Bhanwala to be first Indian wrestling referee at Olympics

Ashok Kumar Bhanwala, a Category 1S referee and jury member on the United World Wrestling (UWW) panel, has made the final list of 50 referees following several rounds of screening to conduct bouts in the Rio Olympics.

Ashok Kumar Bhanwala started officiating bouts in 2006.   -  Special Arrangement

Forty-nine-year-old Ashok Kumar Bhanwala, who is all set to be the first ever Indian to officiate wrestling bouts in the Olympics, is banking on his confidence to do a good job in the mega event.

Bhanwala, a Category 1S referee and jury member on the United World Wrestling (UWW) panel, has made the final list of 50 referees following several rounds of screening to conduct bouts in the Rio Olympics. Only 10 from Asia have made the cut.

An Air Force coach, Bhanwala started officiating bouts in 2006 and improved his performance to conduct fights in the Asian championships, the World championships and other elite events.

“I used to watch videos of all available bouts keenly and get a lot of ideas. When I got a chance to work as a competition director in domestic events, I worked hard to get familiar with all the rules and regulations,” Bhanwala told Sportstar.

So, how does he decide on close calls?

“It is not as complex as it is made out to be. Rather, it is very simple. You have to have the clarity – either there is a point or there is no point, either it is a two or a four. Experience helps one make quick decisions. I may make errors but I try not to make mistakes or minimise them.”

For Bhanwala, criticism from wrestlers and coaches is part of the job. “You have to deal with it. If there is self-satisfaction, you need not bother too much. It is difficult to console a losing wrestler. In body contact sports, people normally do not accept defeat.”

Apart from officiating, Bhanwala also draws a lot of satisfaction from coaching wrestlers employed with the Air Force. “Air Force has been backing wrestlers well. It has helped me and it has been supporting others. I love coaching young ones and we have produced national and international medallists including Rajneesh, Deepak, Narender, Anil, Bheem, Sandeep and Harful.”

Bhanwala wants to continue with both the jobs. “Coaching also helps me in officiating,” he signed off.

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