The signs are encouraging

A fine effort...India's Sushil Kumar (centre) celebrates after winning the gold in the 66kg freestyle.-PTI A fine effort...India's Sushil Kumar (centre) celebrates after winning the gold in the 66kg freestyle.

The Asian Championship gave indications of what to expect from the Indian wrestlers in the major upcoming meets. It served as a precursor to the Asian Games (in November) than the Commonwealth Games (in October) as the competition would be much tougher in the continental extravaganza, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

India's steady progress in international wrestling has been encouraging. The nation's showing in the Asian Championship in New Delhi recently was a proof of that. Despite fielding a weakened squad owing to injuries to several of its top wrestlers, the host returned one of its best performances in the elite event.

The overall tally of two gold, one silver and four bronze medals spoke a lot about India's ability. Further, the fact that all seven Indian wrestlers in Greco-Roman finished inside the top five and the host ended up in the third spot underlined the country's improvement in the style.

India took the fifth spot in freestyle and women's competitions.

In freestyle, the unheralded Narsingh Yadav, who had replaced injured World Championship medal winner Ramesh Kumar, announced his arrival by claiming the first gold medal for the host.

Champion stuff. Narsingh Yadav (red) grapples with Saeed Riahi of Iran in the final of the 74kg freestyle. He won the bout for India's first gold medal of the competition.-- SANDEEP SAXENA

Ramesh was a bronze medallist in the previous edition of the championship, held in Pattaya (Thailand), and his absence was viewed as a big setback to India's prospects. However, the chief coach, Jagminder Singh, was confident about Narsingh's capability.

The young Mumbai wrestler, who had won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Championship in Jalandhar in December last year, banked on his grit to corner glory.

“This is the biggest achievement of my career so far. It has boosted my confidence,” Narsingh said.

For Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar it was an occasion to prove a point. In Pattaya Sushil had been disqualified for being slightly overweight and was censured by the Union Sports Ministry for his negligence. But this time, Sushil's performance was flawless. Exhibiting his swift movement, neat techniques and extraordinary counterattacks, the Delhi grappler bagged his first-ever Asian title.

India's Alka Tomar (blue) in action against Kazakhstan's Miruert Dynbayeva in the women's 60kg freestyle. Alka won the bronze.-- PTI

“I am very happy to have won this medal. Last time, I had overweighed by only 400gm and was pulled up for that,” said Sushil, heaving a sigh of relief.

World Championship medallist Alka Tomar had to blame herself as she committed a mistake to miss out on a berth in the final. However, she managed to retain her bronze medal which would inspire her to do better in the forthcoming major meets.

Among the Greco-Roman wrestlers, Ravinder Singh's bronze was the most hard-earned one. He defeated a former World Cup medallist Mohammadreza Ghazei of Iran on way to the semifinals, but lost to Doha Asian Games gold winner Sheng Jiang of China before emerging successful in the repechage round.

Although the overall scene was encouraging, there were a few areas of concern. According to coach P. R. Sondhi, the women wrestlers need to train harder and compete in more events in order to be successful in bigger meets.

In Greco-Roman competitions, the home wrestlers belonging to heavier weight categories were not up to the mark. Their defence appeared fragile, admitted coach Hargobind Singh. “We have to work on some technical aspects and must improve a few things if we want better results,” he said. However, the Asian Championship gave indications of what to expect from the Indian wrestlers in the major upcoming meets. It served as a precursor to the Asian Games (in November) than the Commonwealth Games (in October) as the competition would be much tougher in the continental extravaganza.

One of the strongest nations in the sport, Iran had sent a mixed team and it maintained its stronghold in freestyle. South Korea dominated the Greco-Roman competitions, while China, in the absence of a full-fledged Japanese squad, claimed the majority of the top honours in the women's section.

Other prominent countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia also showed that they would not be pushovers in the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

The Results

Men's freestyle — 55kg: 1. Shinichi Yumoto (Japan), 2. Nasibu Kurbanov (Uzb), 3. Woo-Joo Lee (Korea), Kyong-Il Yang (PRK). 60kg: 1. Masoud Esmaeilpoor (Iri), 2. Shogo Maeda (Japan), 3. Seung-Chul Lee (Korea), Dauren Zhumagazyyev (Kaz). 66kg : 1. Sushil Kumar (India), 2. Dae Sung Kim (Korea), 3. Ikhtiyor Navrujov (Uzb), Unurat Purebjav (Mgl). 74kg: 1. Narsingh Yadav (India), 2. Saeed Riahi (Iri), 3. Seifaddin Osmonov (Kaz), Yun-Seok Lee (Korea). 84kg: 1. Ehsan Lashgari (Iri), 2. Semyon Semyonov (Kaz), 3. Shinya Matsumoto (Japan), Feng Zhang (China). 96kg: 1. Reza Yazdani (Iri), 2. Nurzhan Kataev (Kaz), 3. Takao Isokawa (Japan), Jae-Gang Kim (Korea). 120kg: 1. Marid Mutalimov (Kaz), 2. Chluunbat Jargalsaikhan (Mgl), 3. S.M. Azarshakib (Iri), Aiaal Razarev (Kgz).

