Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat opt out of Individual World Cup in Belgrade

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat
Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat

India's top wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have opted to skip the upcoming Individual World Cup (IWC) set to take place in Belgrade in December. Along with them, Jitender Kumar (74 kg freestyle) and Somvir (92 kg) have also backed out from participating in the upcoming event.

The newly-wed Bajrang Punia has decided to train in the USA for a month at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in Michigan, and will be competing in the $25,000 eight-man tournament in Texas. On the other hand, Vinesh Phogat clarified to the WFI that she will miss the tournment since elite wrestlers in her weight category aren't participating.

Bajrang Punia skips Individual World Cup to train and compete against America's best wrestlers

Bajrang Punia, who has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2021, got approval from the Mission Olympic Cell for his one-month training in the USA. He will be traveling along with his coach Emzarios Bentinidis and physio Dhananjay for the approximate cost of ₹14 lakhs.

The World No. 2 in the 65 kg category preferred to go to the USA to square off against some of America's best wrestlers. The gala event would allow Bajrang Punia to gauge his level against the likes of two-time World Champion James Green and two-time Pan-American champion Anthony Ashnault.

One of India's hopeful bets for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Vinesh Phogat is the lone Indian women's wrestler who has won gold in both Commonwealth and Asian Games thus far. The 26-year-old from Haryana contracted the coronavirus earlier in August, but recovered and opted to stay and train in India.

The United World Wrestling (UWW) decided to organize the Individual World Cup in Belgrade and call off the Wrestling World Championships as the top-3 nations — USA, Cuba, and Japan — had pulled out from the event, forcing its cancellation.

As for the Indian wrestlers, the men's and women's national camps had got underway. As they didn't have any international event to showcase their skill against the international wrestlers, they were preparing for the Wrestling World Championships, but the event got canceled eventually.

Bajrang Punia, Deepak Punia, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, and Vinesh Phogat had secured their slots for the Olympics last year at the 2019 Wrestling World Championships.

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