Rio Olympics 2016: Has WFI taken the right decision to send Parveen Rana to Rio ahead of Sushil Kumar?
There was a time when Sushil Kumar used to be the go-to-man for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to make the right buzz on the world stage. After all, Indian wrestling had never seen the sight of a men grappler making a podium finish on the big stage – like the Olympics and the World Championships.
The star Haryana wrestler took Indian wrestling to an ‘unprecedented high’, winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 66-kg freestyle category only to top it all winning a gold at the 2010 World Championships in Moscow, outwrestling a grappler in front of his home crowd.
Back-to-back individual Olympic medals was an absolute rarity for Indian wrestling – but Sushil occupied a ‘special place’ in the sport in the country by winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic to give the sport a massive lift in the sport.
Not for once, Sushil gave an impression that success has gone on to his head on the sheer weight of two Olympic medals and one World Championship medal – he ever remained the disciplined wrestler, who was trained by great Satpal, whose daughter he got married to.
Sushil was a trump card for the Wrestling Federation of India but the script took a wrong turn when Narsingh Yadav bagged the Olympic quota place in the 74-kg freestyle category by winning a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championship in USA.
There was intense media scrutiny about who will represent India in the 74-kg freestyle category at the Rio Olympics. The WFI did its cause no good by dragging its feet on whom to pick, leaving it far too late just months before Olympics to take a decision before going ahead with Narsingh Yadav for the Rio Olympics.
It clearly looked as if relations between Sushil and WFI turned frosty when the former approached the Delhi High Court pleading a selection trial for the 74-kg freestyle category for the Olympics. It’s a different matter altogether that the Delhi High Court spurned his plea stating that Narsingh Yadav deserves the right to represent the country in the 74-kg freestyle category by virtue of winning the Olympic quota place.
It is not difficult to see why the WFI did not take Sushil taking the legal route kindly – for them it was a case of a player questioning the decision of a federation.
It became crystal clear that there is love lost between WFI and Sushil when the federation decided to pick Parveen Rana to replace ‘dope-taking’ Narsingh Yadav to represent the country in the 74-kg freestyle category. One felt that Sushil is the best man to replace Narsingh Yadav in the 74-kg freestyle category but picking someone like Parveen Rana – an understudy of Sushil – is a clear indication that the WFI is looking beyond Sushil.
The WFI may be right in nursing a grudge against Sushil for taking the legal route, but they could have set aside their personal egos and opted for the champion grappler as a replacement for Narsingh. Sushil is a medal prospect and the WFI by not picking him as a replacement for Narsingh, has sounded out that Sushil is no longer indispensable.
The country wants a medal prospect to head to Rio but by the looks of it, it does appear that India will lose out on a medal-winning opportunity in the 74-kg freestyle category.