Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rio Olympics 2016: Is time running out for Sushil Kumar?

Grappler Sushil Kumar looked like whipping up a sympathy wave but his honest efforts to have a trial to decide, who represents India in the men’s freestyle 74kg category at the Rio Olympics appears to have backfired. With the Sports Ministry clearly indicating that it will not interfere in the selection process of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), it does look as if hopes of a trial are fast fading out.

Sushil, on his part, has been categorical that he does not want any ‘favours’ because of his past laurels and only wants a trial. It is, however, difficult to overlook the case of Narsingh Yadav. The Mumbai wrestler has been wrestling in the 74-kg since he entered the senior circuit. One may say how can Narsingh assure an Olympic a medal or even ask about his current form and fitness given the fact that he qualified for the Olympics by winning a bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas – that was eight months back and one is not sure what kind of match fitness he has at present.

Sushil to his discredit, has shied away from wrestling tournaments in 74-kg and only took part in 74-kg at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The fact that Sushil hasn’t wrestled in any international tourneys in his newly-switched weight category is actually going against him in his bid to have trials.

Since the last Olympics, had Sushil grappled consistently in the 74-kg category, then it would have made a strong case for a trial. But his reluctance to only focus on the Olympics and skip events is working against him.

Two back-to-back Olympic medals is a rarity for India at the Olympics when it comes to individual sports. One also feels that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) could have avoided all the controversy by making its point clear. The WFI did give the impression that the trials will be held for the 74-kg, but now seem to be developing cold feet as they are wary that other wrestlers may demand trials in their respective weight categories.
Sushil is an icon and nobody denies that – but the Sports Ministry’s latest stand has perhaps taken the sting out of all the sympathy he was generating.

The two-fold dilemma for the WFI is – first to allow Narsingh to play in 74-kg for he has won the quota place and has been regularly playing in the same weight category for a long time and second how to deny trials to a man, who gave back-to-back Olympics medals to the country.

Trial or no trial, the WFI could have done its bit to avoid the unwanted controversy when the focus should have been more on the Olympic preparations. It’s not important whether there should be trials or a wrestler could represent the country at Olympics by virtue of winning the quota place- what’s more significant is – can India win a medal in this weight category at Rio.
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