Jan. 25 (Reuters) – President of the Indian Wrestling Federation (WFI) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said he was confident his wrestlers could bring home at least four medals from the Tokyo Olympics despite preparations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four Indian wrestlers – Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Deepak Punia – have reserved their places for the Tokyo Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year due to the coronavirus.
The Indian wrestling contingent was hit by a doping scandal ahead of the Rio 2016 Games, which resulted in the disqualification of free medal contender Narsingh Pancham Yadav days before his scheduled opener.
“The last time too, I was expecting three medals, but because of the controversies and Vinesh’s injury, it was our bad luck (that we didn’t),” Brij Bhushan told ANI in sidelines of the 65th National Senior Freestyle Championship.
“But this year I am very optimistic and confident that our athletes will certainly win four medals.”
Sakshi Malik, who captured bronze for India’s only wrestling medal at the Rio Games, has yet to secure a qualifying spot in Tokyo.
She will be joined by two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar, Sonam Malik and Pooja Dhanda during the world Olympic qualifiers, starting in April. 29.
Indian wrestlers finished with just one medal at the individual World Cup in Serbia last month, and Brij Bhushan said it was due to lack of competition amid the pandemic.
“I realized that due to the lack of competitions, our players were struggling and that had an impact on performance,” he said.
“We used to organize the Greco-Roman, the Male Freestyle and the Female Freestyle together, but this time due to COVID-19 and keeping in mind social distancing (protocols) and hygiene, we have split this tournament into three different parts.