (Rly) bt Narender (Ben) 10-5; 97-kg: Anil Mann (Rly) w.o Narender (Del); 130-kg: Surinder (Har) bt Pardeep Kumar (Jhar) fall.

Semifinals: 54-kg: Kripa Shankar (Rly) bt Rohtas (Del) fall; Joginder Singh (Ben) bt Sandeep Dahiya (Har) fall; 58-kg: Ravinder (Rly) bt Sushil Kumar (Del) 8-5; Bijender (Har) bt Jagbir (Chg) 8-1; 63-kg: Shokender Tomar (Rly) bt Jagbir Singh (NCR) fall; Ombir Singh (Pun) bt Shilk Ram (Ben) TF; 69-kg: Jai Bhagwan (Har) bt Mohinder (AIU) 6-1; Ramesh Kumar (Rly) w.o Ram Phal (Pun); 76-kg: Sujit Mann (Rly) bt Sunil Kumar (Del) TF; Ashish (NCR) bt Naresh (UP) fall; 85-kg: Anuj Chaudhary (UP) bt Narender (Ben) fall; Ram Karan (Ser) bt Janardhan Yadav (Rly) 3-2; 97-kg: Bhagat Singh (UP) bt Narender (Del) fall; Rakesh Patel (MP) bt Anil Mann (Rly) 2-0; 130-kg: Jagdish Kaliraman (Chg) bt Surinder (Har) fall; Rajiv Tomar (Rly) bt Pardeep Kumar (Jhar) 4-0.

Greco-Roman: Finals: 54-kg: Anil Kumar (Ben) bt Joginder Singh (Chg) 10-8; 58-kg: Ravinder Singh (Rly) bt Anand (Har) 3-1; 63-kg: Gurbinder (Pun) bt Sukhdeep (Uttaranchal) 9-0; 69-kg: Ravinder Mann (Rly) bt Karambeer (Pun) 3-1; 76-kg: Sanjay (Har) bt Govind Pawar (Rly) 4-0; 85-kg: Surender Singh (Rly) bt Kuldeep Singh (Ser) 3-2; 97-kg: Satish (Pun) bt Harinder Singh (Uttaranchal) 3-0; 130-kg: Virender (Har) bt Gulam Sabir (Rly) 3-1.

For bronze medal: 54-kg: Rajesh (Har) bt Yashbir (NCR) 2-2 (Yashbir more passive); 58-kg: Satish Kumar (Chg) bt Ajay (Del) 8-2; 63-kg: Ravinder Patil (Rly) w.o Umesh (Chg); 69-kg: Shamsher (Ben) bt Gurbinder (Uttaranchal) 3-1; 76-kg: Shatrughan (MP) bt N. C. Nayagowda (Kar) fall; 85-kg: Datta Gaikwad (Mah) bt Jagbir (NCR) fall; 97-kg: Satinder Dalal (Rly) w.o L. N. Maheshwar (Ori); 130-kg: Yogesh Dodka (Mah) bt Mukesh Kumar (Del) 3-1.

Semifinals: 54-kg: Anil Kumar (Ben) bt Yashbir (NCR) 5-0; Joginder (Chg) bt Rajesh (Har) 4-1; 58-kg: Ravinder Singh (Rly) bt Ajay (Del) fall; Anand (Har) bt Satish Kumar (Chg) 5-2; 63-kg: Gurbinder (Pun) bt Ravinder Patil (Rly) 7-1; Sukhdeep (Uttaranchal) w.o Umesh (Chg); 69-kg: Ravinder Mann (Rly) bt Shamsher (Ben) 2-0; Karanbir (Pun) by Gurbinder (Uttaranchal) fall; 76-kg: Sanjay (Har) bt Shatrughan (MP) 5-0; Govind Pawar (Rly) bt N. C. Nayagowda (Kar) TF; 85-kg: Surinder Singh (Rly) bt Datta Gaikwad (Mah) fall; Kuldeep Singh (Ser) bt Jagbir (NCR) 3-2; 97-kg: Harender Singh (Uttaranchal) bt Satender Dalal (Rly) 4-0; Satish (Pun) bt L. N. Moheshwar (Ori) TF; 130-kg: Virender (Har) bt Mukesh Kumar (Del) 3-0; Gulam Sabir (Rly) w.o Yogesh Dodka (Mah).

Women: Freestyle: Finals: 46-kg: Nirmala (NCR) bt Rita (Har) 4-0; 51-kg: Neha Rathi (Har) bt Indu Sharma (Del) fall; 56-kg: Sunita (Har) bt Manju Shekhawat (NCR) 3-0; 62-kg: Monika Arya (Del) bt L. Kiran Chanu (Man) fall; 68-kg: Geetika Jakhar (Har) bt Kiran Sihag (Del) 7-1; 75-kg: Sonika Kaliraman (Har) bt Gursharan Kaur (Pun) 7-3.

