Sakshi Malik, Sushil Kumar handed a fresh lease of life

With the Asian Olympic qualifiers pushed to 2021, the WFI is expected to conduct fresh trials ahead of the meet, giving Indian wrestlers a chance to make the national team

Sakshi Malik may have thought her chances of making it to the Tokyo Olympics were all but over, but the Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist may have been handed another opportunity at realising her dream.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) announced that they, in all likelihood, will conduct fresh trials to select the Indian for the Asian Olympic qualifiers.

The United World Wrestling, on Tuesday, announced that the ‘remaining Olympic qualifiers will be organized in 2021 in the same period as in 2020, supposing minor adjustments to the exact dates.’

China to host Asian wrestling qualifiers

The international body also stated that ‘the same organisers as originally planned will stage these remaining qualifiers,’ thus handing the Asian event to Xian, China. The event is expected to be held from March 21-29.

The latest development not only aids Sakshi Malik, who rose to prominence with her bronze medal show at Rio 2016 but will also see the likes of Sushil Kumar, Narsingh Yadav and Pooja Dhanda heave a sigh of relief.

Speaking to The Hindu, WFI secretary VN Prasood said that though the postponement of the Olympics had upset their plans for the season.

He added that the federation was working towards charting out the path for the season that could include the process to select the Indian team for the Olympic qualifiers. 

“Our policy is to select the best and deserving wrestlers,” he reasoned. “But we want to make sure everyone is given a chance. 

“We may conduct fresh trials in all events and if that is not acceptable by the wrestlers, we may even hold the National championships a little earlier this year,” he said.

Competition heats up

A below-par start to 2020 had seen Sakhi Malik and Pooja Dhanda fall short from making it to the Indian wrestling team for the season-opening events and the Olympic qualifiers, while Sushil Kumar had been sidelined after having missed the national trials following an injury.

Meanwhile, the returning Narsingh Yadav is also expected to add some spice to the fiercely competitive 74kg category in the freestyle section. 

While Jitender Kumar has done well in the absence of Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav in the 74kg category, the return of the two quality wrestlers will surely make life difficult for him to hold on to his spot in the Indian wrestling setup.

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