Before they grapple on the mat, Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav will have to endure an ugly bout in court. Their face-off reached its expected destination on Monday after the two-time Olympic medallist moved the Delhi High Court, seeking a trial against Narsingh to decide who among them gets to represent the country at the Rio Olympics.
While insisting that they are “ashamed” of the step they have been “forced” to take, Sushil’s coach and father-in-law Satpal Singh said they were left with no other option but to approach the court after virtually all doors were slammed in their faces in the last 10 days.
Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) assistant secretary Vinod Tomar confirmed that they have received a court notice.
Kumar’s plea, scheduled to be heard on Tuesday before the bench of Justice Manmohan, states that under the Sports Code rules, a berth to compete in the Olympics belongs to the country and not a particular wrestler, and a trial is compulsory for selection, in this case for the 74 kg men’s freestyle event at the Olympics.
Narsingh claims that he is the man in form and since he has won the quota, he should be allowed to participate in the Olympics. The WFI, too, has maintained so far that they will stick to the tradition of sending the quota winner to the Olympics.
Kumar had not been able to participate in the 2015 world championships as he was unwell. Yadav had represented India at the championships and secured the berth for the Olympics.
“Narsingh Yadav won a bronze medal in the world championship 2015 and secured a berth for the country. It is not necessary that the person who secured the berth would be the same athlete who would participate in the Olympics. We are not saying that Sushil Kumar should be sent for the event, we are only saying that proper trials need to be held,” said Kaushik Moitra, an advocate with TMT Law firm, which is representing Kumar.
“The sports code requires separate trials to be conducted for every international event,” says the plea.
Sushil’s move comes after the government decided not to intervene in the matter. His PR machinery, too, has gone into an overdrive, launching social media campaigns with ‘Support for Sushil’ messages. He also wrote a letter to the Sports Ministry last week, requesting that they ask the WFI to conduct trials, but Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal refused to be dragged into the matter. “WFI is an autonomous body and we cannot interfere in their selection matters. They have their rules according to which they select their teams,” Sonowal said.
The national camp for the Olympics, which begin on August 5, gets underway at the Sports Authority of India centre in Sonepat on Wednesday and only quota winners have been called along with sparring partners of their choice. Running out of options as well as time, approaching the High Court was Sushil’s last resort.
“We are ashamed that the issue had to go this far, but we were left with no other option,” Satpal said. “All Sushil has been asking for is a trial, which is the best and fairest way to decide who goes to the Olympics. We are not against Narsingh; he has done well to win the quota. This is about fairness.”
This is not the first time the WFI has been dragged to court over team selection for the Olympics. In 2004, Kripa Shankar Patel had moved the Delhi High Court after Yogeshwar Dutt, who had won the quota, was named in the Athens-bound squad at his expense. The court had ruled in favour of WFI, saying that the wrestler who has won the quota should be allowed to go unless he is unfit or out of form.
The WFI office bearers and national coaches are scheduled to meet on Tuesday. Although the meeting is to decide the fate of wrestlers who have been accused of indiscipline during the Olympic qualifiers, speculation is rife that they could also take a decision on conducting trials. However, sources said that with the issue being sub judice, they are likely to wait for the court order rather than deciding themselves.
The Olympics has 18 wrestling events, out of which India has secured berths to participate in eight. According to the rules, only one athlete per country can participate in one event.