For bronze medal: 46-kg: Ch. Chingali Chanu (Man) bt Kalshunglni (Nag) fall. 51-kg: Sinu Jain (NCR) bt Anjali Deokar (Mah) TF. 56-kg: Gurmeet Kaur (Pun) bt Meena Kumari (Ben) fall; 62-kg: Naresh Kumari (Pun) bt Vimla (Raj) fall; 68-kg: Sukhwinder (Pun) bt N. Ranjana Devi (Man) 7-0; 75-kg: Sudesh (Del) bt Kavita (Raj) 8-3.

Semifinals: 46-kg: Nirmala (NCR) bt Ch. Chingali Chanu (Man) 8-8 (Chanu more passive); Reeta (Har) bt Kalshunglni (Nag) fall; 51-kg: Neha Rathi (Har) bt Sinu Jain (NCR) fall; Indu Sharma (Del) bt Anjali Deokar (Mah) fall; 56-kg: Sunita (Har) bt Gurmeet Kaur (Pun) 4-0; Manju Shekhawat (NCR) bt Meena Kumari (Ben) fall; 62-kg: Monika Arya (Del) bt Naresh Kumari (Pun) fall; L. Kiran Chanu (Man) bt Vimla (Raj) fall; 68-kg: Kiran Sihag (Del) bt Sukhvinder (Pun) fall; Geetika Jakhar (Har) bt N. Ranjana Devi (Man) fall; 75-kg: Sonika Kaliraman (Har) w.o Kavita (Raj); Gursharan Kaur (Pun) bt Sudesh (Del) fall.

Team championship: Men's freestyle: 1. Railways 75, 2. Haryana 43, 3. Uttar Pradesh 41; Men's Greco-Roman: 1. Railways 69, 2. Punjab 47, 3. Haryana 42; Women's freestyle: 1. Haryana 53, 2. Delhi 47, 3. Punjab 39.

Predicting a 'bright' tomorrow

IMAGINE this. Either India wins an Olympic wrestling gold or nothing in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

That is, if one believes what the high-profile boss of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), has to say.

You cannot be serious Mr. M. S. Malik.

If the Indian wrestling was in for such a future, in just three years, God help the Russians and the Iranians.

And, if winning an Olympic medal was so ridiculously easy, there are other sports in which India has been beating the world's best unlike in wrestling. Moreover, this is a sport in which, but for the bronze medal by K. D. Jadhav in the 1952 Helsinki Games, we have nothing to boast about.

Having a dream is rational. Everyone fancies it. But, being pragmatic is what one expects from a leader. One hopes Mr. Malik is one. Predicting bright tomorrow for the sport you govern is one thing. Deriding other disciplines is not your job. If the WFI is readying itself for the coming international events, so are the other federations.

Or, were you trying to impress upon the naive villagers of Nidani who flocked in great numbers to witness the senior National wrestling championship. They were there for the sheer pleasure of watching the sport.

Olympic Games are a long way off. First, our wrestlers need to perform better at the continental level. Also, there exists a process of qualification for the Olympics. The past shows that India had meagre representation. In Sydney 2000, it fizzled out without any notice. This year's Asian Games in Pusan should be the first goal. No wonder, Mr. Malik did not mention anything about Pusan. If we struggle even at the Asian ranks, one should be level-headed when speaking of the Olympic class.

At any rate, the kind of fare witnessed at the Nationals, there hardly was one who could make it to the big stage. Railways' Ramesh Kumar did provide some promise, but we will have to wait and see what he delivers.

If Mr. Malik was happy impressing upon his future electorate, his cronies were too eager to lap it up with ludicrous statements. The Nationals was an all-police show with Mr. Malik, the Director General of Police, Haryana, at the helm. So, when the visitors got the taste of high-handedness of the Haryana police, particularly on the opening day when the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr. Om Prakash Chautala, was the chief guest, it was all part of the game.

And, on the final day, one had to undergo a torture of a different kind. What a criminal waste of time it was for those who were interested only in the bouts. The 'show managers' had separated every two finals by lengthy felecitations, of anyone who mattered. Time and again, they trumpeted praises for Mr. Malik. With 11 finals slated for the day and such prolonged breaks in between, the last few bouts extended into overtime. Floodlights were fixed hastily when natural light dimmed with the approaching dusk. Even then, felicitations continued, and a bout was stopped because the announcer had missed out on a few names, who needed to be gifted shawls and wrist watches.

Nevertheless, the crowd had its part of the pie. With such yawning gaps being the order of the day, the television cameramen, covering the championship live, focussed their lenses on the gathering - all eyes anxiously in wait for the next bout to start.