Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Reigning junior world champion Deepak Punia on Saturday became the fourth Indian to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after moving to the 86kg semifinals at the World Wrestling Championship here on Saturday.
Competing in his maiden senior World Championship, Deepak locked the quota after prevailing 7-6 in a tense semifinal against Colombia’s Carlos Arturo Mendez.
With one minute to go, he was trailing 3-6 but pulled off a takedown and then expose move to take a 7-6 lead in the dying moments of the tense bout.
He will now clash with Switzerland’s Stefan Reichmuth for a place in the gold medal match.
Also doing a commendable job was Rahul Aware, who has moved to the semifinals in the 61kg non-Olympic category.
Both Deepak and Rahul overcame rough Kazakh wrestlers en route the semifinals.
Vinesh Phogat, Deepak Punia and Ravi Dahiya have already qualified for the 2020 Olympics with bronze medals.
However, Jitender (79kg) lost his quarterfinal while Mausam Khatri lost his first round in 97kg to reigning Olympic champion Kyle Frederick Snyder.
Deepak had bumped into home wrestler Adilet Davlumbayev in his opening round and looked a bit nervous before the bout, probably fearing partiality.
However, he played very smartly to defeat the home favourite despite trailing 0-5.
Adlilet was playing rough and was cautioned for poking Deepak. Consecutive takedown moves and a caution point brought Deepak on even terms at 5-5.
He converted an opportunity but also conceded a throw and it was 7-7. The home camp challenged the call and lost.
Deepak got one more point while the Kazakh lost one, sending Deepak into the next round.
He was hardly troubled by Tajikistan’s Bakhodur Kodirov, who he beat 6-0 to move to quarterfinals.
In 61kg, Rahul Aware played his pre-quarterfinal against Turkmenistan’s Kerim Hojakov.
The diminutive agile wrestler from Maharashtra was in complete control of the bout, which he ended with leg lace moves, winning by technical superiority.
Against Kazakhstan’s Rassul Kaliyev, it was a very tough bout but the Indian showed more craft than his rough opponent and won 10-7 in a roller-coaster quarterfinal. He was technically more sound and sharp.
Jitender began with an easy 7-2 win over Molodova’s Gheorghi Pascalov.
In the pre-quarterfinals, he was up against Turkey’s Muhammet Nuri Kotanoglu, the European Championship bronze medallist and again his immense upper body strength helped him to a 7-2 win.
However, he could not find a way to break the solid defence of Slovakia’s Taimuraz Salkazanov, losing 0-4.
In 97kg, Mausam Khatri was no match to the American, losing by technical superiority.
Bajrang questions reports of him sacking Shako
New Delhi: Dismissing the report that he has sacked his personal coach Shako Bentinidis, star wrestler Bajrang Punia on Friday said the Georgian is very much in his team and he has no plans to make any change to his support staff.
It has been reported that Bajrang, the only Indian to win three World Championship medals, has parted ways with Bentinidis.
“I fail to understand who has said this and why? Shako is my coach and I should have been asked about it. I really felt bad after reading that frivolous report. There is no truth in it,” Bajrang told PTI, reacting to a media report.
“He is my personal coach, arranged by JSW. This is beyond me to understand why it was reported that I have sacked him. Who is saying this and why? I don’t intend to change my coach,” added the world number one wrestler in 65kg.
When contacted, JSW said neither they nor Bajrang at any stage wanted to let go Shako.
“It is very clear to us that if Bajrang does not want to train with Shako, we will not have him. But neither Bajrang nor the WFI asked us to sack Shako. It’s already been one month that World Championship got over, if we had to take this step, we would have done right after that,” said Manisha Malhotra, Head of Sports Excellence and Scouting, JSW.
The WFI though indeed was not happy with Bentinidis for pressing the protest button when the referee awarded four points to Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov for a throw during his semifinal bout during the Worlds.
It had cost Bajrang an extra point which WFI felt robbed the Indian of a place in the final. WFI is also not happy that Bajrang’s leg defense is still very weak.
It has also been learnt that Bentinidis had to even apologise to the WFI in Nur Sultan for taking that protest call.
“I know Federation was not happy with his protest. But look at the bigger picture. Shako has got Bajrang to number one position in the world. He has done something correct with him,” Manisha defended Shako.
“Yes he is abrasive. I agree. But nobody hired him for his personality. If he is getting the job done. It is okay.There is a lot of pressure on Bajrang to win medal at Olympics and so close to Olympics, it’s also not strategically a good move to change coach now at this stage, so there is no plan to change anything.”
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said it has no information on the issue.
“It’s matter related to Bajrang and only he can decide if he wants Shako with him or not. We have not appointed him. We can’t tell wrestlers that you don’t train with so and so coach. We are concerned with the Olympic medal. If somebody does not train, we can force him to train but Bajrang is training and he has freedom to train with the coach of his choice,” WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said.
Shako rejected allegations that he took a bit of appearance money meant for Bajrang without informing him during the ‘Grapple at the Garden Beat the Streets’ event in New York.
“I am as pure as a source of water,” Bentinidis told PTI from Georgia.
“Do you think it is possible for me to call the US Federation and the organisers to say that give me Bajrang’s money?,” he asked.
Both Bajrang and Manisha also backed the Georgian on the issue.
“There is nothing like that,” said Bajrang.
