Five-member Indian judo team for Tel Aviv Grand Slam

A five-member Indian team is set to compete at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam, to be held from February 18 to 20, but the squad, which also includes a coach, hasn’t got visas so far.

Jasleen Singh Saini (66kg) and Vijay Yadav (60kg), Avtar Singh (100kg), Sushila Devi (women’s 48kg), and Tulika Mann (women’s 78kg) are the players while Jiwan Sharma is the coach.

All five competed at a two-day national selection trials for Olympic qualifying competitions, including the Asian Oceania, at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Avtar, Sushila, and Tulika won their respective bouts while Saini and Yadav lost their matches.

“Both Saini and Yadav were focusing on the Israel competition to earn valuable ranking points to stay in the race to win an Olympic berth. They were not prepared for the national selection trials as it was announced at short notice,” said one of the national coaches.

“By virtue of being gold medallists, players will be eligible to compete in the Asian qualifier and other Olympic qualifying competitions starting April. But there is also provision to field one or two outstanding athletes in the squad,” said one of the members of the selection panel.

Punjab international Jasleen Singh Saini was upset at losing his 66kg bout at the national selection trials. Saini, who has dominated this category for two years and is considered having potential to earn an Olympic quota place, lost to Haryana’s Nitin Chauhan in the gold medal round.

“Since federation will send only the gold medal winners of the 14 weight categories, including seven in women’s division for the qualification rounds that are expected to start from April, finishing second has been a setback to his aspiration to compete in a series of international events to earn global ranking points to stay on track to be part of the Indian contingent for Tokyo Olympics,” said an official of the JFI.

In another major upset, Uttar Pradesh international Vijay Yadav finished overall third in his 60kg bout. Yadav, a trainee of the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Bhopal’s National Centre of Excellence, is one of the leading judo players of the country and a member of the core group of five players that SAI has shortlisted for Olympic preparation.

Both Saini and Yadav were provided exposure in October when they competed in the Budapest Grand Slam in Hungary.