Indian wrestlers hope for tough tasks at Paris

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Wrestling as a sport has a rich history, and it has been part of the Olympics since 1896. It is one of the few sports which featured in every Olympic right from 1896….writes Chetan Sharma

As expected, Indian wrestlers had a medal rush as they got a perfect 12 at the Commonwealth Games from their contingent. However, a tougher test awaits them at Asiad, World Championships and Paris Olympics.

Before the start of the Birmingham Games, we had said that the Indian grapplers had a great opportunity to bag 12 medals in all their weight categories. And the results are in front of everybody to see.

Well, there is no rocket science to it. Actually, the past records have suggested that the CWG have always been a happy hunting ground for the Indian wrestlers. And the reason is the level of competition in CWG.

In 2022, the nation ruled the wrestling mat in a depleted field, getting medals in all 12 weight categories and also improving the gold tally from previous editions’ five to six this time.

Asked ‘if it is enough?’ Wrestling ‘gurus’ have their opinions.

“Gold medallists are fine, because they can’t go beyond gold (laughs). But that doesn’t mean they should not work on their weaknesses. Like the margin of win can be improved. But whoever loses gold, will have to work hard as the level of competition will go up from here to Asiad, Worlds and then the Paris Olympics.

“I was impressed with many wins by fall. This is good for wrestling,” a former coach told.

Another coach said, “Women could have won five gold medals. Not impressed with the number frankly. Nothing less than gold in CWG excites me. Paris is too far, so WFI (Wrestling Federation of India) must plan accordingly and grapplers need to give everything in training.”

With a good show at CWG 2022, wrestling fans would be upset with the news that the sports will not be part of the 2026 Games as the host nation Victoria has decided to exclude shooting and wrestling. However, the matter is still in discussion and the decision might get changed (under pressure from several nations).

Wrestling as a sport has a rich history, and it has been part of the Olympics since 1896. It is one of the few sports which featured in every Olympic right from 1896.

Focusing on India’s ‘Road to Paris’ blog, if one checks records, the country has so far won seven medals in wrestling in Olympics.

The first Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal was K.D. Jadhav, who won bronze way back in the 1952 Helsinki Games. Though India’s next triumph came after a long wait of 56 years with Sushil Kumar’s bronze at Beijing 2008. From there on, India has won at least one wrestling medal in each of the last four Olympics.

The latest Olympics medallists in wrestling are Ravi Dahiya (Silver) and Bajrang Punia (Bronze) from Tokyo 2020. Both are in prime form as they also won gold in Birmingham.

Apart from them, few familiar names continued their dominant run, youngsters shot to the limelight, and old guards successfully sought redemption in Birmingham. Sakshi Malik scripted a superb comeback after she was written off following her failure to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. Deepak Punia dethroned two-time gold medallist from Pakistan, Muhammad Inam, to win Gold.

Young Anshu Malik lost her final but finished with a silver in her maiden Commonwealth Games appearance. Vinesh Phogat overcame the lows of Tokyo Olympics and her battle with mental health to become the first Indian woman to win three successive Gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.

Ravi Kumar Dahiya needed a little less than seven minutes to win his maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal as the Tokyo Olympics silver medallist was at his dominant best in the men’s 57kg category. On the other hand, the 19-year-old Naveen won Gold, beating Pakistan’s Mohammed Sharif in the final.

The WFI would be feeling proud with all the wrestlers coming home with medals in their hands.

Overall, the performances were satisfactory but this is just the beginning of a tough journey ahead.

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