The Wrestling Federation of India had apparently sent more than the permitted number of support staff for the Tokyo Games, even though Vinesh Phogat’s personal physio was not included in spite of her requests. The seven-member wrestling squad fetched two medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
As per the norms, only 33% of the numbers of qualified athletes for the Olympics are kept reserved for support staff. However, the WFI went overboard as they sent nine of them, including coaches, physio, and other personnel for the seven-member wrestling squad for the Tokyo Games.
While the three Indian men – Ravi Dahiya, Bajrang Punia, and Deepak Punia were backed by three foreign coaches and an equal number of Indian personnel, the women – Vinesh Phogat, Anshu Malik, Seema Bisla, and Sonam Malik were under head coach Kuldeep Malik. Vinesh Phogat’s Hungarian coach Woller Akos was only drafted for her bouts.
Even though Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya returned with medals, Vinesh Phogat, a genuine medal prospect, returned after losing her second bout. In fact, Vinesh had insisted to tag along her personal physio for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, her offer was turned down eventually, with IOA President Narinder Batra stating that only a selective number of support staff from the proposed list were sent.
“The name should be there in the long list else the process becomes very long. There is provision even if someone falls sick, for instance. But if you say we haven’t given the name in the long list because we forgot… there were names of three or four physios in wrestling. One physio went from that list,” said Narinder Batra, as reported by The Indian Express.
But, the fact that Vinesh Phogat is a 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medallist, along with a World Championships bronze, she was expected to finish on the podium. So, how could the WFI not prioritize the support she needs? Throwing light into the matter, a source close to the development revealed that the name of Vinesh’s physio was not even drafted on the list.
“WFI’s early communication was verbal, they didn’t clarify in writing about the long list so Vinesh was in the dark that the physio wasn’t even penned in,” stated the source.
However, Brij Bhusan Saran, the president of the WFI, did not respond to any messages or any calls. Analyzing the development, Narinder Batra clearly stated that gender discrimination has never been the issue with the IOA or NSF’s, whoever has qualified, has been given the privilege to call the shots.