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Asian Games 2023: Why wrestlers Vinesh, Bajrang get exemption for trials?

After staging a protest for the removal of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, World Championships medallists Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia got the exemption for Asian Games 2023 trials. 

The IOA ad-hoc panel said in a circular that it has already selected wrestlers in men’s freestyle 65kg and women’s 53kg but trials will be held in all six weight categories in each of the three styles.

Though the ad-hoc panel didn’t name Bajrang and Vinesh in the circular, news agency PTI reported quoting panel member Ashok Garg confirmed that the star wrestlers have been exempted from the trials. 

“Yes, Bajrang and Vinesh have been exempted from trials,” Garg told PTI.

However, the ad-hoc panel’s decision to exempt the two wrestlers has not gone down well with their competitors in their respective weight categories – men’s freestyle 65kg, and women’s freestyle 53kg. 

And if media reports have to be believed the infuriated wrestlers could move to court to challenge the panel’s decision.

“Yes, we will move court. Why should our kids suffer due to discriminatory decisions by the ad-hoc panel. All we want is a fair trial,” said the father of a wrestler told PTI.

India’s first Under-20  world champions Antim Panghal (women’s 53kg), current Under-23 and Under-20 Asian champion Jaskaran Singh (men’s 65kg) and Jaskaran Singh (men’s 65kg) were the competitors for Vines and Bajrang in the Asian Games 2023 trials. 

Bajrang Punia in Asian Games 2018

Bajrang won gold in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta in 65kg category

Vinesh Phogat in Asian Games 2018

In 2018 Asian Games, Vinesh created history as she became first India women wrestlers to win a Gold medal in Asiad.

What is the rule for trials exemption?

According to WFI’s selection policy, put in place before the federation was dissolved by the Sports Ministry, states that the selection trials in all weight categories are mandatory but the selection committee has the discretion to medallists of the Olympic or World Championship without recommendation by the chief coach or foreign expert. 

So, the rule is applied to all the wrestlers?

Bajrang secured Bronze in Tokyo Olympics and Belgrade’s Worlds while Vinesh had a podium finish in the same worlds. But the same criteria were not followed for Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Kumar Dahiya (men’s 57kg).

National freestyle coach not consulted?

According to a PTI report, men’s freestyle national coach Jagmander Singh and women’s national coach Virender Dahiya were kept in the dark.

I am not even aware that such a decision has been taken. The ad-hoc panel had stopped calling us for meetings. We have not made any such recommendation, we favoured trials in all categories,” Jagmander told PTI.

Dahiya said,” We don’t know in what shape Bajrang and Vinesh are in. They have not competed in the last eight months. You get to know about speed, strength, weight, only during the competitions. And they have not competed after (Birmingham) CWG and World Championship last year, so we do not know how good they are at this moment.”

What about other protesting wrestlers?

Meanwhile, the government-appointed panel did not favour the other four wrestlers, Sakshi Malik, her husband Satyawart Kadiyan, Jitender Kinha, and Bajrang’s wife Sangeeta Phogat, as they have to go through trials for the Asian Games in their respective weight categories.

Wrestlers’ selection trials dates and schedule

The trials are scheduled to take place in New Delhi on July 22 and 23. The Greco-Roman (60kg, 67kg, 77kg, 87kg, 97kg, 130kg) and Women’s (50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg, 76kg) trials are scheduled for July 22, while the men’s freestyle (57kg, 65kg, 74kg, 86kg, 97kg, 125kg) trials will be held on July 23 at IG Stadium in New Delhi.

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