Wrestling trials for World Championships to go ahead on Aug 25-26: Bajwa

New Delhi: The trials to select the Indian wrestling team for the upcoming World Championships will go ahead as scheduled on August 25-26 despite the world governing body of the sport (UWW) suspending the WFI for not conducting elections on time.

The United World Wrestling (UWW) on Wednesday suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for not conducting its elections within the mandated 45 days, which meant that the Indian grapplers will not be able to compete in the Worlds in Belgrade from September 16 under the Indian flag.

IOA-constituted ad-hoc panel chief Bhupender Singh Bajwa told PTI that the trials will be held as per schedule on Friday and Saturday in Patiala in all 10 weight categories in the men’s freestyle, greco-roman and women’s section.

“(The trials will go ahead), as per schedule,” Bajwa told PTI on Thursday.

He, however, declined to say whether a new circular will be issued in this regard in the wake of the latest developments.

Another ad-hoc committee member Gian Singh confirmed that the trials will be conducted as per schedule in Patiala but expressed his displeasure with the way things were being handled by the committee members, adding “this situation (suspension of WFI by UWW) could have been easily avoided”.

He said there was no requirement to further postpone the already delayed trials to select the team for the Worlds.

The trials were to be conducted by mid-August and the names sent to UWW on or before August 16 but due to the WFI election process being stalled by a Punjab and Haryana High Court order, fresh dates were announced.

“Usually in such cases (when the national body is suspended), the UWW allows athletes to compete as ‘neutral athletes’ at Olympic-qualifying World Championships. The Indian contingent could be given any name…UWW1 or UWW2 team and they can compete. But the medal won at the Worlds will not belong to the country (in this case India) but to individuals,” explained Gian.

He also said one should not jump the gun as the matter could get resolved soon.

“Sadly, the ad-hoc committee members have not been able to explain to the UWW that the legal process in India is independent of other processes. The ad-hoc panel members in their communications with UWW should have explained to them that WFI is not delaying the process…it’s a court order and can invite contempt. That way the 45-day deadline could have been avoided,” added Gian.

Another ad-hoc panel member said on condition of anonymity that Olympic quotas which the “independent athletes” might win at the World Championships will turn into quotas for the country if the matter gets resolved and a democratically-elected WFI is in place.

“There is no doubt that a democratically-elected WFI will be in place sooner rather than later, and UWW is quite accommodative in such cases. So the quota places won by ‘independent athletes’ will convert to quotas for the country,” he said, adding that “the same will not happen with medals”.

The IOA had appointed the ad-hoc panel on April 27 and the committee was supposed to hold elections within 45 days.

UWW had on April 28 warned that it could suspend the Indian federation if the deadline to hold elections is not honoured.

“The UWW communicated to the ad-hoc panel on Wednesday night that WFI has been suspended for not holding elections to its executive committee,” an IOA source told PTI.

Meanwhile ad-hoc panel member Gian Singh told PTI that they are being kept in the dark by Bajwa on the related developments and that they are not part of decision making anymore.

“I have also heard that WFI has been suspended but I can’t tell you what the ad-hoc panel will do now. Mr Bajwa does not call us for discussion any more. I did not even know how the criteria were finalised for the Worlds trials,” Gian told PTI.

“Mr Bajwa is too busy, it seems,” he added, indicating that the ad-hoc panel has failed to properly manage issues at hand.

Bajwa was contacted for a comment but he did not return calls or respond to text messages.

The Indian women’s team at the recent U-20 World Championship in Amman had won the team title for the first time in the Indian wrestling history ahead of powerhouses like Japan and USA.

The wrestlers earned points because they were representing their country but now at the senior world championships in Serbia, the Indians will compete as ‘neutral athletes’ and their performances will not be counted as India’s.

The wrestlers, though, can compete under the Indian flag the Asian Games, starting September 23 in Hangzhou, since it’s the IOA which has sent entries and not the WFI.

At the Worlds, it is the WFI which has to send entries after selecting a team through trials. Originally, the WFI was to hold elections on May 7 but the Sports Ministry had declared the process as null and void and subsequently IOA installed an ad-hoc panel to run the sport in the country.

The elections have been delayed several times after that with multiple disgruntled and disaffiliated state bodies moving the court, seeking the right to participate in the polls.

The UWW in its letter on April 28, which was also marked to IOA and the Sports Ministry, had reminded that it has already taken “a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year.” The Championship was moved out of the country due to the controversy surrounding the outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexually abusing several women wrestlers.

The case is already in a Delhi court.

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