The preparation of India's Tokyo bound wrestlers Ravi Dahiya (57 kg) and Deepak Punia (86 kg) has come to a virtual standstill, as the grapplers still await their visa to commence their training in Russia. The two wrestlers were a part of the Indian contingent in the recently concluded Poland Open Ranking Series, and have been stranded in the Polish capital of Warsaw ever since. Dahiya clinched silver in his category, losing out to Gulomjon Abdullaev of Uzbekistan in the title bout. On the other hand, Punia was forced to draw out of the event on account of an elbow injury.
It has been almost a fortnight since the curtains were drawn on the Poland Open, but the Olympic preparation of the two freestyle wrestlers has not begun in full swing, on account of non-availability of quality partners. The two continue training in Warsaw, however, it is far from what they intend to do. In an interview with Sportskeeda, 23-year old Dahiya mentioned how good in-ground wrestling and leg defense and attacks are the prominent features of Russian training centres. These elements become all the more vital in the current context, given that Dahiya's leg defense was not at its best in the final of the Poland Open.
The coaches of Ravi and Deepak, Kamal Malikov and Murad Gaidarov respectively had contacted the coaching team of wrestling heavyweight Bajrang Punia, and the latter told them about the national training centre in Vladikavkaz, Russia, which is currently home to some of the finest athletes bound for the Games. They fancied the chances of the two wrestlers training alongside their compatriot, to add tangible improvements in their game before the quadrennial event, by brushing shoulders with the best in the business.
Dahiya and Punia proactively placed a relocation request with the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), who are yet to hear from the embassy in Warsaw since then. The WFI has assured the two of regular, judicious efforts being made from their end.
However, the logistical issues of the wrestlers do not seem to end here, as they face another challenge with respect to their COVID-19 vaccination. While Dahiya and Punia have received the first dose of Covishield vaccine, WFI has expressed reservations on the vaccine being available in Russia. They have communicated that in case of such an eventuality, the grapplers would be forced to return to India for their second dose, which, in fact, would serve as a big roadblock to their preparation.
Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia, along with compatriot Bajrang Punia (65 kg) are the seeded wrestlers for India in the Tokyo Olympics.