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Vinesh Phogat’s name cleared for Budapest ranking series


World Doubles bronze medalist Vinesh Phogat is likely to compete at the Polyak Imre and Varga Janos Memorial tournament next month in Budapest, marking her return to competitive wrestling after 10 months. The 28-year-old’s name was cleared on Tuesday at a meeting between the ad hoc committee that runs the sport and officials from the government’s TOP scheme.

File image of Vinesh Phogat.

“Last week, Vinesh asked us to go to the Budapest event as she wants to gradually return to competitions. We were always of the same mind so we asked UWW (world body) to extend the deadline for sending entries by a week. The deadline was then pushed to June 20. We cleared her name today,” said Bhupender Singh Bajwa, head of the ad hoc committee.

The names of her coach and physiotherapist have also been cleared for the July 13-16 event. “We have cleared the names of Sudesh (coach) and (physio) Ashwini Patil to accompany her. Those names were suggested by Vinesh,” Bajwa added.

The Budapest event is the fourth and final ranking series of the year. Vinesh, along with Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia and Rio Games bronze medalist Sakshi Malik, led the wrestlers’ protest against former Federation (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh regarding sexual harassment.

The wrestlers began their sit-in protest in January before it was suspended after a meeting with union sports minister Anurag Thakur. An oversight committee set up by the Ministry of Sports examined the matter and submitted its report.

The wrestlers started their sit-in at Jantar Mantar on April 23 because the Delhi police did not register FIRs against Singh as they had demanded. Their 36-day sit-in ended on May 28 after police detained the wrestlers as they attempted to march to the new parliament on the day it was inaugurated.

The three wrestlers lost the ranking series of Zagreb (February), Alexandria (February) and Bishkek (June) as well as the Asian Championships in April.

Vinesh Phogat may be the lone Indian competitor in Budapest as other wrestlers prepare for the Asian Games selection trials, the dates of which are likely to be announced soon.

“Perhaps there is no other wrestler from India because other wrestlers do not want to risk injury or fatigue before the Asian Games trials. Vinesh is completely out of practice and probably wants to face some competition,” said Bajwa.

Lalit Kumar, coach of Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Ravi Dahiya (57kg) at Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium, said that he and Deepak Punia (86kg) will not be going. “Ravi recently aggravated his right knee injury. He only started math training yesterday, so we don’t want to risk him. Deepak will not gain much from competing in Budapest. We are preparing for the Asian Games trials.”

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