With a week to go for the start of the Commonwealth Games, Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is bullish about Indian wrestlers’ chances, claiming they can win all 12 gold medals on offer across men and women categories. Luck, however, will play its part, Singh added.
In an interview with The Indian Express, the WFI chief talks about the lessons learnt from the Tokyo Olympics, the need to trust Indian coaches and whether he will be keen to take charge of the Indian Olympic Association, which is currently without a permanent president.
Do you think India can win all 12 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games?
In my opinion, our team is the best in the CWG. However, you can’t say we will win all the gold medals because someday, luck also plays a part. For example, what happened with Deepak Punia at the Tokyo Olympics (he lost the bronze medal bout in the final few seconds)… Vinesh Phogat was one of the sure shot medals. But nothing is impossible because we have got a solid contingent.
What is your general assessment after Tokyo Olympics?
I was a tad disappointed with the results of Tokyo. I was expecting four medals, including a gold. We only managed to achieve 50 per cent of our target. Everyone was happy with the two medals but not me. Vinesh not winning a medal was very unfortunate, and from Bajrang (Punia), we were expecting gold but he won a bronze. I was highly optimistic that we’ll have one medal between Deepak and Sonam (Malik). I was sure about Ravi (Dahiya). I feel that Deepak was a bit unlucky, but then again, you can’t blame destiny. It was our fault as well. Deepak not winning the medal is on us. If the foreign coach did not put pressure on him to spar before the bout, the bronze was secured.
After the Olympics, we made few changes. I have taken some tough decisions and was severely criticised for it.
The first significant decision I took right after the Tokyo Games was that we would have trials for the Olympics. We have passed the rule in our the general body meeting. If you have won a quota, it doesn’t mean that you are going to the Olympics.
World Wrestling Championships will be held in September. When will the trials be held?
We will announce the date after CWG. Wrestlers will need some time to recover.
Is there a plan for grooming wrestlers at the junior level too, especially Greco-Roman?
In the Asian cadet and world cadet championship, we finished third in Greco-Roman. We never did well in the style because it was neither in the school games nor in the University games. In India, those who were unable to compete in the freestyle used to take up Greco-Roman. Now, Greco-Roman is in the school games, but the most challenging part was to include it in the University Games. It was a tiring process; it took me two years to get it done. You will see positive results in Greco-Roman. It is improving.
Why are you so rigid about Indian coaches and are against foreign coaches?
We don’t have foreign coaches for so many months now. We are winning medals at the Worlds in men’s and women’s freestyle and even in Greco-Roman. The foreign coaches don’t have the magic wand. Who helped the likes of Sushil, Yogeshwar, and Ravi to win medals? All coaches were Indian. We gave given one special coach to Bajrang, and he returned with a bronze. I am rigid about Indian coaches because they keep them focused. Our athletes need a guardian. I am not entirely against foreign coaches, but I don’t want them at the venue. I am okay with the training and all, but I don’t want them at the venue. If our wrestler wants them, only then it is okay.
What is your problem with private bodies, like OGQ and JSW entering the sport?
That matter is settled now. We had a few conditions. First, the federation doesn’t need a single penny from them, be it JSW or OGQ. Second, the federation and SAI will decide when and where the wrestler will train and who will be their sparring partners, not them . Third, till now, they were only focused on those who are medal contenders; those who have not won medals will be left at the airport. But now we have told them not to look only after our cream wrestlers. We will give them the list based on performances.
From table tennis to football, and hockey, courts are intervening in the functioning of sports bodies. What is your view on it, and if given a chance, would you run for the IOA chief?
There is a sport code for all the federations. I have one question: Committee of Administrators has become a norm nowadays in every federation, but they have never raised a finger towards the WFI, why? The reason is simple: we have followed the government’s guidelines. It is the government that is taking care of our athletes, they are giving us the funds, and we must follow the guidelines provided by the government. There were issue in all these federations; they were not even conducting the elections timely.
To answer your last part of the question, no, I don’t want to become the IOA chief. Mai jahaan hun khush hun. kyunki mai sambhal nahi pauga. Mere bas ka nahi hai (I am happy where I am. I won’t be able to take the extra responsibility).
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