Omitted from the Target Olympic Podium Scheme, India’s Olympic medal winning wrestlers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt gracefully accepted the move, saying there was no point taking funds from the government when they are out of action. Besides Sushil and Yogeshwar, the famous Phogat sisters — Geeta and Babita — faced the axe too.
“I think it is a right decision. My name should have been removed from the list since I am not in action. If I am not contributing on the mat, why should I be a part of any funding,” Sushil told PTI.
“I don’t want to take anything from anyone when I am not playing. I am a very satisfied person and I am absolutely fine with the move,” India’s lone double Olympic medallist added.
While Sushil was not a part of the Indian squad at the Rio Games last year following a snub by the WFI, Yogeshwar, who bowed out in the first round, had already made it clear that Rio was his last Olympics. So, their exclusion from the list hardly came as a surprise.
“I agree with the decision. There is nothing wrong with it. I had already conveyed that Rio was my last Olympics, so chances of including my name in TOPS do not arise in any case.
“The government must give the funds to those kids who need it at this stage of their careers,” London Olympics bronze medal winner Yogeshwar said.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) have sent a revised list of grapplers to the Sports Ministry for funding under the TOPS, with an eye on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Apart from the stalwarts of Indian wrestling, the list also does not have the likes of Rahul Aware, Amit Dahiya and Praveen Rana, all of whom figured in the original list, made in 2015-16, ahead of the Rio Olympics.
Keeping the future in mind, WFI has included names such as Sandeep Tomar (men’s 57kg), Bajrang Punia (men’s 65kg), Jitendra (men’s 74kg), Ritu Phogat (women’s 45kg), Vinesh Phogat (women’s 48kg), Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (women’s 58kg) for the TOPS funding. Sakshi, Vinesh and Bajrang figured in the original list of 2015-16 also.
Although Sakshi has been included, some doubts have emerged over her continuation in the sport after her marriage.
Sushil, who has become a national observer, said he has accepted the role of observer since he is currently not active on the mat.
“Since I am not playing at the moment, I have accepted the job of national observer and I feel I can contribute to the young wrestlers’ growth by performing this role. But that does not mean I would not play again. Till the time, I decide to take the mat again, I would handle this role,” said Sushil.
Although Geeta, 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Babita, 2014 Commonwealth Games gold winner, are still competing, their form off late have not been encouraging.
Geeta has not participated in tournaments regularly, while Babita has had injury issues in recent times. Both the sisters hardly fought during the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) earlier this year, citing injuries.
When asked about WFI’s move to exclude her and Geeta from the TOPS list, a visibly upset Babita said that she had no information about the omission.
“I don’t want to comment on it because I do not have any information about it,” Babita said.
WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said the list was prepared by the national coaches with an eye on 2020 Tokyo.
“The coaches, who have been closely observing the wrestlers in the national camps and in the tournaments, have approved the list for the TOPs funding and have chosen only those who they felt are medal prospects for India at the Tokyo Games,” Tomar said.
“But there is still three years to go and the list might be updated depending on the performances of the wrestler and the injuries they face,” he added.
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