Top wrestler pulls out of Zagreb Open, says not ready
Eight wrestlers, including top wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, have pulled out of the upcoming Zagreb Open saying they are not ready for the tournament while Anju took the decision due to injury. The newly appointed monitoring committee, headed by boxing legend MC Mary Kom, on Wednesday selected a 36-member Indian team of wrestlers for the ranking series starting February 1 in the Croatian capital. This committee is entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the day-to-day work of the WFI (Wrestling Federation of India).
The wrestlers, during their three-day dharna at Jantar Mantar, had said that they will not participate in any national and international level competition till the wrestling federation is dissolved and its chief is sacked. He had informed about his decision not to participate on the day of team announcement. Vinesh and Bajrang along with Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya, World Championship medalist Deepak Punia, talented youngster Anshu Malik, Bajrang’s wife Sangeeta Phogat, Sarita Mor and Jitendra Kinha have all announced that they will not take part in the tournament.
A Sports Authority of India (SAI) source told PTI, “The reason they have given for not participating is that they are not feeling 100 per cent well to participate.” They are dragging the matter a bit now. He should have participated in it after being selected in the Indian team. This is certainly not a commendable move. This is the first tournament of the 2023 season for Indian wrestlers. The year is going to be a busy one as it also includes important events like the Asian Games and the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifiers.
Due to the strike, the wrestlers lost a lot of practice time before the tournament, due to which they could not perform well in it. The Sports Ministry had earlier this week constituted a five-member monitoring committee to look into the sexual harassment allegations leveled against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers, however, expressed disappointment that their opinion was not taken before forming the committee.
Last week, several wrestlers, including Bajrang, Vinesh and Ravi Dahiya, staged a three-day dharna at Jantar Mantar demanding the sacking of the WFI president. The wrestlers had accused Sharan of being dictatorial and sexually harassing junior wrestlers. The wrestlers, however, did not reveal the identity of the players who were allegedly sexually assaulted. Sharan is also a BJP MP.
A source close to the WFI president said that Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is eagerly waiting for the probe to begin so that he can be cleared. The source said, “He is happy that the investigation is going on. He believes that his name will be cleared in this issue and the misconceptions of the wrestlers will also be removed. He has not sexually harassed any female wrestler nor is there any financial irregularity in WFI. That’s why they have full confidence.