Tough task ahead of Indian wrestlers (Preview)

August 18th, 2008 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 18 (IANS) Indian wrestlers have seldom been a favoured lot for the Olympics, and the 2008 Games holds little promise of any change in their fortune. The bleak scenario in the sport seems a poor contrast to the heady achievement of grappler Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav, who gave the country its first individual Olympic medal in 1952. Jadhav got the bronze in the Freestyle Bantamweight class at Helsinki, but since then no other Indian wrestler have succeeded in emulating him, though a few came close and even finished among the top six.

In Helsinki itself, Mangwe Srirang Jadhav was ranked fourth in the featherweight class after losing his bronze medal bout to American Josiah Hanson by a solitary point. At Los Angeles in 1984, Rajinder Singh missed a medal by a whisker, coming fourth in the 74 Kg category.

In 2008 Beijing Games, India have fielded three wrestlers as compared to six in the previous edition in Athens, 2004. Yogeshwar Dutt (60 kg), Rajiv Tomar (120 kg) and Sushil Kumar (66 kg) will compete in the freestyle category, but the country would go unrepresented in the Greco-Roman class as none of the grapplers have made the cut.

Needless to say, it would not be easy for the Indians as none of the wrestlers have churned out impressive performances in recent times.

Wrestlers have often blamed their basic training on turf for their failure to perform on international stage - where competitions are held on the mat.

But Indian wrestling coach PR Sondhi has expressed optimism about his team’s performance in Beijing. The Indian wrestlers had gone for training in Cuba and Sodhi feels they are peaking at the right time.

For Yogeshwar, this will be his second outing to the Olympics. The wrestler from Sonepat, Haryana, had a miserable run in Athens, where he participated in the 55kg category. However, this time around he is expected to perform better, as he booked his berth to Beijing by winning gold in the Asian championship in Jeju City in South Korea. He also claimed the gold in the 2003 Commonwealth wrestling Championship.

Sushil, who finished 14th in Athens grappling in the 60 kg category, will be looking to better the grade in Beijing where he is trying his luck in the 60kg in 2004. He is the only Indian this time to have qualified from the world championship, where he finished seventh and then went on to win a bronze in the Asian meet.

Delhi’s Tomar, taking part in his maiden Olympics, sealed his place clinching the silver in the first qualifiers in Switzerland. However, Tomar was off the mat for three years due to a knee injury and could not participate in any of the Asian or world meets at the senior level. But the 27 year old is satisfied with his preparation and is raring to have a go at Beijing.

Yet to expect medal from the wrestlers will be somewhat close to being in a state of willing suspension of disbelief with Cuba, Russian and American wrestlers posing a formidable challenge.

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