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‘We were working hard, they were busy in protests’: Wrestler Antim Panghal, Vishal Kaliraman question ‘trial-free entry’ in Asian Games for Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia

Speaking to Sportskeeda, Antim said, "The decision to give direct entry to Vinesh is unfair. I've been working hard for the past so many months for the Asian Games. We will speak to the officials of the ad-hoc panel; if they don't agree to fair play, we might knock on the court's doors or stage a dharna."

India’s ace wrestler Antim Panghal has objected to trial-free entry to Asian Games for Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia. Her father has confirmed that they will approach Delhi High Court, challenging the ad-hoc panel’s decision on the grounds of discrimination and unfairness. Her father said that Antim only wants a fair trial without bias and prejudice. Wrestler Vishal Kaliraman also objected to Bajrang Punia’s direct entry.

Speaking to Sportskeeda, Antim said, “The decision to give direct entry to Vinesh is unfair. I’ve been working hard for the past so many months for the Asian Games. We will speak to the officials of the ad-hoc panel; if they don’t agree to fair play, we might knock on the court’s doors or stage a dharna.”

Notably, Antim is India’s first wrestler to win the World U20 Gold Medal, which showcases her exemplary talent in her category. The verdict of the High Court will impact not only Antim but also the entire sport of wrestling in India, as it will set a precedent for the future selection process.

Antim has released a video statement. She said, “Vinesh (Phogat) has been given direct entry for Asian Games despite not practicing for the past year. I won the gold medal in the 2022 Junior World Championship. Even in the Commonwealth Games trial, I had a 3-3 bout with her. Then too, I was cheated. I let it go and thought I would compete in Asian Games, but now they say Vinesh has been selected for the tournament. Is this the right way?”

“They are saying whoever goes to Asian Games will go for World Championship, and those who win World Championship will go for the Olympics. We have been working hard for so many years. What about that? Should I quit wrestling? On what basis is she being sent without trial? Even Sakshi Malik has not been selected? What is special about Vinesh that she got selected? All I want is a fair trial. I’m not saying that only I can defeat her, many women wrestlers out there can do so. They are going for the tournament, but tell me can they win medals in the future?” she added.

In a video statement to ANI, Antim mentioned her family has sacrificed a lot to ensure she can practice well. Her parents have been living in Hisar with her to ensure her practice. She has been working hard for four years preparing for the Olympics. She broke down in the video and said, “I am requesting with folded hands, don’t do this to us.”

‘Other wrestlers in the category can go to Asian Games only if Bajrang Punia decides not to play’: Vishal Kaliraman questions ‘trial free entry’

Wrestler Vishal Kaliraman also came forward against the decision. Speaking to ANI, he said, “Even I play in the under 65kg category, and for the Asian Games, Bajrang Punia has been given direct entry without any trial. They have been staging a protest for a year now while we have been practicing. We appeal for a trial… We don’t want any favor or benefit. At least a trial should be conducted. Otherwise, we are ready to go the court…We will appeal before the court. We’ve been practicing for 15 years…If Bajrang Punia denies that he will not play in the Asian Games, only then will someone else get a chance.”

IOA ad-hoc Committee announced dates for Asian Games Wrestling trials

Recently, IOA ad-home Committee announced trial dates for wrestling. The trials have been planned for 22nd July for men’s Greco-Roman and women’s trials. On 23rd July, trials for the freestyle team will take place. The committee will conduct trials in 18 Olympic weight categories.

Notably, the circular issued by IOA noted they have already chosen wrestlers for the men’s freestyle 65 KG and women’s 53 KG categories. However, the remaining six weight categories across the three styles of wrestling will take place as scheduled. The circular did not mention the names of Vinesh and Bajrang, but speaking to PTI, member of the ad-hoc panel Ashok Garg confirmed that the two wrestlers had been exempted from the trials.

Due to the past year’s protests, both wrestlers stayed away from international tournaments. Furthermore, Vinesh failed to secure any medal in recent times, and it is unclear on what basis she was allowed to go to Asian Games without trials. Both Vinesh and Bajrang were actively involved in the protests against WFI’s former chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
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