‘Fortune favours the brave’. ‘No pain, no gain’. In August this year, when Ravi Dahiya and Bajrang Punia returned from Tokyo Olympics, they were welcomed with such banners at the IGI airport. Both grapplers made India proud in Tokyo and also proved what athletes can do to win an Olympic medal.
Punia’s bronze medal bout at the Tokyo Olympics is still a topic of discussion among the Indian wrestling fraternity. The coaches share the courageous tale with their pupils at the ‘akhadas’.
The scenes of an injured Bajrang removing his knee strap and then going all out in the bronze medal playoff will be remembered for years to come. He was a gold medal prospect, but managed to win a bronze. However, his courage earned him more respect among the masses.
The same goes for Ravi Dahiya, who bagged a silver after losing a hard-fought battle in the final. However, the most inspiring part of his story was about his remarkable comeback in the semis.
The Indian grappler was trailing 2-9 when Kazakh wrestler Nurislam Sanayev effected a few ‘fitley’ (leg lace) moves to pull ahead but as the clock ticked away, Dahiya regrouped and got hold of his rival with a double leg attack that resulted in a victory by fall.
Tokyo has given new hopes to Indian wrestling.
The wrestling future looks bright as some young grapplers have shown their talent and capability in many events. Though they failed to win medals in the Olympics, the likes of Anshu Malik, Sarita More and Sonam Malik have great calibre and can make India proud in future events.
Grapplers have already started their preparation and there is a good talent pool at the national level which if nurtured well, can do wonders in 2022.
Wrestling has been one of India’s biggest strengths at the Olympic Games in the last couple of editions. The country has won at least one medal in wrestling in every Olympic Games since Beijing 2008.
With Tokyo 2020 now a past, it is time for Indian wrestlers to turn their focus towards several upcoming competitions in 2022.
The next event now would be — if Omicron doesn’t play the spoilsport — the wrestling ranking series. It is the event through which wrestlers are able to improve their world rankings. Three ranking series tournaments are scheduled to take place between February and June 2022. The venues for the tournaments are yet to be announced.
This year, there were two ranking series competitions — the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in Rome and the Poland Open in Warsaw.
In Rome, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat pocketed gold, whereas Sarita Mor won a silver. In Warsaw, Vinesh Phogat once again won gold while Ravi Kumar Dahiya brought home a silver.
Then there would be the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2022, which is likely to take place in April in Kazakhstan. After that, there will be the Cadet World Wrestling Championship 2022, which helps in witnessing the budding wrestlers of the world.
Wrestlers in the age group of 15-17 are eligible to participate in this event. At the 2021 edition in Budapest, Hungary, the Indian wrestling contingent had a brilliant outing as it bagged 13 medals, including five gold. The 2022 edition may take place from July 25-31 in Rome.
The Commonwealth Games 2022 will take place in Birmingham between July 28 and August 8. The previous edition in 2018 at Gold Coast was a memorable one for Indian wrestling. India finished on top of the medal tally, with five gold, three silver, and four bronze.
Another big event of the year would be the Asian Games. The 19th edition of the Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China, from September 10-25. Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat will be the defending champions in their respective events.