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Rio Olympics 2016: First-ever women physio boost for Indian women grapplers

The WFI steps in to provide an extra staff member after SAI thought better of it.

Babita Kumari and co. get more good news

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) appears to be ticking all the ‘boxes’ as far as preparing the country’s grapplers for the upcoming Rio Olympics is concerned. The WFI has been sending both its men and women grapplers on overseas tours on a consistent basis and is leaving no stone turned in ensuring the grapplers are best prepared for Rio.

Now in a first-ever move, the Rio-Olympic bound eight-member Indian wrestling contingent will feature a female physiotherapist – it is always a practice that the country’s wrestling squad comprise men physiotherapists irrespective of whether they are women wrestlers in the side or not.

This must be music to the ears of the three women wrestlers – Vinesh Phogat, her cousin Babita Kumari and Sakshi Malil, which happens to be the biggest women wrestling contingent in Olympics. For the record, Vinesh will fight it out in the 48kg freestyle category; Babita will wrestle in the 53kg freestyle category while Sakshi will grapple in the 58kg freestyle.

It may be worth recalling that the Wrestling Federation of India had engaged the services of had three physios during their training camp in Sonipat. Brajesh Kumar and Dhirendra Pratap — catered to the needs of the male wrestlers, while Rucha Kashalkar looked after the women wrestlers.

There was a feeling of disappointment earlier when the Sports Authority of India (SAI) took a call to send only a single male physiotherapist with the entire wrestling contingent, which includes five male and three female wrestlers. But all that changed with the arrival of the new Sports Minister Vijay Goel, who chaired a high-level meeting attended by sports secretary Rajiv Yadav and SAI director general Injeti Srinivas.

Also read: "I will be proud of myself even if I do not win a medal at 2016 Rio Olympics", says Abhinav Bindra 

Accordingly, the Sports Ministry swung into action and directed the Sports Authority of India to make arrangements to send a woman physio for Vinesh Phogat, her cousin Babita and Sakshi Malik.

It also has to be understood that International Olympic Committee (IOC) has put a limitation on the number of support staff who can accompany athletes for the Olympics. As per IOC, the contingent can only have 50 percent of the number of participating athletes as support persons.

It is learnt that Rucha Kashalkar, who has already been working with women wrestlers, is likely to accompany the Rio-bound team. Kashalkar had accompanied the wrestlers to Madrid recently where they competed in the Spanish Grand Prix Wrestling Championship.

One hopes that our women grapplers make the most of the presence of a female physio and come out with flying colours in Rio.

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