National wrestling championships: Tokyo Olympics hopefuls glad to be back in action 

Nearly 250 Indian wrestlers competed for the first time since the outbreak of coronavirus

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

Indian wrestlers vying for a berth at Tokyo Olympics returned to action with the 65th Senior Men's Free Wrestling Championship at the newly inaugurated Noida Indoor Stadium on Sunday.

The championship brought nearly 250 Indian wrestlers back to business as they competed in a wrestling tournament for the first time since the outbreak of coronavirus. Among them was national champion Satyawart Kadian - top Indian contender for an Olympic berth in 97kg category.

Despite staying away from action for nearly a year, Kadian was back with a bang as he defended his national title. He defeated Monu (Services) in the final without breaking a sweat.

“It was very important for internal competition to start. We had no plans, no targets during the last one year,” Kadian told Hindustan Times.

“The wrestlers have gone through a very tough time. We were not able to train with restrictions in place. Only those who had their partners could train in some akhada (wrestling arena). It was mostly individual training. We have started full-fledged training now,” he added.

Kadian, also highlighted the poor performance of India, during the World Cup in Serbia as they returned home with only one medal.

“Every country was well prepared at the World Cup. The quarantine period is most difficult in training camps. You are just locked in a room, can’t do any training. It is good the vaccine has come; now these rules must end,” he says.

Meanwhile, Pradeep who bagged a bronze medal in the 79kg category, said that he wants to shift to 74kg to target a berth at Olympics.

“I wanted to change my category and compete in 74kg and aim for an Olympic berth. After this competition, I will be up for it,” he said.

Four Indian wrestlers - Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia and Vinesh Phogat - have qualified for Tokyo Olympics while the others will look to book their spot for the quadrennial showpiece at the World Olympic qualifiers, starting on April 29.