The veteran wrestler will be out of the race completely if Jitender Kumar reaches the final of the Asian wrestling qualifiers for the Olympics.
Indian wrestler Jitender Kumar’s silver medal performance in the 74kg men’s freestyle at the ongoing Asian Wrestling Championships might have just put paid to Sushil Kumar’s hopes of grappling at the 2020 Olympics.
Jitender Kumar’s showing at the New Delhi tournament means that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has confirmed him in the Indian squad for the Asian wrestling qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics, set to be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in March.
Since Jitender has reached the final in the 74kg, there will be no trials and he will go for the qualifier -- WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said on the sidelines of the New Delhi event.
Sushil Kumar, who has been under-par after an injury return since a first-round exit at the 2018 Asian Games, will now have to wait at least a month to see how Jitender Kumar performs at the Asian wrestling qualifiers.
If the latter reaches the final at the qualifiers, he will be eligible to grapple at the 2020 Olympics, which would deny Sushil Kumar the opportunity to participate in his fourth Olympic Games.
The veteran Indian wrestler, who also grapples in the 74kg freestyle category, will have to hope that his younger compatriot does not reach the final. In that case, the WFI may decide to hold trials to decide the contingent for the World wrestling qualifiers.
Set to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria at the end of April, the World wrestling qualifiers will present Indian wrestlers another chance to stake their claim for a 2020 Olympics berth.
However, Sushil Kumar will first have to win the national trials, if they are held, and will then need to reach the final in Sofia, by no means an easy task.
The Indian wrestler is the only individual athlete to win medals in two different Olympic Games for the country and is aiming for a final hurrah at the 2020 Olympics.