New Delhi: Three-time World Championship medallist Bajrang Punia on Tuesday called for wrestling to be made the national sport, insisting that Indian grapplers have consistently won medals in big-ticket events.
During a felicitation function of World Championships medal-winning wrestlers by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju here on Monday, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan mooted the idea of making wrestling the national sport, which received the backing of double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar.
"I too feel wrestling should be made the national sport as it is one sport which has consistently won medals in the World Championships and Olympics," said Bajrang during the program organised by the Sports Ministry.
Bajrang clinched a bronze medal in just-concluded World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan to add to his silver (2018 Budapest) and bronze (2013 Budapest) he had won earlier.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, however, said he can't discriminate or favour any particular sports.
"As a Sports Minister, I have to give equal importance to all sports. I can't sound discriminatory. Wrestling is very important for India, it makes our country's flag fly high but we have to give importance to all Olympic sports as well as non-Olympic and traditional sports," he said.
"But to declare some sport as a national sport...it is a matter which is very emotional and critical. So as a Sports Minister, I shouldn't be making an announcement or a judgement on the basis of any demand. I am not going to discuss this issue and generate unnecessary controversy."
The Sports Minister also hoped that wrestling will produce the maximum number of medals at next year's Tokyo Olympics.
"The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is going to be a watershed moment and along with other disciplines our wrestling team will be one of the major force in Tokyo. I am happy with the management of wrestling, the efforts of the coaches and entire technical support staff," Rijiju said.
"India have the capability to win many medals at Tokyo."
WFI President Sharan, who was also present at the program, promised that wrestlers will produce a much better performance in Tokyo.
"India had won two medals at Rio and one of them was in wrestling. I promise that our wrestlers will double that medal at Tokyo."