The Delhi High Court is expected to announce its verdict in the Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav saga on Wednesday, bringing curtains down on a long winded and ugly episode that has not only tarnished the image of Indian wrestling, but also severely impacted the preparations of the wrestlers ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With barely two months left for the Olympic Games, this is the time athletes should be focusing on their training. Instead, India’s wrestling medal prospects are making the rounds of a courtroom, attacking legal complexities instead of grappling opponents. A report in the New Indian Express has said the athletes were scheduled to be in Poland and Bulgaria to utilise the superior training facilities there. However, the wrestlers are still to depart Indian shores, which means they are already behind schedule, even before things could begin.
According to the report, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is awaiting an acceptance letter from the officials in Bulgaria, without which the grapplers cannot go there. And though there has been a verbal confirmation, the written consent is required.
The WFI also had plans of fielding the wrestlers in the Poland Cup, to be held between 17 and 19 June. WFI office bearers have insisted that despite the delay in the pre-tournament camp and the ensuing delay in the wrestlers’ preparations, they wouldn’t miss the competition.
The officials also denied that the delay is taking place because of the court trial. “We are expecting the letter and once we get it, we would approach the sports ministry and the Polish embassy for clearance and visa. The ministry has always been supportive of our plans and there is no merit in the allegations that the ministry is delaying their consent due to the Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav controversy,” said a senior office-bearer of WFI.
Sushil Kumar, the two-time Olympic medalist, had participated in the 66-kg division, but the category was abolished by the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) in 2014. This prompted him to move up to the 74-kg weight category, which brought him into direct competition with Narsingh Yadav, who was the top Indian wrestler in this class till then.
Sushil, 32, missed the qualification for Rio Olympics due to injury, and Narsingh Yadav was able to secure the berth for representing the country. But after repeatedly requesting the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for holding trials anew and being denied time and again, Sushil Kumar moved the court for relief.
However, it has been argued that holding a trial at such a late stage would be counter-productive as both athletes would be worn out by the strain of a wrestling bout. They wouldn’t get adequate time for recovery and India’s medal chances at Rio would be severely impacted. For the proposed trial, they will have to touch the scale at 74-kg. It is no secret that the proposed trial will be a bloodbath between Sushil and Yadav. Peaking for it and then going back to training mode before peaking again for Rio will be suicidal and end of the medal hunt for either wrestler.
All parties would currently be praying the Delhi High Court announces a verdict on Wednesday, one way or the other. It has become plainly clear nobody can afford another adjournment.