The deadly coronavirus outbreak in China led to a change of location for yet another event as the Asian wrestling qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics were shifted to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; United World Wrestling confirmed on Thursday.
“We are glad to see that the Kyrgyzstan government and the Kyrgyzstan Wrestling Federation were able to step in as a suitable replacement for this important event," said Nenad Lalovic, the governing body’s president.
"Moving an event this close to the competition date is not ideal, but we must consider the health of the athletes and ensure that everyone who wants to compete at the qualifiers has the opportunity.”
The Asian wrestling qualifiers were initially scheduled to be held at Xian, China but there was also a shadow hanging over it following the coronavirus outbreak in the country, which has taken more than 2,000 lives so far.
The Chinese wrestlers who have qualified for the tournament will be allowed to participate although they will first have to go through a further quarantine process in Belgrade, Serbia after having already been evaluated in their home nation.
They will be provided with all the necessary equipment for a training camp in Serbia before being flown to Bishkek.
Indian wrestlers’ squad yet to be decided
The event will be hugely important to Indian wrestlers other than Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Deepak Punia, who are already eligible to grapple at the 2020 Olympics.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is assessing the performances of the grapplers at the ongoing Asian Wrestling Championships before deciding on the squad to send to the event.
Indian wrestlers have won four gold and bronze medals each in various categories so far, and are in with a chance of adding to that tally in the coming days.
Rio 2016 bronze-medalist, Sakshi Malik is also grappling in a non-Olympic category at the Asian Wrestling Championships and has asked for a new round of trials as she looks to keep her hopes alive for the 2020 Olympics.