Indian wrestlers faced another setback in their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics 2021, as United World Wrestling (UWW) decided to call off the Wrestling World Championships. The mega event was scheduled to be held in Belgrade, Serbia, from December 12 to 20.
There was a lot of uncertainty regarding the Wrestling World Championships, as there has been a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Europe. Several teams have subsequently withdrawn from the tournament. USA, Japan and Cuba pulled out of the Wrestling World Championships in the last few weeks, putting the tournament under jeopardy.
According to the rules set by the UWW, eight of the top ten nations from the 2019 edition of the tournament needed to participate, and 70% of the athletes needed to be present. November 5 was the previous deadline by which national federations had to confirm their participations.
However, the tournament looked more and more unlikely to happen following the series of pullouts, eventually forcing its cancellation.
A World Cup event planned as a substitute for the cancelled Wrestling World Championships
The UWW has now planned a World Cup event to be held in Belgrade, in place of the cancelled Wrestling World Championships. However, the dates for the same are yet to be announced, as the COVID-19 situation in Europe currently looks grim.
“We want to see our athletes compete again on the mat. It’s important to our organisation, and we are committed to providing them an opportunity. There are real challenges to overcome, but we are working together to find a safe and acceptable format where our top athletes can compete in a world-class event," said the UWW president Lalovic in a statement.
The latest development leaves the Indian wrestlers with no event to pit their skills against international wrestlers. The men's national camp had started on September 1 in Sonepat while the women's national camp got under way in Lucknow on October 10.
All the star Indian grapplers were putting in the hard yards with the aim of playing at the World Wrestling Championships, which would have been their first tournament since the Asian Championships in February. Now, even the Wrestling Nationals scheduled to be held in Gonda from December 18-20 looks highly unlikely to take place.
The Indian wrestlers are currently on a break due to Diwali, but the reigning Asian Championships gold medallist Bajrang Punia decided to stay back for a few days ahead of his wedding on November 25. Punia had earlier made plans to travel to the USA for his training in the event of the Wrestling World Championships getting cancelled although there is no confirmation in this regard yet.
India secured four Olympic quotas through Bajrang Punia, Deepak Punia, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Vinesh Phogat last year at the 2019 Wrestling World Championships.Published 11 Nov 2020, 23:28 IST