India's wrestling contingent for the upcoming World Wrestling Championships has to be submitted on August 16. With a week to go, there is no clarity on when the selection trials will be held.
The ad-hoc committee, which was appointed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to handle the WFI's day-to-day affairs, had suggested August 10 as the date for the selections. However, on the eve of the proposed date, the wrestlers have received no update regarding the trials. To add to the mix, the Wrestling Federation of India's (WFI) elections will take place on August 12.
"We have not been given the final selection date as of now," said Antim Panghal, who approached the Delhi High Court to protest against Vinesh Phogat's inclusion in the Asian Games squad sans a trial.
A bunch of Indian wrestlers had requested the ad-hoc panel to postpone the trials as they wanted more time to recover after the Asian Games trials [held on July 22]. The wrestlers said they needed more time to recover from the weight cut and it would be a hard task for them to cut weight again if the trials were held on August 10 [17 days since the Asian Games trial].
While their request bore no reply, the ad-hoc panel has not announced a final date yet despite the deadline fast approaching. One of the members of the ad-hoc panel, on the condition of anonymity, said "There have been no discussions regarding the trials for the World Championships. No discussions at all."
Dayanand, father and coach of 65kg wrestler Sujeet, says the word is that the trials may happen between August 20-25. But that too is not confirmed. ESPN understands that Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, the leaders of the protest against the WFI, have all returned to India from their foreign training camps as well.
The reason the ad-hoc committee hasn't taken the initiative of conducting the trials is that they will cease to exist once the WFI's elections are held on August 12. The newly-elected body will then have the power to conduct the trials.
"The August 16 deadline is only to confirm how many athletes will be representing India at the World Championships. We will send a tentative list for now and replace the names, if needed, later on. The UWW is on board with this," said a well-placed official, while also echoing what Dayanand said - the selections are likely to happen around August 25.
The World Championships are a very important event for India's wrestlers as it gives them the first chance to win a quota for the 2024 Paris Olympics. However, as per the WFI's selection criteria, the wrestler who wins the quota may not necessarily get the berth since the quota belongs to the country. For example: if Bajrang Punia wins a quota in the men's 65kg freestyle division, it doesn't mean that he will compete at the Olympics unopposed.
The selection committee has the power to conduct a trial if needed. And the wrestler who won the quota will not compete in the trial but will face the winner of the trial. If he/she loses the first bout, the wrestler will be offered another bout against the same opponent to seal their berth.