Wrestlers Deepak Punia, Ravi Kumar to lead India at Individual World Cup

Silver medallist at the 2019 world championships, Deepak Punia will look to access himself with some quality competition ahead of the Olympic year.

By Naveen Peter ·

Olympic quota winners in wrestling, Deepak Punia and Ravi Kumar will be seen in action when the Individual World Cup gets underway in Belgrade, Serbia from December 12.

Despite the unavailability of some of the top wrestlers in the country, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has named a strong contingent for the competition which has replaced the now-cancelled 2020 world meet. 

Deepak Punia, a silver medallist at the 2019 world championships in the 86kg men’s freestyle category, and Ravi Kumar, who won a bronze medal in the 57kg freestyle category, will be looking at this event as a precursor to the all-important Olympic year. 

Meanwhile, the likes Gourav Baliyan, along with national champions Satyawart Kadian (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg) will be eager to lay down the marker ahead of the national trials for the Olympic qualifiers next year.

National champion Satyawart Kadian (left) is included in the Indian team for the Individual World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: UWW

Sakshi Malik in, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat opt out

Also featuring in the 24-member squad will be another bronze medallist at the 2019 Worlds, Rahul Aware (61kg), Sonam Malik (62kg) and the bronze medallist from the 2016 Rio Olympics Sakshi Malik (65kg).

Sakshi Malik has been second-best in the country in the 62kg category, an Olympic weight division, where youngster Sonam Malik has excelled over the past few years.

But that hasn’t slowed down Olympic medallist Sakhi Malik, who will be hoping to get some valuable mat time under her belt before moving categories for the national trials next year.

The Belgrade event will kick-start with the Greco-Roman events on December 12-14 and will be followed by the women’s events on December 14-16. The men’s freestyle will begin on December 16 and conclude on the final day of the meet.

Given the prevailing COVID-19 situation and the restrictions on international travel, the Indian wrestling team will be travelling in groups with the Greco-Roman wrestlers departing on December 9. The women wrestlers will be the next to leave on December 12, followed by the men’s freestylers.

India aces Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have opted out of the event and will continue with their respective training programmes. Punia will be in the USA from December 4.

Meanwhile, the 2019 Asian Championships silver medallist Gurpreet Singh, Narsingh Yadav and the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Divya Kakran have tested positive for Covid-19, ruling them out of the Belgrade event.

Indian wrestling squad for Individual World Cup

Men: Freestyle: Ravi Kumar (57kg), Rahul Aware (61kg), Naveen (70kg), Gourav Baliyan (79kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Satyawart Kadian (97kg), Sumit Malik (125 kg).

Greco-Roman: Arjun Halakurki (55kg), Gyanender (60kg), Sachin Rana (63kg), Ashu (67kg), Aditya Kundu (72kg), Sajan (77kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Hardeep (97kg), Naveen (130kg)

Women: Nirmala Devi (50kg), Pinki (55kg), Anshu (57kg), Sarita (59kg), Sonam Malik (62kg), Sakshi Malik (65kg), Gursharan Preet Kaur (72kg), Kiran (76kg).