Grapplers happy with Bulgaria training trip

The eight-member squad — five men and three women — had left on June 6 for Bulgaria where it competed with and against the national junior team.

Dutt, who had been struggling with a knee injury for a long time, insisted he was perfectly fit now.   -  PTI

Having departed in less than ideal conditions with a court case involving the country’s most celebrated wrestler still undecided, India’s Olympics-qualified grapplers returned home in the early hours of Wednesday after a 15-day camp in Bulgaria as part of their preparations for Rio.

The eight-member squad — five men and three women — had left on June 6 for Bulgaria where it competed with and against the national junior team. And while it was not the first choice destination for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), the coach and wrestlers insist it was better than grappling amongst themselves at home.

“The best thing about the tour was that we managed to train in cooler climes which helped. It is so hot and humid here that even air-conditioned rooms would not have helped. Their junior squad is also very good so the practice we got for our wrestlers was very helpful,” chief coach Jagminder Singh told Sportstar on return.

However, there would be no break for the wrestlers who proceeded directly to the SAI training centre in Sonepat (the women would be training in Lucknow) from the airport. “Olympics is less than 45 days away, there is not a day to waste. The morning session was not held, obviously, because we came back only today but the evening session would be held,” Jagminder added.

Yogeshwar Dutt, the lone Olympic medallist among those who have qualified for Rio, agreed. “Weather plays a big part in training. The fact that we practised in a hilly centre made a lot of difference and staying away from any distractions, helped us concentrate fully on preparing for the Olympics,” Dutt told Sportstar.

Dutt, who had been struggling with a knee injury for a long time, insisted he was perfectly fit now. Though he agreed that the Bulgarian juniors were not ideal opposition, the Indians found a way out as well.

“We practiced with those in 70kg or 74kg. That helped us get good training in terms of competition. In any case, what matters is how much you practice and the intensity of it. That was very good during the 15-day camp,” Dutt, who participates in the 65kg category, added.

It may be recalled that the WFI’s first choice of venue for training had been Belarus, a country which wrestlers such as Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar visited before the London Olympics and credited their success to. However, this time around, the Belarus federation had refused permission saying their own Rio-bound wrestlers were training elsewhere.

The second choice venue, Poland, was ruled out due to delayed visa formalities and even the main Bulgarian squad of 11 has been training out of the country, leaving only the juniors as sparring partners for Indian wrestlers.