Wrestlers Sushil, Sakshi out of annual contract; Anshu, Sonam in


Double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar (74kg) and 2016 Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (62kg) have been dropped from the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) annual contract due to “non-performance”. Teenage wrestlers Anshu Malik (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg) of Haryana have replaced them in the ‘A Category’.

World Championships bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda (57kg, 59kg) and Asian Games bronze medallist Divya Kakaran (68 kg) have been excluded from the scheme due average performance.

Sushil and Sakshi were part of ‘A Category’ of the contract that carried an annual financial assistance of Rs.30 lakh for 2020-21 season that they could use for training and related purpose.

“The cash incentive is to support the athletes so that their overall performance gets better at the global level. If any player isn’t performing, he or she wouldn’t get the financial support from the federation,” said WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar.

After reviewing the performance report card of top wrestlers during last month’s National Championships held in NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, Sushil and Sakshi were excluded Haryana’s teenage wrestlers Anshu and Sonam name was added in the scheme.

While Sushil hasn’t competed in international competitions since the 2019 World Championships and skipped the NOIDA Nationals, Sakshi’s performance hasn’t been encouraging since she finished at the podium at 2016 Rio Olympics. Even at the domestic front, she hasn’t exhibited her skills and twice lost to Sonam in the race for the 62kg title. Sonam has far less international experience than Sakshi.

Anshu had clinched silver in the Individual Wrestling World Cup held in Belgrade in December. The 19-year old wrestler from Nidani in Haryana had also won bronze at the Asian Championships held in New Delhi in February last year.

“Both Sonam and Anshu have shown steady progress. Therefore, we have included them in the scheme,” said Tomar.

Pooja didn’t compete in the recent Women’s Nationals in Agra while Divya failed to impress in the 68kg group. Divya was grouped in the ‘C Category’ that entitled her to an annual grant of Rs. 10 lakh.

But all four Tokyo Olympics quota winners — Asian Games champion Bajrang Punia (65kg), Ravi Dhayia (57kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), and Vinesh Phogat (53kg) — are grouped in ‘A category.

“The progress of these four wrestlers is satisfactory. Therefore, they will continue to get financial assistance from the federation,” said Tomar.

National competitions were supposed to form the basis of the contract system while outstanding performances at the international level could enable wrestlers to move up the higher categories.

The WFI had initiated the scheme of financial assistance in 2018 December. It was the first national sports federation, after the Indian cricket board, to start the central contract system and it was supposed to benefit 150 wrestlers, ranging from cadet to senior category.

The WFI had put athletes in nine categories, from A to I. Those in A group receive Rs.30 lakh per year, B category wrestlers are entitled for Rs.20 lakh, those in C division get Rs.10 lakh. The lowest is the I category and wrestlers in this group are entitled for Rs.30,000.

“Federation junior development project is also on hold since 2020 domestic as the international calendar was disrupted due to Covid pandemic. We couldn’t do thorough assessment of the performance of potential athletes. But we are hopeful more wrestlers would be able to benefit from the scheme in the future,” said Tomar.