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Bajrang Punia, who spearheaded the Wrestlers protest, eliminated from Paris Olympics qualification, loses 1-9 to Rohit Kumar in selection trials

Punia suffered a crushing 1-9 defeat against Rohit Kumar in the men's freestyle 65kg semifinal. Earlier, Punia had barely managed to avoid elimination in the opening bout itself

On Sunday (10th March), wrestler Bajrang Punia was eliminated from the Paris Olympics qualification race. He lost his bout in the ongoing selection trials for the upcoming international tournaments. Punia was a prominent face of the Wrestlers’ protest last year.

Punia suffered a crushing 1-9 defeat against Rohit Kumar in the men’s freestyle 65kg semifinal. Earlier, Punia had barely managed to avoid elimination in the opening bout itself. He won his first bout against Ravinder (3-3 on criteria) after the latter had conceded a caution point in the bout. 

Following his elimination, Punia left the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in haste. According to reports, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials tried to collect the sample for a dope test but the wrestler did not stay back even for a third-fourth place bout.

The ongoing selection trials are being organised by the IOA ad-hoc panel. Punia underwent training and preparations in Russia for the trials.  

The men’s 57kg category is being held in the Nordic format and it was considered a tough category. Both Tokyo Games silver medallist Ravi Dahiya and emerging star Aman Sehrawat were contesting in this category and vying for the top spot.

Notably, Dahiya, who was also part of the Wrestlers’ protest for a brief period, made a comeback from an injury. He lost the high-scoring opening bout to Aman with a scoreline of 13-14. Both of them underwent training at the Chhatarsal Stadium.

In Dahiya’s absence, Aman rose in prominence winning almost all tournaments in 2023. 

Dahiya was eliminated after losing the subsequent match to U20 Asian champion Udit.

The winners at the ongoing selection trials will get the opportunity to compete at the Asian and World Olympic Qualifiers. So far, India has earned only one quota for the Paris Games through Antim Panghal (women’s 53kg).

Wrestler protest

Rebel wrestlers including Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, and Bajrang Punia staged a protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its former Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Sharma for over a year alleging him of sexual harassment. However, the protest continued even after he ceased to be the WFI president. 

After a brief interruption, the rebel wrestlers also staged a protest against the outcome of fresh court-monitored elections which eventually led to the suspension of the wrestling body altogether. 

While the protesting wrestlers’ were constantly accused of demanding exemptions from trials, hundreds of junior wrestlers gathered at Jantar Mantar earlier this year on 3rd January to express their discontent over losing a crucial year of their careers. 

The protest was targeted at rebel Indian wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, and Bajrang Punia as the junior wrestlers blamed them for ruining a year of their lives. They had also chanted slogans against Malik, Phogat, and Punia during their protest. The junior wrestlers including Antim Panghal had constantly maintained that only the best wrestlers from India should represent the country at the world stage and the same should be decided through selection trials and not giving trial exemptions to some wrestlers.  

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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