Congress slams Centre over Indian wrestlers’ plight

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Wrestlers cry foul over WFI suspension

The Congress party on Tuesday slammed the central government over the plight of Indian wrestlers, who are facing uncertainty over their participation in the upcoming World Wrestling Championships 2023 in Belgrade, Serbia. The wrestlers are unable to compete under the national flag due to the provisional suspension of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) by the United World Wrestling (UWW), the global governing body for the sport.

The UWW had suspended the WFI for not conducting elections on time, as per the Olympic Charter. The suspension came into effect on Thursday, just two days before the trials to select the Indian team for the world championships. The world championships, scheduled from September 16 to 24, will be the first wrestling qualifiers for next year’s Paris 2024 Olympics.

Several Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik and Asian champion Aman Sehrawat, expressed their anguish and frustration over the suspension, which has jeopardized their chances of qualifying for the Olympics. They also blamed the WFI for its mismanagement and lack of communication with the UWW.

“It is very disheartening to see that our hard work and dreams are being shattered due to the negligence of the federation. We have been training for months for the world championships, which is a very important event for us. But now we don’t know if we can even participate or not,” Sakshi Malik, who won a bronze medal in the women’s 58kg category at the Rio 2016 Olympics, said at a press conference held by some of India’s top wrestlers on Tuesday.

Congress slams Centre over Indian wrestlers’ plight

“We have been told that we will have to compete under a neutral flag, which is very humiliating for us. We are proud to represent our country and our flag. We want to win medals for India, not for any other entity. We request the government and the federation to resolve this issue as soon as possible and restore our dignity,” Aman Sehrawat, who won the gold medal in the men’s 57kg category at the 2022 U23 World Championships and the 2023 Asian Championships, said.

Congress demands Centre’s intervention

The Congress party, which is the main opposition party in the country, came out in support of the wrestlers and demanded the central government’s intervention to resolve the crisis. The party accused the government of neglecting the welfare of the sportspersons and failing to protect their interests.

“The tears of our wrestlers are a testimony to the apathy and incompetence of the Modi government, which has failed to safeguard the pride and honour of our sportspersons. The government should have intervened and ensured that the WFI conducts its elections on time and complies with the UWW norms. But instead, it has left the wrestlers in the lurch and exposed them to humiliation and uncertainty,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement.

“The Congress party stands in solidarity with our wrestlers and demands that the government takes immediate steps to revoke the suspension of the WFI and restore the rights of our wrestlers to compete under the Indian flag. The government should also provide adequate support and facilities to the wrestlers to prepare for the world championships and the Olympics. The Congress party will not tolerate any injustice to our sportspersons and will raise their voice at every forum,” Surjewala added.

WFI hopeful of resolving the issue

The WFI, meanwhile, expressed hope that the issue will be resolved soon and that the Indian wrestlers will be able to participate in the world championships without any hindrance. The WFI claimed that it had sought an extension from the UWW to conduct its elections, which were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the UWW did not grant it.

“We are in touch with the UWW and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and we are hopeful that the suspension will be lifted soon. We have explained to them the reasons for the delay in the elections and requested them to consider our situation. We have also assured them that we will conduct the elections as soon as possible,” WFI president Sanjay Singh, who was elected unopposed in the federation’s elections held on Monday, said.

“We are confident that our wrestlers will be able to compete in the world championships under the Indian flag and qualify for the Olympics. We are providing them all the necessary support and guidance to prepare for the event. We request the wrestlers and the fans to not lose hope and trust us. We are doing our best to resolve this issue in the best interest of the sport and the country,” Singh added.

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