The battle for the men’s freestyle 74kg weight spot in the Olympics between Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav has become so intense that it has reached the doorstep of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
With the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) not showing any interest in holding a trial between two-time Olympic medallist Sushil and Olympic quota place winner Narsingh, Sushil on Friday reiterated his demand, on twitter, for a trial by tagging Mr. Modi and Union Sports Minister Sarbananada Sonowal.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the Sports Minister, with copies marked to the Prime Minister and the WFI, Sushil has requested for a trial. The WFI has called for a meeting early next week to take a decision on the issue.
“Forget about my two Olympics medals, World champion belt and many other medals for India. All I am asking is a fair trial and let the best man go,” tweeted Sushil, while launching ‘#justice4sushil’.
Referring to the assertion of some WFI officials that traditionally, the federation had been sending the quota-place winning athletes to the Olympics, Sushil asked, “Kahan gayi thi parampara jab 1996 mein Kaka Pawar aur Pappu Yadav ke beech trial hua tha?” (Where was the tradition when there was a trial (48kg Greco-Roman) between Kaka Pawar and Pappu Yadav for the 1996 Olympics)?”
In 2004, the fight between Kripa Shankar Patel and Yogeshwar Dutt for a freestyle featherweight slot had reached the court of law and the judgement had allowed Yogeshwar, who had won the quota place and was fit, to participate in the Olympics.
In a video message, Sushil also said, “I need your support and blessings so that I do well in the Rio Olympics.
“I demand that my trial be held so that I can win another medal for the country in the Olympics.”
For the Olympics, each country has to go through different qualifying tournaments in order to win quota places. In wrestling, each nation can win only one quota place in every weight class. India has won eight out of a maximum of 18 available spots and this will be the biggest ever wrestling squad from the country in the mega event.
Narsingh earned the first quota place for the country in wrestling by winning a bronze medal in the Las Vegas World championship (which was a qualifying tournament) last year.
Since the quota place belongs to the country and not the individual athlete, Sushil, who could not compete in Las Vegas due to a shoulder injury, has been demanding a trial between himself and Narsingh.
On the other hand, Narsingh has been unwavering in his claim that since he had bagged the quota place, he should be allowed to go the Olympics.
Sushil, who won all his three big medals in 66kg weight, had to shift to a higher 74kg weight for the Olympics, following a shuffle in the weight division by the international federation, United World Wrestling (UWW).
After switching to the new weight, Sushil has won only the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal, avoiding most competitions and selection trials since, owing to a recurring injury.
WFI is reluctant to hold the trial because it feels it would be unfair to Narsingh and may lead to an undesirable situation where some aspiring wrestlers could request for trials in other weight categories.
With the Sports Minister ruling out any interference in the federation’s affairs, the ball now is in WFI’s court. Since Sushil and his mentor and father-in-law Satpal are well-connected and the Mumbai-based Narsingh, sponsored by the Sajjan Jindal group’s JSW, has drawn a lot of sympathy from some well-known personalities of Maharashtra, the tug-of-war between them has escalated beyond the wrestling mat.
WFI indeed has a vexing issue at hand.
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