The women’s national wrestling camp will finally begin at the SAI Centre in Lucknow from October 10, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said on Tuesday, with a warning that the grapplers who miss it will not be considered for national team selection. The national camp was to begin from September 1 but postponed due the coronavirus pandemic. To make matters worse, the country’s two of the four Olympic-bound wrestlers — Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia – returned positive for the virus, creating more fear in the minds of many wrestlers.
After assessing the situation and on the advice of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the WFI has finally made up its mind to start the camp in six Olympic weight categories -50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg and 76kg — till December 31. Wrestling was among nine disciplines that the SAI picked for resumption of activities from October 5, under its ‘Khelo India Phir Se’ initiative. “We are starting the camp from October 10 in Lucknow. The strength of the camp will remain same, three wrestlers in each of the six Olympic weight categories,” WFI Assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told PTI.
The wrestlers will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period and return negative test before they are allowed to begin mat training. Asked if all the top wrestlers have agreed to join the camp, Tomar said, “All will have to come. Those who will miss the camp will be replaced and will not be considered for selection.” Asked specifically if Vinesh has agreed to join the camp, Tomar said the WFI is arranging what she needs. “She wanted to train abroad but in current situation, we are giving her good partners to train with at the camp.” Before the camp was postponed, 2018 World Championship medallist Pooja Dhanda had said that “we have to learn to live with Coronavirus”, indicating that she will have no issues in joining the camp whenever it starts.
Meanwhile, the coach of an up and coming wrestler said his ward will join the camp but only because a place in the national team is at stake. “After speaking with the parents of the wrestler, we have decided to send her. But the fear of catching the virus is still in their minds. We can’t say no, we can’t afford to miss the camp because then the federation will not invite her for trials for national selection,” said a coach, who did not wish to be named. “Especially, after the news of Vinesh and Deepak contracting the virus spread, they are not comfortable training outside. They are satisfied with training at their coaches’ akharas but what do you do,” he said, expressing helplessness.
Divya Kakran, who was also apprehensive about joining the camp, will attend the camp as scheduled, her father Suraj said. The men’s camp, which began at Sonepat early his month, has also been extended till December 31.