Grapplers gear up for Asian Games

Deccan Chronicle.  | Kabeer Khan and Nicolai Nayak

Sports, In Other News

The wrestlers addressed media at an event announcing TATA Motors’ partnership with WFI.

Indian wrestlers Sushil Kumar (from left), Yogeshwar Dutt, Bajrang Punia, Sandeep Tomar, Satyawart Kadian, Geeta Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Pooja Dhanda pose during an event in in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)

Mumbai: He was exempted from the trials by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for the results he has got in the past. The question is does Sushil Kumar still possess the fire to get a gold in the Asian Games that start from 18 August?

His exemplary feat from the Commonwealth Games in April with straightforward victories to get a gold medal does speak about the mettle the 35-year old grappler has. He returned to the mat after a long gap though. But Asian Games are different.

The challenges posed by these wrestlers in terms of technique vary from ones in the CWG. Even the three-time CWG Gold medallist Sushil who will compete in 74-kg category is aware of this fact since he has only one bronze in the Asiad from 2006.

Kumar says he returned recently from training in Georgia and will be going back after a short training camp in India. “Aashirwaad chaahiye (I need your blessings). I made a comeback to wrestling after four years when I played in the Commonwealth Games. From here, I'm going to Georgia for a 10-day camp,” he said insisting that the federation had recommended him to head to Georgia.

The wrestlers addressed media at an event announcing TATA Motors’ partnership with WFI.

Talking about his training, he says, “(It’s been) fantastic. If we train one day, we have friendly bouts the next day. The coaches there prepare the training plan and we follow it accordingly.”

Kumar also rubbished the reports stating that the federation is looking for other wrestlers following his performance in at Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia last month where he lost his first bout in four years.  “I was training in Poland and just participated in the Grand Prix to understand what exactly are my weak areas. One doesn’t learn from wins, but takes his lessons from defeat. The body was not moving properly. It will come in shape before the Asian Games,” he said.

Bar of expectations high for Sakshi

There was a chance to add another jewel to the crown at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in April but Sakshi Malik managed to cling to bronze, slipping a mark from silver she clinched at the Glasgow 2014 edition.

Now, as she turns attention to the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sakshi is focused on her showing and not medals.

“There is a bit of pressure before heading into every tournament. People tell me, ‘others may get a medal or not but you have to and I am like, why me?’ There is pressure to perform well as all eyes are on me. But I don’t head into tournaments thinking I have to win gold. I just focus on giving my best and the rest will follow,” she said.

Sakshi and Geeta Phogat will head a six-member Indian women wrestling team at the Asian Games. In the build-up for the quadrennial event, Sakshi disappointed at the recently-concluded Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia but she feels it hasn’t affected her confidence.

“Confidence and performance are two different things for an athlete. There are many up and downs in one’s career. I target a medal in every tournament,” she added.