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Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia respond to criticism over Asian Games trials exemption

Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, have recently found themselves at the centre of controversy after accepting exemption from the Asian Games trials. The wrestlers responded to the criticism on a live video.

Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia respond to criticism over Asian Games trials exemption

Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia 


Aswathy Santhosh

Updated: 25 July 2023 9:30 AM GMT

Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, who have been at the centre of controversy after being exempted from the Asian Games trials, on Tuesday admired the courage displayed by young wrestlers standing up for their rights.

"We are not against the trials. I can't blame Antim. She is not wrong. She is fighting for her right and we are fighting for our right. She is too young, she does not understand. But we are not wrong," Vinesh said during a live video session.

"We fought against the system, against the powerful. We took blows on our heads, no one came forward." Vinesh further expressed her dismay at being dragged to court and shared the challenges they faced while trying to bring about change within the system.

"She says she was cheated, but did I cheat (during CWG trials)? If at all it was done, it was done by Brij Bhushan, or got it done. My job was to wrestle, and I did that.

"If she felt cheated then she should have gone to court at that time. It hurts. But I am glad the kids have started speaking, they are gathering courage now. It's positive for wrestling," said the World Championship medalist.

The debate started when the IOA ad-hoc panel granted direct entries to Bajrang and Vinesh for the Hangzhou Games, causing an outcry within the wrestling fraternity. Wrestlers like Antim Panghal and Sujeet, who would have to remain content with a standby spot in the Indian squad due to the exemptions, challenged the decision in couirt. The Delhi High Court refused to overturn the exemption based on expert opinions.

Bajrang Punia, himself, joined in the conversation, countering claims that there were several wrestlers who could defeat Vinesh." It was said that there are 3-4 wrestlers who can beat Vinesh but dear Antim, Vinesh has not lost yet, and will not lose.

"Antim, you said you became the first Indian to win the U-20 championship but Vinesh is also the only woman wrestler to have won two Worlds medals. You filed a court case against us?," Bajrang said.

Vinesh, a two-time World Championship medalist, expressed her determination not to give up and emphasized her long-standing commitment to the sport. She rejected claims of avoiding practice and explained that they had dedicated their careers to wrestling, making sacrifices for the sport's growth. Both athletes questioned the need for legal action, as they believed their intentions were not malicious.

Both athletes expressed concern over the misrepresentation of their intentions and contributions to the sport. They felt the younger generation was being misled and highlighted their own efforts in winning medals for India, with a deep sense of responsibility towards wrestling's growth.

"The whole wrestling fraternity can sit together. You answer our questions and we will answer yours. If we are proved wrong, we will quit wrestling," Bajrang concluded.

In addition, they criticized London Olympic medalist Yogeshwar Dutt for supporting the outgoing WFI chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, whom they accused of exploiting female wrestlers sexually.

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