(MENAFN- IANS) By Avinash Kr Atish
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Winning a medal for your country is never easy and to go against your federation and protest against injustice is even a bigger challenge, but India women wrestlers have done it all in recent times.
In an unprecedented move, India's top wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and others, staged a protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in the national capital on January 18, levelling serious charges of sexual harassment against him and the coaches of the federation.
Though there were many grapplers involved in the protest, Vinesh and Sakshi were the main faces and inspired many female wrestlers to come and speak about whatever they feel.
The PT Usha-led Indian Olympic Association and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur intervened and it eventually led to the stepping aside of the under-fire Brij Bhushan till an oversight committee probes the allegations and submits its report.
The oversight committee led by the legendary boxer Mary Kom is currently handling the day-to-day activities of the WFI and also looking into the allegations made by the wrestlers.
The protest was definitely a wake-up call for the other sports bodies in the country to address serious issues and prioritise the well-being and safety of Indian women athletes.
Amid all these, the top grapplers missed much of their practice and they also pulled out of the Zagreb Open, saying they are not feeling ready for the competition. It was the first tournament for Indian wrestlers in the 2023 season, which is packed with crucial events, including the Asian Games and the 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifiers.
The wrestlers, who were involved in the protest, lost lots of their practice time and as experts believe it can hamper their chances of winning medals for the country at prestigious events.
Notably, wrestling has given India fruitful results in the recent past. Even at Commonwealth Games 2022, Indian grapplers continued their legacy by winning 12 medals.
Last month, the oversight committee was given an extension of two weeks to complete their probe but there is no clarity on the deadline. It means more loss of precious time for wrestlers.
Though a few of the top wrestlers have uploaded their training videos on social media, the same can't be said about the new and rising grapplers like Sonam Malik, Nisha Dahiya, Sarita Mor. Usually, wrestlers have a very different kind of training routine, which helps them in staying fit and subsequently win medals.
As wrestlers have already wasted a plenty of time due to off-field issues, they need to catch up with their practice ahead of main tournaments. Only time will tell about the outcome of the probe and if it goes against them, many careers could be in jeopardy.