What are your expectations of the Indian struggle contingent at the next CWG?
Twelve wrestlers are going to compete in the Games, and I think all 12 can take home medals. The color of the medal will depend on their performance. Many factors come into play during large events; for example, we were expecting a medal for Vinesh (Phogat) at the Tokyo Olympics, then we were hoping for a gold or silver medal for Bajrang (Punia)… there are circumstances, but if the wrestlers who go to Birmingham give the best of themselves, they will surely win a medal. Even our sixth or sixth numbered wrestler – from the pool we have – can get a Commonwealth Games medal.
After the Tokyo Olympics, you had problems with organizations like Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) or JSW…
We have had discussions with these organizations for a long time and now they will comply with our rules. The federation does not want a single paisa from them. But whichever young wrestler they have to sponsor, that performance should be the only criteria. Nobody should get money just by looking at their face, checking performance. So now we have given them the list of top performers and they can support these wrestlers.
There were problems with the players after the Olympics…
These are things of the past. I can assure that our players are disciplined now. They act totally in agreement with the federation and the government of India. We have full control over the sport in India.
India’s history at the Commonwealth Games
Foreign coach or Indian coach – where is your penchant?
Foreign coaches have their own importance. Sushil (Kumar), Yogeshwar (Dutt)… did they have a foreign coach or an Indian coach? Indian coaches have their own way of training. When we have champions on the world stage in the U-15, U-17 category, are they trained by foreign coaches? If Japanese girls are beaten by our 15 year olds, then who trains these Indian girls? If a foreign coach can teach you some nuances then that is fine, but to totally disparage our Indian coaches saying they are no good is a mistake. I can publicly state that if Deepak Punia had an Indian coach at the Olympics, we would have a medal.
Do you have a backup generation planned for the current batch of Indian wrestlers?
We now organize open national championships. Recently, in Chandigarh, we organized a junior level tournament. In the 65 kg category, 159 wrestlers participated, while in the 61 kg category, 148 wrestlers participated. These tournaments used to end in one day, but were extended to three days. In one of these national championships, 1700 wrestlers participated. I’m sure in each weight class we won’t have three to four, but 10 to 12 backups.
Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi-NCR, Maharashtra are centers of struggle. Do you plan to bring the sport to other parts of the country?
There is something called genes. For example, from the southern states, we have so many sprinters, runners, athletes. Likewise, most wrestlers come from certain states. That said, we are setting up an academy in Ayodhya and this academy will start very soon. In this academy, children who are left behind…say from camps or from Khelo India will be kept at the academy. In this academy, children from North India, Bengal, Bihar and other states will be present. Tata Group worked with us in setting up the academy.
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