Lalit Kumar: Hoping for at least two wrestling medals from Paris

The lack of national tournaments is posing challenges for junior wrestlers. The effective functioning of our federation is crucial this year.

Published : Jan 22, 2024 10:04 IST - 3 MINS READ

Breakout talent: India’s Antim Panghal has taken the world of wrestling by storm in the last couple of years.
Breakout talent: India’s Antim Panghal has taken the world of wrestling by storm in the last couple of years. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI

Breakout talent: India’s Antim Panghal has taken the world of wrestling by storm in the last couple of years. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI

As we go into an Olympic year, the focus for most people will indeed be the Paris Games. Although 2023 was a difficult year, I am confident that our players will not only qualify [for the Paris Games] but also do well. We can aim for two medals, and with a stroke of luck, even secure three.

The best chance for a medal will come from Antim Panghal in the women’s 53kg category. It is a tough weight section, but Antim has always performed wherever she competed. She won a bronze in the Worlds in 2023. The World Championships before an Olympic year is always considered the toughest tournament, and Antim nearly made the finals. I was there in Belgrade, and I remember how upset she was after she lost the semifinals. I was telling her not to cry and that better things would come for her. I think this will be at the Olympics. The other weight I am confident about is the men’s 57kg category. Right now, there are two wrestlers who both have a strong chance of going to the Olympics. Ravi (Dahiya) won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and is now returning to the mat after a tough year. He underwent major knee surgery last year, which is a significant setback for any athlete. After taking some time to train in the USA, he is planning to participate in a local competition in the USA, followed by a small tournament in France. He has been out of competition for a while, so participating in more competitions will improve his performance. However, I believe his recovery is progressing well.

We also have another very strong wrestler in Aman Sehrawat. Aman was unlucky at the Asian Games last year. But he is in very good form. He needed to gain experience at the elite level, especially considering he’s only 20 years old. Ravi and Aman are talented, and it’s hard to say who will win when they compete with each other. It will be a tough match, for sure. It’s one of those matches where the result depends on who has a better day. At the same time, I am a little less nervous than I would be because both are my students at Chhatrasal Stadium. I am happy because whoever goes to the Olympics will bring credit to the Academy.

We also shouldn’t forget about Deepak Punia. He missed a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics by just a few seconds. It’s something that has troubled him. I know how hard he is working. His weight is very tough at the world level, but I can see how motivated he is. I won’t be surprised if he overcomes the mistake that hurt him so much in Tokyo.

While everyone is looking at the Olympics, I also hope something is done about conducting national tournaments. The junior players are suffering because they don’t have anything to prepare for. I know the players will perform well at the Olympics, but I also hope that our federation can start functioning this year.

As told to Jonathan Selvaraj

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