What are your expectations from the Indian wrestling contingent at the upcoming CWG?
Twelve wrestlers are going for the Games, and I think all 12 can bring home medals. Colour of the medal will depend on their performance. A lot of factors come into play during big events; for example, we were expecting a medal from Vinesh (Phogat) during the Tokyo Olympics, then we were hoping for a gold or silver for Bajrang (Punia)… there are circumstances, but if the wrestlers going to Birmingham give their best, they’re surely going to win a medal. Even our sixth or sixth number wrestler – from the pool we have – can get a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
After the Tokyo Olympics, you had problems with organisations like the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) or JSW…
We had talks with these organisations for a long period and now they are going to comply with our rules. The federation doesn’t want a single paisa from them. But whichever young wrestler they’ve to sponsor, for that performance should be the only criteria. Nobody should be given money by just looking at their faces, check the performance. So now we have given the list of best performers to them and they can support these wrestlers.
There were some issues with the players after the Olympics…
Those are things of the past. I can assure that our players are disciplined now. They totally act in accordance with the federation and government of India. We have full control over the sport in India.
India’s history at the Commonwealth Games
Foreign coach or Indian coach – where does your tilt lie?
Foreign coaches have their own importance. Sushil (Kumar), Yogeshwar (Dutt)… did they have a foreign coach or an Indian coach? Indian coaches have their own way of training. When we get champions on the world stage in U-15, U-17 category, are they coached by foreign coaches? If Japanese girls are being defeated by our 15-year-olds, then who coaches these Indian girls? If a foreign coach can teach you some nuances then it’s fine, but totally rubbishing our Indian coaches by saying they’re not good is wrong. I can state on record that if Deepak Punia had an Indian coach at the Olympics, then we would’ve got a medal.
Have you earmarked a backup generation for the current lot of Indian wrestlers?
We are conducting Open Nationals now. Recently, in Chandigarh, we conducted a junior-level tournament. In the 65kg weight category, 159 wrestlers took part, while in 61kg category 148 wrestlers took part. Such tournaments used to finish in one day, but have been extended to three days. In one such Nationals, 1700 wrestlers participated. I am sure in every weight category we are going to have not three-four, but 10-12 backups.
Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi-NCR, Maharashtra are wrestling hubs. Do you’ve plans to take the sport to other parts of the country?
There is something called genes. For example, from the southern states we have so many sprinters, runners, athletes. Similarly, most wrestlers come from certain states. That said, we are setting up an academy in Ayodhya and that academy will commence very soon. In that academy, kids who are left behind… say from the camps or Khelo India will be kept at the academy. In that academy, kids from North of India, Bengal, Bihar and other states will be there. Tata Group has collaborated with us in setting up the academy.