Several non-protesting wrestlers demanded on Tuesday that the SAI open its grappling centres again because the closure of the national camp and the ongoing controversy surrounding WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh are negatively affecting their preparations for the Asian Games.
While the women's camp is organised in Lucknow, the men's national camp for free style and greco-roman wrestlers is held at the Sports Authority of India's facility in Bahalgarh (Sonepat).
The top wrestlers in the nation, including Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, have accused the Wrestling Federation of India's president of sexual harassment and have restarted their protest at Jantar Mantar as of April 23.
A day before the Asian Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, on April 8, the national camp was called off and has not yet resumed.
At the SAI centre in Sonepat, more than 300 wrestlers train in 10 weight divisions (senior, junior, cadet, and U15), while the Lucknow centre can house more than 100 female wrestlers.
“I don't have the right sparring partners here to practise with. We must form a united front. Less than two months remain before the Asian Games trials. The camp should be reopened by the SAI. Why should the young wrestlers endure hardship?, Narsingh Pancham Yadav questioned from Mumbai to PTI.
“I coach roughly 25 wrestlers, the most of them are juniors. So it's clear that I don't have the right training partners. They lack expertise. There is not much time left until the Asian Games, and then there comes the World Championship. The national camp has to restart, stated the silver medalist from the national championship.
When questioned about the top wrestlers' continued protest, Narsingh said, “I don't know the truth. It's wrong if anything like that (sexual harassment) has occurred.
Sandeep Deshwal, an 82kg greco-roman competitor, said that it has been difficult for him since the national camp ended.
“Since the camp shut down, I've been in Rohtak. It's quite challenging. Jor nahi ho pa raha (Mat training has grown to be a significant problem). I've talked to the coaches numerous times as well, but nobody has any idea why the national camp hasn't started.
Hargobind Singh, the nation's greco-roman coach, too showed no understanding.
“I have communicated with SAI representatives many times, but I have not received a clear response. Since the Asian Championship in Astana (April 9–14), a lot of time has passed. The camp should have resumed by now, according to Hargobind.
It shouldn't have such a large training gap in an Asian Games year, he continued.
At the Asian Championship, Indian wrestlers took home 14 medals, with the women winning seven of them.
While Vinesh Phogat, Ravi Dahiya, and Bajrang Punia withdrew due to injury or other reasons, other well-known wrestlers like Deepak Punia and Sarita Mor, who have won medals at world championships, were unable to compete in Astana.
The executive director of SAI Sonpeat Centre, Lalita Sharma, said that as of right now, they had “not received any communication regarding the national camp.”
Sandip Pradhan, the SAI DG, was reached by the PTI, but multiple calls to him remained unanswered. Additionally, he did not return messages.
A female wrestler, meantime, said that she would prefer not to attend the national camp until there is clarification.
“At my training facility, I'm doing well. The wrestler who wished to remain anonymous added, “We can train anyplace. The wrestlers who are solid financially, like a handful from Rajasthan and UP, possibly for them the camp is a better location since they receive nutrition, vitamins, gym and other essential amenities.
“It must be clear who the coaches will be at the camp and who we should contact if there is a problem. Both the mind and the body are involved in wrestling. It's tough to express anything in the present situation when asked whether I would want to return to the camp.
“If the camp just restarts at the Lucknow facility, then everything should be alright, but if it's moved to another location, we need more information. The majority of women wrestlers prefer to practise at their own training facilities, so they don't often attend the camp, she said.