Rio Olympics 2016: Indian wrestlers gear up for Olympics under new coaches
Wrestling is one sport India have lofty expectations from at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But one thing that surprised many with just seven months remaining for the showpiece event is the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) move to embark on a rejig of the coaching staff ahead of the big-ticket event in Rio.
The biggest among the surprises is the appointment of Jagminder Singh as the chief coach of the Indian men’s freestyle wrestling team – it may be worth recalling that Jagminder is the third chief coach of the Indian men’s freestyle wrestling to be appointed in last twelve months or so – a move that looks unconvincing.
Jagminder Singh replaces Kuldeep Malik as the coach of the men’s team
Vinod Kumar was sacked in early 2015 and was replaced by Kuldeep Malik, who now made way for Jagminder, who has proven credentials. Jagminder, who works as ACP in Delhi Police, has served the national team with distinction – he was the country’s chief coach at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games and, it was under his guidance that Sushil Kumar won the coveted gold medal at the 2010 World Championships in Moscow.
Clearly, Jagminder knows what it takes to bring the best out of his grapplers but the point is – will seven months time be enough for him to help our grapplers in the best way for the Rio Olympics?
“Jagminder knows all the wrestlers and they respect him. He has performed well as head coach at the 2010 CWG. It was only owing to busy schedule in his police job he was not available to us. We are happy to see him take charge,” says a WFI official.
Kuldeep handed over the reigns of the women’s team
As for Kuldeep Malik, whom Jagminder replaced, it will be unfair to term his exit as a ‘sacking’ as the WFI has put him as chief coach of the Indian women’s wrestling team. The country’s women grapplers had a disappointing showing in the 2015 World Championship under then head coach AN Yadav and the writing was clearly on the wall for Yadav after the Las Vegas fiasco.
“Kuldeep is a good coach – it was felt that our women’s team needed a change after poor Las Vegas performance and even our grapplers desired a change before the Olympics. Kuldeep Malik has handled the women’s team earlier and should do well,” added a WFI official.
It may be mentioned here that Malik was dropped as the women's team coach in 2015 on the charges that he was not regularly reporting to the national camp. It’s a different matter altogether that Kuldeep was appointed as the chief coach of the men's freestyle team a few months later, replacing Vinod Kumar, who was shown the door after 2015 the Doha Asian Championship.
Interestingly, Vinod Kumar who was cooling off in the wilderness, has been appointed Jagminder’s deputy in the Indian freestyle team.
Another Kuldeep – Kuldeep Singh has also taken over the new head coach of the Indian men’s Greco-roman team, which has been putting up below-par performances in recent times. Singh will replace Mahavir Prasad, under whom he worked as a deputy for close to two years.
This move was entirely surprising because our men Greco-roman wrestlers have struggled to make an impact on the international stage in recent times.
It’s not always you see the head coach of a country’s men and women’s wrestling teams changed with just seven months left for the Rio Olympics. Perhaps, the listless showing by our men and women grapplers at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas was a big factor in prompting WFI to change the coaching staff.
One hopes that these moves pay off in Rio.