Pooja Dhanda delighted as national wrestling camp set to start

While the male wrestlers will camp in Sonepat, the women wrestlers will be training in Lucknow.

By Subhayan Dutta

With the relaxation of the lockdown in the country, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has sanctioned a national camp for Indian wrestlers from September 1 to 30 after it was proposed by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Friday.

The national wrestling federation had previously attempted to start a camp earlier but the rising COVID-19 cases kept the grapplers at bay.

But things have now changed and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has confirmed that the national wrestling camp for men will be held at their campus in Sonepat and for women at Lucknow.

"This decision to commence the camp has been taken to ensure that those athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics and those who can still qualify for the Olympics can begin on-field training," SAI said in a statement.

As per SAI guidelines, the athletes, coaches and support staff joining the national camps will be quarantined for 14 days and will be given mandatory COVID tests before they resume training.

Commonwealth Games medallist Pooja Dhanda is eyeing her return to the mat with the 2020 World Wrestling Championships.

India’s premier 57kg women wrestler and 2018 World Championship bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda was glad that the national camp will be starting soon.

“We have to learn to live with coronavirus. We will begin training with the World Championship in mind," Pooja said during a webinar organised by the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) on Friday.

Like India’s hockey and badminton national camps, the wrestling camp will only be limited to the elite few. The camp will include five weight categories – 57kg, 65kg, 74kg, 86kg and 125kg in men’s and 50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg and 68kg for women.

The Greco-Roman wrestlers in the 60kg, 77kg and 87kg weight categories will also be allowed to join the camp.

Another shot at the Olympics

An injury-plagued 2019 saw Pooja Dhanda missing out on numerous opportunities to compete at the Olympic qualifiers with Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor emerging as her challengers.

However, Dhanda has now recovered and is fully fit with Tokyo 2020 in her sight.

“I had four back to back injuries last year, so rehabilitation took away a bit of time,” Pooja Dhanda said.

“I have now the World Championship in mind. I am glad that the Olympics got postponed, it gives me another chance," Pooja added.

No form without competition

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United World Wrestling had suspended all events and postponed the Olympic qualifiers to 2021.

And while the Indian wrestlers have kept themselves fit during the national lockdown in their homes, Pooja Dhanda believes the true test will be on the wrestling mat.

“When competition is there we can measure our rivals, so not having competition is definitely impacting the game," Dhanda explained.