Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, both medalists at the World Championships in wrestling, have been exempted from participating in the selection trials for the Asian Games. They had previously led protests against former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. However, other wrestlers who were involved in the protests, including Sakshi Malik and Olympic silver medalist Ravi Dahiya, have not been granted the same exemption.
The selection trials for the Asian Games will take place in New Delhi on July 22 and 23, with Greco-Roman and women’s bouts scheduled for the first day and men’s freestyle on the following day. The trials will be conducted in six weight categories across all three formats, including the weight classes of Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53kg). However, the winners in these two categories will be named as reserves rather than direct selections.
In its directive for the trials, Bhupinder Singh Bajwa – the member of the ad-hoc committee that’s responsible to discharge day-to-day activities of the WFI – noted: “As per the WFI Regulations of Selection Trials, the Selection Committee has already selected Wrestlers in the 65 kg (free style) and 53 kg (Women Wrestling) for the Asian Games 2022. But the trial will be held for these weight categories and the selected Wrestlers will be kept on Stand-by.”
No update has been provided regarding the selection trials for the World Championships, which are scheduled to take place shortly before the Asian Games.
“The Selection trials in all weight categories are mandatory,” the guidelines say. “However, the Selection Committee will have the discretion to select the iconic players like medallists of Olympic / World Championship without trials provided recommendation by Chief Coach / Foreign Expert.”
An ad-hoc committee source said Dahiya was considered for an exemption but his recent injuries raised a question mark over his preparedness. “According to the selection policy, those who have won medals at the last Olympics and World Championship can be directly selected for the Asian Games team. Ravi thus is eligible and his name was discussed. But coaches and members of the committee felt since he has been dealing with injuries, a trial was necessary in his category. At the same time, Bajrang and Vinesh were the only ones to win a medal at the last World Championship,” the source stated.
The deadline for submitting the names of wrestlers for the Asian Games is July 23, while the deadline for the World Championships is August 15. According to the WFI’s selection policy, which was in place before the federation lost its power following a sexual harassment case against Brij Bhushan, “iconic players” are eligible for exemptions from trials. Both Bajrang Punia, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics and last year’s World Championship, and Vinesh Phogat, who also stood on the podium at the 2022 Worlds, fall under this category. Additionally, Ravi Dahiya, who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, is also eligible for an exemption based on the selection policy rules.
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