Vinesh makes cut for Asian Olympic qualifiers after unprecedented drama in trials

Patiala, Mar 11 (PTI) Celebrated Indian woman wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Monday made the cut for Asian Olympic Qualifiers in the 50kg category after being allowed to fight in an unprecedented two weight divisions during the trials where she held up proceedings for almost three hours.

Patiala, Mar 11 (PTI) Celebrated Indian woman wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Monday made the cut for Asian Olympic Qualifiers in the 50kg category after being allowed to fight in an unprecedented two weight divisions during the trials where she held up proceedings for almost three hours.

Phogat, who has been at the forefront of an emotionally-charged protest against former Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh after accusing him of sexual harassment, defeated Shivani 11-6 to book a place in the Qualifiers to be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from April 19 to 21.

The 29-year-old is a two-time Olympian and an Asian and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist.

On Monday, she appeared in 50kg as well as the 53kg category trials after she apparently held up the bouts for three hours, demanding the unparalleled exception for herself. The IOA's three-member ad-hoc committee, which was in-charge of the proceedings, allowed her following several rounds of discussion.

What added to the drama was her initial alleged refusal to give samples for a dope test after the bouts.

'The NADA team was here to collect the dope samples of the national trial winners but Vinesh did not give her sample initially. She was told that she may land in trouble for skipping the dope test and later she provided her sample,' a federation source told PTI.

As per NADA rules, 'evading sample collection; or refusing or failing to submit to sample collection without compelling justification after notification by a duly authorised person' could constitute an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).

WFI writes to UWW ============ The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) conveyed to the UWW that they did not conduct the trials and also informed the world body about the exception made for Vinesh by the ad-hoc panel.

UWW had recently said that it will accept entries for international tournaments only from the WFI and it will not entertain any other sports body.

'We have conveyed to the UWW that we did not conduct these trials and ad-hoc panel did it. Also, this has never happened in the history of wrestling that a wrestler has been allowed to compete in two categories on the same day. We have told UWW about this,' said a WFI source. The Indian wrestlers now run the risk of missing the Olympic Qualifiers if UWW refuses to take entries from Monday's trials.

Small victory for me ============ Vinesh, meanwhile, said she was happy with the 'small victory' she has attained for herself.

'...but the main focus remains on the Olympics. In a month, there are (Olympic) qualifications (events) followed by the Games itself. My sole target is the Olympics. If luck is on my side, I believe, I can achieve what I couldn't in the last two Olympics,' Vinesh told PTI Video.

'Six years ago, I competed in the 50kg category, facing numerous challenges, especially with reducing the weight and post-operative recovery. Despite the hurdles, I'm determined to focus on the Olympic qualifiers,' she asserted.

Before she appeared for the bouts, Vinesh demanded a written assurance from the authorities that a final trial will be held in the 53kg weight class before the Olympics.

She, however, lost the bout to Anju by technical superiority 0-10.

'I was aiming to compete in the 53kg category, (but) considering Antim Panghal has already secured a quota and due to unclear guidelines, I participated in the 50kg category as well. Winning a quota in the 50kg category for India would also be an immense honour for me,' she said.

The ad-hoc committee's decision to allow her to compete in two weight categories is bound to raise eyebrows because as per Article 7 of the United World Wrestling (UWW) a contestant can be allowed to take part in only one weight category on a single day.

'Each contestant deemed to be taking part of his/her own free will, and responsible for himself/herself, shall be allowed to compete in only one weight category: the one corresponding to his weight at the time of the official weigh-in,' the UWW rule states.

Her insistence to be given a chance in two divisions caused a bit of flutter at the trials venue where some grapplers, competing in the 50kg weight class, complained to the officials regarding the delay.

'We waited for two and half hours (for the trials to commence),' a wrestler said.

This was despite the IOA ad-hoc panel already announcing that a final trial will be held to pick India's representative in 53kg category later. The best four wrestlers in 53kg will compete in trials nearer to the Olympic Games and the winner will be asked to compete with Antim.

The winner of that bout will represent India.

'Vinesh wants an assurance from the government. Probably she fears that if WFI gets back the control, the federation may change the selection policy. But how can the government give assurance on this? The government can't interfere in selection matters,' a coach, present at the trials, told PTI.

The three-member ad-hoc committee's chairman, Bhupender Singh Bajwa, however backed Vinesh and said the decision to make a concession for her was unanimous.

'We responded to Vinesh's request to compete in both categories, the entire committee agreed to accommodate her request and allowed her to participate in both,' Bajwa told PTI.

Results: Trials winners (Women) 50kg: Vinesh Phogat 53kg: Anju 55kg: Tamanna 57kg: Anshu Malik 59kg: Pushpa Yadav 62kg: Mansi 65kg: Antim 68kg: Nisha 72kg: Harshita 76kg: Reetika. PTI AT/AM/PS PM AT AM AM

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