Women's freestyle — 48kg: 1. Shasha Zhao (China), 2. Fuyuko Mimura (Japan), 3. Sim Hyang So (PRK), Thi Lua Nguyen (Vie). 51kg: 1. Hui Li (China), 2. Zhuldyz Turtabayeva (Kaz), 3. Hiromi Sakurai (Japan), Kum-Ok Han (PRK). 55kg: 1. Senlian Yang (China), 2. Chikako Matsukawa (Japan), 3. Hungyong Choe (PRK), S. Byambatseren (Mgl). 59kg: 1. Fengming Liu (China), 2. S. Battsetseg (Mgl), 3. Yurika Ito (Japan), Alka Tomar (India). 63kg: 1. Sang-Eun Park (Korea), 2. Haili Cui (China), 3. Suman Kundu (India), Seiko Nagashima (Japan). 67kg: 1. Chiaki Iijima (Japan), 2. B. Oyunsuren (Mgl), 3. Olga Zhanibekova (Kaz), Ying Chen (China). 72kg: 1. Guzel Manyurova (Kaz), 2. Naranchimeg Gelegjamts (Mgl), 3. Yoshiko Inoue (Japan), Dan Li (China).

Greco-Roman — 55kg: 1. Gyu-Jin Choi (Korea), 2. Rajender Kumar (Ind), 3. Marat Garipov (Kaz), Z. Kanybek (Kgz). 60kg: 1. Jiang Sheng (China), 2. Seung-Jae Woo (Korea), 3. Ravinder Singh (India), Sanjarbek Jumashev (Uzb). 66kg: 1. Hyeon-Woo Kim (Korea), 2. Aibek Yensekhanov (Kaz), 3. Sunil Kumar Rana (India), Pengfei Yan (China). 74kg: 1. Jin-Sung Park (Korea), 2. Renmandula Sa (China), 3. Mehdi Mohammadi (Iri), M. Vsevolod (Uzb). 84kg: 1. Se-Yeol Lee (Korea), 2. Norikatsu Saikawa (Japan), 3. Davod Mohammad Chadorchi (Iri), Janarbek Kenjeev (Kgz). 96kg: 1. Babak Ghorbani Goldasteh (Iri), 2. Ningchao Zhai (China), 3. Numinjon Abdullaev (Uzb), Margulan Assembekov (Kaz). 120kg: 1. Mohammad Goldasteh (Iri), 2. Hani Salah Almarafy (Jor), 3. Deli Liu (China), Murodjon Tuychiev (Tjk).

In the name of security

Chaos reigned at the Asian Championship which served as a ‘test' event for the Commonwealth Games. Till the eve of the competition, the venue — the newly-built wrestling stadium at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex — was easily accessible. But the Delhi Police woke up the next day and made life miserable for everybody on the pretext of security.

The media, officials of the International Wrestling Federation (FILA), people assigned to various important duties, athletes and coaches faced problems in carrying out their jobs.

The poorly briefed police personnel had objections to almost everything. Initially, they had a problem with mediapersons carrying laptops and other essential equipment inside the stadium for the coverage of the event. Because of this, the Doordarshan officials could not telecast the wrestling bouts for a few hours on the opening day.

The journalists were not allowed to go to the ‘mixed zone' to talk to the athletes and coaches. The photographers had to carry out their duty from the stands even though a platform had been erected for them to shoot pictures from a close range.

The President of FILA, Raphael Martinetti, had a taste of the ‘stringent' security measures as he was reportedly prevented from reaching an exit gate despite having an ‘all area' accreditation card.

The Wrestling Federation of India President G. S. Mander was angry and helpless as such mindless security measures only did a disservice to the sport.

Things improved in the last couple of days after a lot of effort by the people organising the show.

Such chaos has been commonplace in nearly all the ‘test' events for the Commonwealth Games. It is clear that the agencies responsible for the smooth conduct of the competitions have not learnt anything from their mistakes. That paints a bleak picture of things to come during the Commonwealth Games.