World Championships called off, Indian wrestlers now turn attention to World Cup

India is keen on fielding a squad for the World Cup to be held in Belgrade.

By Naveen Peter

The United World Wrestling (UWW) may have called off the World Championships next month due to inadequate participation, but the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) isn’t worried.

The WFI has decided to field a team for the proposed ‘Individual World Cup’. It will replace the world championships which were scheduled in Belgrade from December 12.

“I don't think it changes much. The Worlds were not an Olympic qualifying event. All we were hoping for was some exposure for our wrestlers. Now that the UWW has decided to organise a World Cup, we will compete there,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told the Olympic Channel.

With the Indian wrestlers deprived of competition ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out early this year, the WFI believes that the World Cup will provide an opportunity to assess the grapplers’ progress.

“Right now, it's about seeing where the wrestlers stand,” Tomar said. “Yes, the camp has been on for a while, but unless you compete you can't know where you stand. You never know how far you have come. That's something that we are looking for at the Belgrade event.”

The national wrestling camps have been going ahead in full swing in Sonipat and Lucknow over the past month. While the wrestlers are on a week-long Diwali break, they are expected to return soon with the trials for the World Cup likely to be held post the break. The dates for the Belgrade World Cup is expected to be announced in the coming days.

“The camp is focused on the Olympics. So, I believe it will be an ongoing thing till then. Yes, there are a few like Bajrang Punia who have chosen to stay back. We are ensuring that they are well taken care of,” the WFI official said about the Indian wrestling ace who’s due to get married later this month.  

While the Indian wrestlers could get some more mat time with the Senior National Wrestling Championships likely to be held in Uttar Pradesh, Tomar was confident of seeing the grapplers return to their usual routine next year.

“In the new year, we expect to get back to some sort of normalcy. We have the Asian Championships before the Asian (Olympic) qualifiers, so that's one event that the wrestlers will be working towards. We are hoping to send some of our wrestlers on exposure tours as well,” he said.