Protesting wrestlers return to training at Sonepat SAI centre as Asian Games trials loom | More

Protesting wrestlers return to training at Sonepat SAI centre as Asian Games trials loom | More

NEW DELHI: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Sonepat has regained its lively atmosphere as protesting wrestlers join their fellow athletes to gear up for the upcoming Asian Games trials. The wrestlers have been vocal in their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, demanding change and transparency in the sport’s administration.
Vinesh Phogat, a prominent figure in the protest, resumed training at the centre on June 9, demonstrating her commitment to the sport. Joining her on the mat for the trials was her cousin sister Geeta Phogat, who recently made a triumphant comeback to competitive wrestling after a maternity break. Geeta’s husband, Pawan Saroha, also a wrestler, has been supporting her throughout her training journey.

Accompanying the Phogat sisters is Sangeeta, Geeta’s younger sister, who stands in solidarity with her husband and Tokyo Games bronze medalist, Bajrang Punia. The women wrestlers had initially planned to assemble for the National Camp at the SAI centre in Lucknow, but due to the ongoing agitation against the WFI chief, the camp was relocated from the Uttar Pradesh capital.

A source from SAI revealed, “The protesting wrestlers have been away from the mat for a long time. Mostly, they are spending time in the gym. Sangeeta is also working on strength-building.” The official further added, “Vinesh had joined the centre as early as June 9. Geeta Phogat has also been coming regularly. It seems normalcy is returning to the complex.”
Meanwhile, Bajrang Punia and his sparring partner Jitender Kinha have already commenced their training sessions at the Bahalgarh centre, which serves as the year-round national camp for male wrestlers.
In a recent development, the wrestlers approached the Sports Ministry, requesting that the trials be postponed until August. They expressed concern that if the trials were held later this month, they would not be adequately prepared for the competition.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has reached out to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), seeking permission to submit the wrestling squad by August 10. The IOA is required to provide the names of all participating Indian players to the OCA by July 15.
Prior to resuming training in Sonepat, the wrestlers had conducted a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar from April 23 to May 28. However, their peaceful demonstration was met with detainment by the Delhi police due to alleged violation of law and order. While they managed to practice briefly at the Railways stadium near the protest site, the ongoing protests hindered their progress as they were required to attend to visiting participants.
(With inputs from PTI)

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