Manisha added, “I have also heard about it. If he did that, it’s very stupid of him because one day it would come out. I don’t think he did that, he is not that stupid.”
Bentinidis said they have to quickly forget everything and start preparations for Tokyo.
“I am no longer offended by anyone. I need support to prepare Bajrang for Tokyo. I am sure, by God’s grace, I will achieve my goal,” he said.
Bajrang is undergoing rehabilitation for an elbow injury and will resume training with Bentinidis soon.
Olympic medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik dropped from TOPS, Ravi Dahiya gets nod
New Delhi: Young wrestler Ravi Dahiya, who recently won a World championships bronze medal, was on Friday included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) while struggling Sakshi Malik was dropped from the programme.
The decision was taken by the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Mission Olympic Cell. Ravi won a bronze in the men’s 57kg freestyle category in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The bronze also ensured an Olympic quota for India in next year’s Tokyo Games.
Sakshi, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has been struggling for long and has been dropped from the scheme. She had crashed out in the opening round of the 62kg women’s category in Nur-Sultan.
Weightlifter Ragala Venkat Rahul has also been excluded from the TOPS, which provides a monthly financial assistance of Rs 50,000.
The committee has sanctioned the proposal of wrestler Pooja Dhanda to train for a period of one month in her hometown of Hisar under the supervision of Romanian coach Fanel Carp.
The committee sanctioned weight-lifter Mirabai Chanu’s proposal for financial assistance to have a physiotherapist-cum-masseuse Shivani Bharuka, who will attend to her at the national camp till the Tokyo Olympics.
The committee cleared financial proposals of over Rs 70 lakhs at the recently-held meeting.
Three national federations — Shooting, Table Tennis and Weightlifting — also shared their roadmap for the 2020, 2024 and 2028 Olympics with regards to strategy, planning and talent identification during the meeting.
The Mission Olympic Cell has sanctioned overseas training in Colorado Springs for men’s 3000m steeplechase runner Avinash Sable under Scott Simons till the Tokyo Olympics.
In badminton, the committee has cleared the proposal of Sameer Verma to participate in three international competitions — Dutch Open, Macau Open and Korea Masters in October and November respectively.
The committee also sanctioned proposal of shuttler Saina Nehwal to travel with her fitness trainer Swaroop Sinha in seven international tournaments till December 2019.
In shooting, the training, ammunition and competition requirements of seven shooters — Anjum Moudgil, Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker, Abhishek Verma, Lakshay Sheoran, Mehuli Ghosh and Anish Bhanwala — were also approved.
The committee also cleared a combined proposal of five para-badminton players — Pramod Bhagat, Suhas Yathiraj, Manoj Sarkar, Sukant Kadam and Tarun for participation in the Denmark Open Para Badminton International.
In para-shooting and para-athletics, the committee sanctioned the training and equipment needs of Deepender and para-athletes Sharad Kumar and Sandeep Chaudhary.
Wrestling federation sacks men’s head coach Hossein Karimi
New Delhi: The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has sacked men’s freestyle coach Hossein Karimi just six months into his tenure, claiming that the Iranian brought with himself a VIP culture which cannot be followed in the country.
Karimi’s contract was to run till the Tokyo Olympics. The Iranian was handed his termination notice on Wednesday.
“He was following a VIP culture and it was increasingly becoming difficult to cope with his demands. We have intimated SAI about this. We are looking for a new coach,” WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said.
Asked to elaborate on the issues that the WFI was facing while dealing with Karimi, Tomar explained that he could never develop a bond with either the coaches or the wrestlers.
“He always had one or other complaint or rather demand. He refused to stay at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex where the national camp is held, so we had to hire a flat near the SAI centre for him. We had to hire a car for him every time he had to travel in India.
“He always insisted on staying alone during tournaments while others shared rooms. Even at the World Championship in Nur-Sultan where two persons were to share the room as per the UWW instructions, he stayed alone. It was difficult to accept all his demands,” said Tomar.
Karimi was hired at a monthly salary of $3,500 but WFI said the expenses stood at $5,000 due to his additional demands. Another major concern for WFI was Karimi’s lack of camaraderie even with his wards.
“During the tournament, he would go onto the mat but refused to wipe the sweat of wrestlers which all the coaches do during the bouts. Even during training at the camp, because of the same reason, he did not teach techniques by example because he had a problem touching sweat-soaked wrestlers. It can’t work in India,” said Tomar.
Karimi on the other hand, said India did not offer a good system for the growth of the sport.
“They have cancelled my contract. In India, the system is not good. There are a lot of problems,” Karimi said but did not elaborate.
India recorded its best ever performance at the recent World Championship in Nur-Sultan, where the men’s freestyle wrestlers won four medals and three Olympic quotas.
It has been learnt that Karimi wanted to have his own programme in place at the national camp in Bahalgarh in Sonepat district but the country’s elite wrestlers trained on their own.
Bajrang Punia has been training with Georgian Shako Bentinidis while Sushil Kumar trains with Russian Kamal Malikov.
Deepak Punia and Ravi Dahiya, who won a silver and a bronze respectively in Nur Sultan, are a product of Delhi’s Chhatarsal stadium.
The WFI spoke to a few coaches from Uzbekistan and Russia during the World Championship and has asked some of the interested candidates to apply.
The national camp will begin from November 1 and the WFI is expecting to fill up the vacancy before that.
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