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Non-protesting wrestlers demand resumption of national camp

Wrestlers who are away from ongoing protest have demanded to resume the wrestling national camp with Asian Games in sight.

Non-protesting wrestlers demand resumption of national camp

U-23 World Wrestling Championships 2022 in Pontevedra, Spain (Source: United World Wrestling)



Updated: 2 May 2023 1:10 PM GMT

The national camp shut and the controversy surrounding WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh still raging, several non-protesting wrestlers on Tuesday demanded that the SAI must reopen its centers for grapplers since the lack of proper training is hurting their preparations for the Asian Games.

The men's national camp for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers is held at Sports Authority of India's center in Bahalgarh (Sonepat) while the women's camp is organized in Lucknow.

The country's premier wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, have leveled sexual harassment allegations against the Wrestling Federation of India chief and resumed their protest at Jantar Mantar on April 23.

The national camp was closed on April 8, a day before the Asian Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, and has not yet restarted. More than 300 wrestlers in 10 weight categories -- senior, junior, cadet, and U15 -- train at the SAI center in Sonepat while the Lucknow center accommodates more than 100 women wrestlers.

"I don't have proper sparring partners with me to train. We need to be in a national camp. The Asian Games trials are just two months away. The SAI should restart the camp. Why should the junior wrestlers suffer," Narsingh Pancham Yadav told PTI from Mumbai.

"There are about 25 wrestlers where I train and most of them are junior. So obviously I don't have proper training partners. They are inexperienced. Not much time is left for Asian Games and after that, the World Championship is also scheduled. The national camp must restart," said the national championship silver medallist. Asked about the ongoing protest by the top wrestlers, Narsingh said, "I don't know the truth. If something like that (sexual harassment) has happened, then it's wrong."

Sandeep Deshwal, who competes in greco roman style in the 82kg category, also said it has been a struggle for him since the national camp shut. "I am in Rohtak since the camp closed. It's really difficult. Jor nahi ho pa raha (The mat training has become a big issue). I have spoken to the coaches also several times but no one knows why the national camp is not restarting."

National Greco-Roman coach Hargobind Singh also appeared clueless. "I have spoken to SAI officials multiple times but have not got a definitive answer. A lot of time has passed since the Asian Championship in Astana (April 9-14). By this time the camp should have resumed," said Hargobind. "It's an Asian Games year and there should not be this big a gap in training," he added.

The Indian wrestlers had won 14 medals at the Asian Championship with the women winning seven of them. While Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya (injury), and Vinesh Phogat chose not to compete in Astana, other prominent wrestlers, like Deepak Punia and Sarita Mor, who are world championships medallists, could not win a medal.

Lalita Sharma, the executive director at SAI Sonpeat Centre said they have "not received any communication regarding the national camp as of now".

The PTI tried to reach out to SAI DG Sandip Pradhan but several calls to him went unanswered. He also did not respond to messages. Meanwhile, a woman wrestler said unless there is clarity she won't like to join the national camp.

"I am doing fine at my training center. The wrestlers who are sound financially, like a few from Rajasthan and UP, perhaps for them the camp is a better place because they get diet, supplements, gym, and other required facilities but for us, we can train anywhere," the wrestler who did not wish to be named said.

"There has to be clarity on who the coaches will be at the camp and who we need to reach out to, in case there is an issue. Wrestling is as much mental as physical. In the current scenario, it's difficult to say anything if I would like to rejoin the camp. "If the camp resumes at Lucknow center only, then it should be fine but if it's shifted to some other place, we need to get clarity on a few things. Otherwise, also not many women wrestlers join the camp, most of them prefer to train at their training centers," she said.

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