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Young wrestlers protest against Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat’s exemption from Asian trials

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Young wrestlers from Haryana started a protest against the IOA’s (Indian Olympic Association) decision to exempt Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat from trials for the upcoming Asian Games. U-20 world champion Antim Panghal and family members of Vishal Kaliraman gathered at Chhotu Chowk demanding a trial to be conducted fairly in all weight classes. Vishal Kaliraman competes in the same weight class as Bajrang Punia.

Wrestlers from the renowned Chhatrasal Stadium in New Delhi and Baba Laldas Akhada in Hisar also offered support to the demonstrators. The wrestlers were joined by senior residents from neighbouring villages. Panghal’s father said, “We are here to protest against this decision of the IOA ad-hoc panel. We are here today and will decide later in the evening if we have to come back tomorrow.”

Earlier Panghal released a video on Twitter saying that not only her but many others in the 53 kg weight class category could beat Vinesh. She had backed Bajrang and Vinesh in their “dharna” in New Delhi earlier in January in protest of Brij Bhushan. However, she now feels “cheated”. PTI reported panel member Ashok Garg confirmed that Vinesh and Bajrang have been exempted from the trial.

The rule for trials exemption according to WFI’s policy is that all selection trials in all weight classes are mandatory but the selection committee has the authority to select Olympic or World Champions without any trial or without the recommendation of a foreign expert or chief coach. Bajrang won the bronze medal in Tokyo Olympics and Belgrade’s World while Vinesh also secured a podium finish in the same World’s. However, the same exemption was not given to Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Kumar Dahiya.

Even the national coaches for both men’s and women’s teams, Jagmander Singh and Virender Dahiya were not consulted before making this decision. “I am not even aware that such a decision has been taken. The ad-hoc panel had stopped calling us for meetings. We have not made any such recommendation, we favoured trials in all categories,” said Jagmander. “We don’t know in what shape Bajrang and Vinesh are in. They have not competed in the last eight months. They have not competed after (Birmingham) CWG and World Championship last year, so we do not know how good they are at this point,” said Dahiya.



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