The debate rages.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) favours the status quo and will settle for the younger (and possibly fitter) Yadav.
“On one hand, we have the future of India’s most decorated wrestler and on the other, we have our parampara and rules. While rules say the quota belongs to the country, our tradition and court’s order has been to send the wrestler who has won the quota. I don’t know what to do or what to say.”
The federation omitted Kumar’s name from the list of probables sent to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
Sushil Kumar is not taking the slight lying down.
“All I am asking for is a trial. I am not saying that you send me to Rio because of my glorious past. I am only saying that whoever between me and Narsingh is better, should represent the country at Olympics. Since a quota belongs to the country and not to a particular individual, thus, when there are two good contenders, there must be a fair trial. There is a procedure that should be followed.
I have been at three Olympics already and won medal twice. My only aim is to win another medal for India.
Even the reigning world and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs had to undergo trials to make it to the US team for the Rio Games. It happens everywhere.
The Sports Authority of India and government have spent a lot of money on my preparation and it is only just that I am given an opportunity to prove that I have utilised every bit of that.
I would not have asked for the trials if I was not well prepared. I am asking for it because I am feeling extremely fit and my preparations are top class. I am confident of doing well if I go to Rio.”
Logic dictates that the person who earned the quota place for the country should be the one on the plane to Rio. And who can doubt Yadav’s credentials with a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships? Reason has no place or space for sentiment.
Each nation is only allowed one quota spot per event.
Sushil Kumar’s claim can hardly be overlooked either. The lauded Olympian made a successful shift to the higher 74 kg category claiming gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. He has not appeared in competition since suffering one injury after the other. His commitment and drive, however, cannot be doubted.
Yadav is not pleased with the controversy.
The 26-year-old is hopping mad and feels that a face-off between him and Kumar could deny him his rightful spot in the ring.
“Sushil is a great in 66 kg, but he’s just not fought enough in 74 kg in public — not in practice — for him to demand a trial.
The way I see it, I fought at least 10 bouts — in selection and at international meets and at the World Championship where I won the quota and medal to earn my right to go to Olympics. Sushil can’t decide my destiny or make his reputation by fighting just one match when I have fought at least 10. That’s unfair.
Has Sushil ever given a trial before going to Olympics. When I came back from qualifying I expected everyone to congratulate me at least. But I was shocked at how this turned out. People still don’t really want to know about me or whether I can win a medal or not. All they want to know about is how I am stopping Sushil from going. It’s demoralising.”
“Every person should fight for themselves. I have no hatred towards Sushil or anyone else. I am focussed on a medal. And I believe it’s my right.Mera haq (My right).
He should’ve fought me in the league — he had a chance to make his presence in 74 kg and the world would’ve seen him and nobody would deny him then. He could’ve fought me at trials in Sonepat. He could’ve gone and fought a few international meets against the top names. He should’ve made a name for himself. There are right channels open for everyone. But you can’t come at the end and say I’ll win one bout and go to Olympics. It’s not fair, even if it’s a double Olympic champion.
I accept he’s the best in 66 kg, but in 74 kg there is very little performance except Commonwealth Games which wasn’t great competition.”
Sports and sports persons in India cannot be divorced from the politics of the country.
And so it is with this imbroglio too.
Kumar fanned the flames further by appealing first on social media to his fans and well-wishers and has now written both to the Sports Ministry and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and facilitate a trial. The ace grappler is also considering moving the Delhi High Court if a bout is not arranged. Kumar can quote precedent from 1996 when two Indian wrestlers—Pappu Yadav and Kaka Pawar—fought a trial to be selected for the Atlanta Olympics.
Earlier, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal refused to interfere terming it an internal matter of the WFI.
“It is the Federation criteria that has to be followed. We can’t interfere. They are autonomous body. It is the responsibility of the Federation.”
Public wrangling of this sort could have been avoided had the WFI (and possibly other national sporting federations (NSFs) in the country) instituted a clear-cut policy much like the Australian Olympic Committee’s.
The AOC follows a three-step process:
1) Qualification (under the IF Qualification System)
2) Nomination (under the NF Nomination Criteria)
3) Selection (under the AOC Selection Criteria)
Athletes earn places either for themselves (by name) or by country quota. Unfortunately, for Yadav, his earned spot falls under the latter.
The National Federation decides the Nomination Process.
According to the AOC, the criteria could be decided as follows:
“Each sports Nomination Criteria sets out the event, performance standard or minimum qualification requirements an athlete must achieve to be eligible for nomination. For some sports this may be attendance at National Championships and the winner of that competition will be nominated. In other sports athletes may need to achieve a specific score, time or standard.”
Had such a system been in place, Sushil Kumar would—in all probability—been ruled out. Kumar has not been active on the national circuit. The Australians (and the Americans) do have selection trials but these are on the lines of competitions—not a one-against-one match-up.
The selection criteria is as follows:
“Once a sport nominates athletes to the AOC, the AOC Selection Committee considers each athlete based on the behavioural, anti-doping and administrative elements of an AOC document called the Selection Criteria. The AOC develops a Selection Criteria for every sport. Selection is at the absolute discretion of the AOC.”
An Olympic Appeal Consultant helps the athlete understand the reasons for the decision in question during the appeals process.
Sadly, for both Yadav and Kumar—who have tremendous respect for each other—only one of them can go to the Rio Olympics. The Tripartite Commission which can allocate spots outside of qualification and quota criteria does so only for countries that are under-represented at the Games namely their athletes number eight or less.
Either way, a deserving candidate will surely be left behind. Who’s to deny that the duo are medal prospects which is probably more than be said for other Indian athletes bound for Rio? Can you bet your bottom dollar that Kumar wouldn’t three-peat?
Sushil Kumar moved the Delhi High Court on 16th May, 2016 to force Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to hold a trial under the National Sports Code rules.
Claiming that he and his father-in-law Satpal Singh are ashamed to have to resort to such desperate measures to get justice, Singh said:
“We are ashamed that the issue had to go this far, but we were left with no other option.All Sushil has been asking for is a trial, which is the best and fairest way to decide who goes to the Olympics. We are not against Narsingh; he has done well to win the quota. This is about fairness.”
“If it was already decided that the athlete winning the quota place would be the one going to Rio Games, then WFI should have told me and also my name should have been omitted from the sports ministry’s TOP scheme.
Then I would not have worked so hard in the last one year and also the government should not have wasted so much money and time on my training in India as well as abroad.”
Section 13.4 (a) of the National Sports Code states:
The Delhi High Court has directed the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to hear Sushil Kumar before arriving at their final decision. The bench would rather have the matter amicably resolved by the two sides than have a judicial proceeding.
The WFI allowed Sushil Kumar and his coach and father-in-law Satpal Singh to present their case this afternoon. The wrestling body are in no mood to change their minds and will present their findings to the Delhi High Court. It’s going to be a drawn-out affair.
Narsingh Yadav has been advised not to step out of the Sports Authority of India’s training camp lest he be set upon by unruly supporters of Sushil Kumar. Police protection for Yadav has been sought. What a sorry mess! Shades of Tonya Harding—Nancy Kerrigan?