The freestyle events of the ongoing Individual World Cup in Serbia, organised by the United World Wrestling (UWW), are set to get underway from Wednesday, December 16th. And the Indian freestyle wrestling squad has left for Belgrade on Monday.
Numerous top Indian wrestlers like Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat are giving the event a skip since countries like the United States of America, Japan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Cuba are not sending their wrestlers due to the pandemic.
But the tournament is being viewed as a great opportunity by the likes of Narsingh Yadav. The 31-year-old, set to compete in the 74kg freestyle event, is by no means a favourite to land an Olympic quota in this category.
India are yet to claim a place in the category after Jitender Kumar failed to perform at the 2019 World Championship.
Jitender and two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar are very much ahead of Yadav in the pecking order but the 2015 World Championship bronze medallist is not giving up.
Yadav, returning to the international arena after serving a four-year ban, states that the ongoing Individual World Cup is a huge occasion for him personally and will help him understand how he matches up to the competition.
“I'm not worried at all. If anything, I'm really happy to be competing again and getting a chance to test myself. There's no greater joy than testing yourself against the best wrestlers.” Narsingh Yadav to ESPN.
Yadav is definitely confident in his abilities and hopes that a good performance will help his bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“In my mind, I think my level has not changed. But it's true that many years have passed since I competed. In one way, it's a big thing for me just to compete but I also know that if I do well, it will give me a big boost (to the hope of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics). That's why this is a very important tournament for me,” he explained.
His return to action has not been without drama (a slight one), however. He was tested positive for Covid-19 days after he was named in the squad for the World Cup. Thankfully, last Friday, he was tested negative and was cleared.
“I was only slightly unwell. I've trained and competed with far more severe illnesses and injuries in the past. In fact, I was training on the day I got the test done. But because I had symptoms I had to get tested. And three days after my test, I returned a negative test. Right now I'm training back at a 100 percent,” he revealed.