Non-protesting wrestlers demand resumption of national camp

New Delhi: 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 centres for grapplers since the lack of proper training is having an adverse impact on their preparations for the Asian Games.

The men’s national camp for free style and greco roman wrestlers is held at Sports Authority of India’s centre in Bahalgarh (Sonepat) while the women’s camp is organised in Lucknow.

The country’s premier wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, have levelled 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 SAI centre in Sonepat while the Lucknow centre accommodates more than 100 women wrestlers.

“I don’t have proper sparring partners with me to train. We need to be in 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 wresters, 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 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”.


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