Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indian wrestlers poised to break 28-year Asian Games gold drought

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Confidence is a ‘big’ thing in sports. And it is this facet the Indian wrestlers will bank on at the Incheon Asian Games. If recent form is anything to go by, the Indian grapplers are in prime form and look poised to pose a serious threat to grapplers from Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan, Iran among others.
The country’s stupendous haul of 13 medals (six gold, five silver and two bronze) at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games made them the nation with the second highest haul behind Canada, who won one medal less than India (won 12 medals) but were the table-toppers having won seven gold medals.

There is a strong feeling that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is sticking to a well chalked-out programme to ensure optimum results on the world stage and also pave the way for the country becoming a wrestling powerhouse, which they are of course, well on course to attain in the future. The WFI choose to rest main grapplers for the World Championships in Tashkent so that they can focus on the Asian Games – not just that even the country’s three top coaches did not accompany the national team to Tashkent as a second-string side was sent to the World Championship so that the grapplers are kept fresh after the rigours of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Quite obviously, taking part in two big-tickets like Asian Games and Glasgow Commonwealth Games in one month would have taken a toll on the grapplers and the WFI took a prudent move to set their sights on Incheon.

The Indian wrestling contingent will be looking to improve on their three bronze medals they won in the 2010 Asiad. In fact, the biggest talking point is about India breaking the 28-year wait of Asiad wrestling gold (Kartar Singh last won it in 1986). Not many will disagree that the team minus Sushil Kumar, who opted to skip the World Championship and Asian Games so that he can focus on the 2016 Rio Olympics, have the ammunition to win the yellow metal. “Our wrestlers are training hard in Sonepat.Yogeshwar Dutt is our biggest gold medal prospect but I’m equally upbeat about all our grapplers, who have the tenacity to come through on the big stage,’ says Indian wrestling head coach Vinod Kumar.

The national coach has no doubts that the team will overcome the absence of Sushil Kumar. “Sushil is a type of wrestler who cannot be replaced. But then, there are others who are capable of doing the job. We hope to bag at least four or five medals in Incheon.

The 18-member wrestling contingent is expecting big things from Amit Kumar (freestyle 57-kg), Bajrang Kumar (freestlye 61-kg), Pawan Kumar (freestyle 86-kg), Satywart Kadian (freestyle 97-kg) besides Yogeshwar. Amit is riding high on confidence after picking up the gold at Glasgow CWG, and the ditto for Bajrang and Satywart both of whom bagged a silver besides Pawan who grabbed a bronze. Greco-roman wrestlers like Ravinder Singh (2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist) and Sandeep Yadav (2013 World Championship bronze medallist) are bullish about contributing to the medal hope.

Its not just that the medal hopes are hinged on men wrestlers. Our women grapplers are coming off a superb show in Glasgow as the likes of Vinesh Phogat (48-kg) and Babita Kumari (55-kg) will be angling for a podium finish after winning gold medals in the CWG. Geetika Jhakkar will also be seeking to have a good run after her silver in Glasgow, while Jyoti will strive for a medal after finishing fourth in the 75-kg category at Glasgow.

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