In a bid to keep grapplers, coaches and other officials safe from Covid-19, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) will conduct its National Championships in three cities over three weekends in January and February, its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said.
While the dates are yet to be finalised, the WFI said it expects wrestlers from all states to take part in the championships, which will be held in Noida, Agra and a yet-to-be-decided venue in Punjab. Strict Covid-19 protocols will be in place and the wrestlers, along with their entourages, will have to undergo RT-PCR tests before being allowed to take part.
If the event goes ahead as planned, wrestling will be the first major sport to conduct its national championships since the outbreak of the pandemic. Sailing is the only sport so far to have held its nationals – in Mumbai last month. The Athletics Federation of India had considered organising the National Throws Championship in October, but could not do so because of pandemic-forced restrictions.
“It is important to begin our activities. The qualification tournaments for the Olympics will start soon and for that, we need to make sure our wrestlers are in top condition,” Singh said. “Each state is allowed to send just one wrestler in each category. Holding the championships in three cities will ensure there is no over-crowding at one venue.”
The men’s freestyle championship is scheduled in Noida, while the women’s event will be conducted in Agra. The Greco-Roman category will be held in Punjab. “We will finalise the dates and the third venue in a day or two,” Singh said.
Yadav set to return
Dope-tainted wrestler Narsingh Yadav will compete for the first time in four years on Wednesday when he takes on Germany’s Osman Kubilay Cakici in a 74kg bout of the World Cup in Belgrade. Yadav was suspended for four years for failing a dope test prior to the Rio Olympics.
Yadav’s return to the mat is being keenly watched as India is yet to seal a quota for the Tokyo Olympics in this weight category. If he does well, it would open up a three-way fight between him, his nemesis Sushil Kumar and Jitender Kumar, who has competed in the 74kg category in their absence.
2019 World Championship bronze medallist Ravi Dahiya, too, will be in the fray on Wednesday. Dahiya mayt get a chance to avenge his defeat to world champion Zavur Uguev in the semifinals of the World Championship last year. Dahiya and Uguev are drawn in different brackets and will face each other only if they reach the final.
Indian wrestlers have had a disappointing run so far at the World Cup. After the Greco-Roman wrestlers flopped, the women too have struggled in what is their first tournament since February.
Top wrestling nations like USA, China, Cuba, Japan and Kazakhstan have skipped the tournament. India, too, are without some of their top wrestlers – including Vinesh Phogat (53kg category), Divya Kakran (68kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Jitender (74kg).