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Bajrang Punia and 4 other wrestlers opt out of Zagreb Open; ad-hoc panel picks 13-member team

The ad-hoc panel selected Aman Sehrawat (57kg), Yash (74kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Vicky (97kg), and Sumit Malik (125kg), all of whom had previously participated in the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Bajrang Punia and 4 other wrestlers opt out of Zagreb Open; ad-hoc panel picks 13-member team snt
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First Published Jan 2, 2024, 8:34 PM IST

India will not have representation in five categories at the upcoming Zagreb Open in Croatia, as Bajrang Punia, Antim Panghal, and three others declined to provide their consent for selection to the ad-hoc panel that unveiled a 13-member team on Tuesday. Antim Panghal, a Senior Worlds bronze medalist, opted out due to her commitment to attend the national sports award ceremony where she is set to be honored with the prestigious Arjuna award. Similarly, Olympic bronze medalist Bajrang Punia, who faced disappointment at the Asian Games, also decided not to participate in the Zagreb Open. As a result, these decisions have left India unrepresented in five crucial categories for the upcoming competition.

In the men's freestyle category, Bajrang Punia, a notable figure in the wrestlers' protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, was conspicuously absent. The ad-hoc panel selected Aman Sehrawat (57kg), Yash (74kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Vicky (97kg), and Sumit Malik (125kg), all of whom had previously participated in the Hangzhou Asian Games.

"We had sought the consent of the wrestlers who were part of the Asian Games squad and only 13 gave their consent while five others didn't," Bhupinder Singh Bajwa, the head of the ad-hoc panel, told PTI.

In response to inquiries about his absence, Bajrang mentioned that he has not commenced mat training yet, rendering it pointless for him to be a part of the Indian team.

"I had recently undergone a thumb surgery. I have not yet started mat training. There is no point going to a tournament without proper practice. I have resumed fitness training though," Bajrang told the news agency.

Panghal, the bronze medalist from the Asian Games, could not be reached for comment. However, her coach Vikas Bhardwaj explained that she decided to skip the tournament because she needs to attend the sports awards ceremony scheduled for January 9, a day prior to the commencement of the competition in Zagreb.

The selection of the team for the initial world ranking tournament in the Croatian capital, slated to take place from January 10 to 14, was finalized after resolving visa procurement issues.

Panghal (53kg), Pooja Gehlot (50kg), Mansi Ahlawat (57kg), and Kiran (76kg), all of whom were part of the Indian team in Hangzhou, did not provide their consent. Consequently, the ad-hoc body had to make do with selecting only two wrestlers in the women's freestyle category for the Ranking Series event – Sonam Malik (62kg) and Radhika (68kg).

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is currently under the administration of a three-member committee appointed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). This decision came after the Sports Ministry suspended the newly-elected national federation led by Sanjay Singh, citing violations of its own constitution.

"Thanks to a timely intervention by the Ministry of External Affairs, the 25 Indians due to travel to Zagreb will complete the visa formalities on Wednesday," Bajwa said in a press release. "The team was facing difficulty in securing a visa appointment. However, the Ministry of External Affairs has helped the team in this regard."

The Team:

Men Freestyle: Aman (57kg); Yash (74kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Vicky (97kg) and Sumit (125kg).

Greco-Roman: Gyanender (60kg), Neeraj (67kg), Vikas (77kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Narinder Cheema (97kg) and Naveen (130kg).

Women: Sonam (62kg) and Radhika (68kg).

Coaching and support staff: Kuldeep Singh (team leader and coach), Vinod Kumar, Sujeet, Shashi Bhushan Prasad, Manoj Kumar, Virender Singh and Alka Tomar (coaches); Vishal Kumar Rai (physiotherapist) and Neeraj (masseur).

Referees: Satya Dev Malik, Dinesh Dhondiba Gund and Sanjay Kumar.

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