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Tokyo 2020

Will WFI back Sushil as he aims to play in Tokyo 2020?

The ongoing Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi might not have any quota places up for grabs for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but the event holds plenty of importance for the Indian wrestlers.

Will WFI back Sushil as he aims to play in Tokyo 2020?
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By

Sarah Waris

Published: 21 Feb 2020 7:23 AM GMT

The ongoing Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi might not have any quota places up for grabs for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but the event holds plenty of importance for the Indian wrestlers.

Sakshi Malik’s chances of standing a chance to qualify for the multi-nation event hinges on the performance of Sonam Malik, while Sushil Kumar is yet another star grappler, who will need to wait for his destiny till 23 February, when Jitender will take the mat in the continental championships.

Sushil Kumar (Image: InsideSport) Sushil Kumar (Image: InsideSport)

With both competing in the 74 kg weight category, the two warring players have often faced each other in trials before events - with the most recent national trials ahead of the World Championship at Nur-Sultan last year making news as the 36-year old was accused by Jitender of poking him in the eye during the bout en route a win. Sushil had a chance to seal his spot for the Olympics with a top-six finish in the World Championships, which would have shut the doors on Jitender, but an early ouster bought the youngster in the fray once again.

Also Read:Tokyo dreams still not over for two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) conducted fresh trials for the Rome Ranking Series and the Asian Championships in early January, which was missed by Sushil due to an injured hand. Despite pleads by the two-time Olympic medal winner to postpone the trail dates, the federation went ahead as planned, with Jitender emerging victorious and sealing his spot in the Indian squad for the two events. A medal-winning showing in either Rome or New Delhi would have booked him his spot for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers, but a loss in the quarters against Soner Demirtas of Turkey 0-4 in Rome means that all eyes will be on Jitender when he turns out for his bout at the Asian Wrestling Championships.

The equation is, thus, clear - if Jitender manages to return with a medal on 23 February, he is likely to go ahead and compete in the Qualifiers, which will end Sushil’s Olympic dreams. If the former fails in his attempt, the WFI will be holding fresh trials for the Qualifiers, and if Sushil does manage to win, then, he will be India’s entry from the weight category. The gold and silver medalist in the Qualifiers will earn a quota spot for the Olympics.

The question now remains if the WFI should contemplate having Sushil in the fray for the trials for the Qualifiers if the need arises, or go with youngsters like Parveen Rana or Amit Dhankar. The veteran is expected to win the trials and make it to the Qualifiers, but does he have it in him to finish in the top-two in that event? Despite being experienced, Sushil is lacking desperately in match-practice, and his recent returns have not been inspiring, either. Though Rana or Dhankar might not make it to Tokyo, it all boils down to WFI’s goal of pushing a youngster forward or going in with the experienced to maximise the quota spots that India earns.

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