The Indian wrestling team is hopeful of booking a few Olympic berths in the Asian qualifying event to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from March 30 to April 1.
The men's freestyle event provides the best chance for India to win some Olympic slots. The team has pinned its hopes on prominent wrestlers like Olympic and World championship medallist Sushil Kumar (66kg) and current Asian champion Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg) as well as a few other promising grapplers.
Sushil went through an indifferent phase in his career, while Yogeshwar fought his way out of an injury. Freestyle coach Vinod Kumar is satisfied with the progress of Sushil and Yogeshwar in recent months.
“Sushil's performance in the training-cum-competition camp in US was very good. He has overcome his poor form. Yogeshwar is also in very good shape,” said Vinod.
“Some wrestlers from the other Asian countries have qualified in their (Sushil and Yogeshwar) categories. So, qualifying should not be a problem. With a bit of luck, Amit Kumar (55kg) and Narsingh Yadav (74kg) can also make it,” he added.
The biggest relief for Vinod is that the strong Iranian and Kazakh wrestlers have qualified in several weights in which India has some good grapplers.
In Greco Roman, according to coach Hargobind Singh, India might get a few berths. “We are good in the lower weights. We have some hopes from Rajender Kumar (55kg), Anil Kumar (60kg) and Sunil Kumar (66kg),” he said. Incidentally, no Indian wrestler was able to make it to the Beijing Games.
Two more chances
The finalists in each weight category will win tickets to the London Games. Besides the Astana event, India will also get the chance to field its wrestlers in two other qualifying events — China (April 27-29) and Finland (May 4-6).
Meanwhile, the women wrestlers' selection was mired in controversy. The Union Sports Ministry, acting on a petition from Babita, had asked the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for a retrial of the 48kg class. However, Neha Rathi, who was originally selected, managed to get a favourable order from the Delhi High Court. “Our preparation has been quite good. I expect at least one girl to qualify,” said women's coach O.P. Yadav.
The freestyle team will leave for Astana on Monday, while the Greco Roman wrestlers will depart the next day.
Men: Freestyle: Amit Kumar (55kg), Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg), Sushil Kumar(66kg), Narsingh Yadav (74kg), Pawan Kumar (84kg), Mausam Khatri(96kg) and Joginder Kumar (120kg).
Greco Roman: Rajender Kumar (55kg), Anil Kumar (60kg), Sunil KumarRana (66kg), Ravinder Khatri (74kg), Manoj Kumar (84kg), Ashok Kumar(96kg) and Rishi Pal (120kg).
Women: Neha Rathi (48kg), Geeta (55kg), Anita (63kg) and GursharanpreetKaur (72kg).