India grapple with wrestling selection dilemma

Thu May 19, 2016 6:19am EDT
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By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India are grappling with a dilemma over who to select between the logical candidate or a sentimental favorite as the country's representative in men's 74kg freestyle wrestling at the Rio Olympics.

Since winning India's quota place by capturing a bronze medal at last year's World Championship in Las Vegas, Narsingh Yadav had more or less taken his ticket to Brazil for granted.

With the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) also backing the 26-year-old, it seemed his place was certain until double Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar approached the Delhi High Court on Monday demanding a match between the pair to determine who should compete in Rio.

"As asked by the court, we heard Sushil and noted his point. We'd submit our observations and will wait for the court's instruction," WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told Reuters on Thursday.

Wrestling maintains a low-profile in cricket-obsessed India but the selection conundrum has snowballed into a crisis, largely because of Kumar's lofty stature in the world's second most populous country.

The 32-year-old has been the face of Indian wrestling since winning the 66kg freestyle bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games, which he upgraded to a silver four years later in London.

Kumar is the only Indian athlete to win two individual Olympic medals but his hopes of a third hit a stumbling block with his move into the 74kg category, the same as Yadav, who is desperate to step out of his illustrious compatriot's shadow.

With only one quota place per country available in each weight division, the duo are now locked in an unsavory tussle, though Yadav remains the likely man to fly to Rio.   Continued...

India's Sushil Kumar reacts after defeating Kazakhstan's Akzhurek Tanatarov on the Men's 66Kg Freestyle wrestling at the ExCel venue during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 12, 2012.  REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/Files