Indian wrestler Anshu Malik on Thursday threw her weight behind the junior wrestlers protesting against the exemption of Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia from the Asian Games selection trials.
“An athlete’s biggest dream is to play for the country in the Olympics and Asian Games by winning medals and making the countrymen proud. But what if the rights of those players are killed?” she wrote on Twitter.
“The demand for selection trials (for the Asian Games) by junior players is absolutely correct, and it is their right. I support the demand of the junior wrestlers.”
Anshu won the silver medal in the women’s 57 kg event at the 2021 World Wrestling Championships, becoming the first Indian female wrestler to achieve the feat.
Several wrestlers, including reigning U20 World Champion Antim Panghal, have raised questions about the ‘unfair’ selection trial exemption.
Vinesh (53kg) and Bajrang (65kg) were exempted from the selection trials for the 2022 Asian Games by the Indian Olympic Association’s ad hoc committee on Tuesday, while other wrestlers will have to book their places through selection trials on July 22 and 23.
Panghal, who is a silver medallist from the senior Asian Championship and competes in the same weight category as Vinesh, recalled a similar incident from the Commonwealth Games trials last year.
“Even in the Commonwealth Games trial, I had a 3-3 bout with her. Then, too, I was cheated. I said, ‘koi nahin (it’s okay), I will try to qualify for the Olympics by going to the (Hangzhou) Asian Games’. But now they are saying they will send Vinesh. This is not done,” said Panghal in a video circulated on social media.
Panghal and Ranking Series gold medallist and Asian under-23 champion Sujeet Kalkal moved the Delhi High Court demanding fair trials. The case will come up for hearing today.
Many junior wrestlers, their parents and coaches reached the IOA headquarters on Thursday, demanding the withdrawal of exemption granted to Vinesh and Bajrang, a day after their protest in Haryana’s Hisar.
Around 150 people, including family members of the wrestlers, are seeking a meeting with IOA President P T Usha and ad-hoc panel chief Bhupender Singh Bajwa.
“All we want is a meeting with IOA top brass. We will not accept any biased decision. This is wrong. We are here to request the panel to withdraw exemption granted to Bajrang and Vinesh,” Vikas Bhardhwaj, the coach of promising Antim Panghal, told PTI.
However, Antim and Sujeet were not present at the IOA Bhawan.
(With inputs from PTI)
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