“The government is committed to facilitating the participation of Vinesh for the ranking series in view of her willingness to return to competition,” said a SAI official.
Vinesh, who had requested the government to take part in the competition, last participated internationally at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG) in July-August last year, where she had clinched a hat-trick of gold medals.
Vinesh’s entry in the women’s 53kg division – along with her coach Sudesh and physio Ashwini Patil – was sent to the organisers of the Budapest meet on Tuesday evening by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA)-nominated ad-hoc body, which has been running the WFI post the dissolution of its executive council (EC) by the sports ministry in April. The tournament carries valuable ranking points to qualify for the World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade from September 16 to 24, a Paris Olympics qualifier.
Vinesh will be the only participant from India at the tournament, as no other men and women freestyle and greco-roman wrestlers expressed their interest to travel for it. It’s been learnt that the wrestlers are busy preparing for the selection trials for the upcoming Asian Games in China’s Hangzhou and Belgrade Worlds.
The ad-hoc body spoke to wrestlers who had participated in the previous three ranking series in Zagreb, Alexandria and Bishkek respectively, but none showed willingness to compete in Budapest. The ad-hoc body did not conduct the selection trials for the fourth ranking series and the initial plan was to skip sending entries of Indian wrestlers for the meet.
However, Vinesh sent an email to SAI on June 13 – the last date for sending names – saying she wanted to participate in the Budapest ranking series. The SAI communicated this issue to the two-member ad-hoc body and requested the committee to seek an extension from UWW for sending her entry. The ad-hoc body wrote to the organisers and they agreed to make a special exemption for India by extending the date of sending entries till June 20.
It’s been learnt that Bhupendra Singh Bajwa, one of the ad hoc committee members, held a meeting with the officials of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) about the squad composition on Tuesday evening, following which it was decided to send only Vinesh’s entry.
Since it was Vinesh, a reigning CWG and Asian Games champion, who had herself expressed a wish to return to the competition arena by directly submitting the proposal to TOPS, the ad-hoc body thought it was prudent to forward her name to the organisers.
Vinesh was eligible for direct entry into the competition since she was a medallist at the World Championships held last year in Belgrade.
Meanwhile, it’s been learnt the other group of protesting wrestlers, led by Bajrang Punia and Sakshee Malikkh, have started training separately for the Asiad and World Championships trials, along with their sparring partners.
While Bajrang has been training at the SAI’s regional centre in Sonepat since last Saturday, Sakshee and her husband Satyawart Kadian have been practising at the Karnail Singh stadium here. The wrestlers have been out of practice for months. Some haven’t competed since the World Championships in September last year while some competed internationally as far back as Birmingham CWG in August.