Sunday, October 5, 2008

High Hopes

Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President G S Mander says they will not settle for anything less than seven gold medals at the upcoming Games

Suhrid Barua , Pune Mirror, October 5, 2008

Pune: The flash bulbs and the shutterbugs may be running after the cricketers or to some extent the Sania Mirzas or Saina Nehwals. But make no mistake, they would now even carve out space for hitherto less popular sport like wrestling in the backdrop of Sushil Kumar’s winning India’s first wrestling medal in Olympics after a long hiatus of 56 years. Fully realising the importance of cashing in on the momentum the sport has got from Sushil’s monumental effort at Beijing, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is now earnestly seeking to provide the icing on the Beijing cake with a gold rush at CYG.
“I will not settle for anything less than seven gold medals (there are seven weight categories at the event),” averred WFI president GS Mander. “Wrestling has got a new leash of life after Sushil Kumar’s high in Beijing. We just can’t sit gloating over his glory but rather undertake concentrated efforts to ensure that the younger lot get adequate opportunities to show their wares. And we are doing that.”Ready for the challengeMander, who is in his fourth term as WFI president, feels that the Indian wrestlers should be ready to front up to some stiff competition from grapplers from Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Pakistan at CYG. “I’m not saying we can’t overcome them. Our preparation has come off well so far. The talent pool is deep and we are doing our best to nurture them and hope the results will show at the Commonwealth Youth Games,” reasoned the 73-year-old.
The WFI president believes people’s perception about wrestling have undergone a metamorphosis. And a strong statement from the wrestlers at CYG would only go on to buttress that. “Earlier, people used to think that there is no future in taking up wrestling. But that thinking has changed. It’s no longer a non-lucrative sport. You have seen how an Olympic medal fetch prize money running into crores. An highly impressive showing from our grapplers at the CYG can just set the ideal launchpad for the sport to take off in a big way,” he quipped.
Strikingly, the WFI has taken all ‘care’ to keep the morale high of the wrestlers who couldn’t make the cut for CYG. “All the probables would have to train here till October 10. Just because the seven are selected for CYG doesn’t mean the others who competed with them are lacking in skills. They all are good and would get their chances in future. If any of the non-selected wrestlers for CYG leave the camp, they will be blacklisted and will not be summoned for any camp in future.” Mandir indicated that he means business.
He cited the example of WFI secretary and former Asiad gold medallist Kartar Singh who even at the age of 50, still actively plays the sport. “I take pride in saying that Kartar Singh is a great example for youngsters. Recently, he won the 13th consecutive gold at the World Veterans Wrestling Championship in Russia. There can be no shortage of motivation for the boys when they have someone like Kartar Singh to look up to,” he goes high on the ace grappler of yesteryears.
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