Updated: August 21, 2021 7:25:42 pm
In what could turn out to be a tricky scenario for Tokyo Olympics medal-winning wrestlers Ravi Dahiya and Bajrang Punia as well as other top wrestlers like Vinesh Phogat, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has warned players who are associated with private, not-for-profit companies that they will not be considered for selection going ahead.
Singh, a BJP MP from UP, also came down heavily on the government for dealing directly with athletes under its flagship Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). He has demanded a bigger say in the planning for the Paris Olympics.
India has won six medals in wrestling at four consecutive Olympics, starting 2008, including two earlier this month in Tokyo. Dahiya, who competed in the 57-kg weight class, won a silver medal while Punia clinched bronze in the 65-kg category.
However, for both these wrestlers, and several others, the road to Paris could get complicated after Singh said he no longer required the services of private bodies like the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) and JSW Sports, who have been supporting Dahiya and Punia respectively.
Singh alleged OGQ and JSW had “spoiled three wrestlers” although he refused to name them and elaborate how.
“We don’t need OGQ and JSW. My biggest problem is they don’t inform me regarding the planning of an athlete and who they are sending as a wrestler’s sparring partner for training stints abroad,” Singh told The Indian Express.
Asked what will happen to the wrestlers associated with these bodies, Singh said: “Bilkul nahi khelne doonga (Won’t allow them to play).” He added: “Even I am giving Ravi Rs 1 lakh per month. From how many places will you take money? We are ready to give you everything. If they still want to be involved, they should share a copy of their agreement with the players and factor in our views… They can support junior and cadet wrestlers who actually need support.”
The OGQ supports 32 wrestlers, including 23 who are in the age group 13 to 19 years. The JSW, too, supports close to a dozen wrestlers and almost half of them train at their facility in Vijayanagar, Inspire Institute of Sport, where the WFI conducted its junior national championship this year.
Singh said the wrestlers communicated with the government directly through these agencies and kept the federation out of the loop regarding their planning.
“Bajrang and Vinesh (Phogat) are two very senior wrestlers. Their ranking was first-class going into the Olympics. So they thought a certain plan was better for their future, they told TOPS, who then told us,” he said. “It has never happened that Vinesh approached the federation. This is my allegation against TOPS. They are directly overseeing issues like where the athlete should go for training.”
The Indian Express, however, has seen multiple emails sent by the wrestlers to the federation’s official ID, in which details of their training programmes have been explicitly mentioned. Asked about it, Singh said the WFI “never” received any such email.
In a statement, OGQ said they had a robust junior program and were not claiming undue credit while adding that Vinesh had sent multiple emails to the federation. “To our knowledge, several emails were sent in the last 10 months by Vinesh herself to WFI and TOPS. These emails had detailed information on the training plans for Tokyo, the coach and support staff and sparring partners for Vinesh,” the statement said.
“Finally, in the same spirit of teamwork and cooperation mentioned earlier, we sent a proposal to WFI on 24th March 2021 to work on 3 main aspects — Junior and Cadet wrestlers for the long term, keeping Los Angeles 2028 Olympics in mind, Sports science and Coaches,” it stated.
The JSW Sports declined to comment on Singh’s remarks.
Singh also said he wanted to set an example of Vinesh, who has been show-caused and provisionally banned for allegedly refusing to stay with the rest of the Indian wrestlers in Tokyo and not wearing the official team jersey for her competition.
In her reply, Vinesh rejected the allegation that she did not want to share a room with the Indian team, but accepted her mistake in wearing a different singlet for her bout.
Singh claimed he had to answer an International Olympic Committee panel after Vinesh did not wear the official team gear although it was not a formal hearing.
“She is senior enough to understand there is a proper costume for every tournament. We have to look at other wrestlers too. India’s wrestling isn’t dependent on one wrestler. We have to make sure no one makes such mistakes in the future,” he said.
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