Top Indian wrestlers train in deplorable conditions at SAI Sonepat centre
Due to the delayed renovation of wrestling facility at the SAI Sonepat, India's finest wrestlers, and trainers are suffering serious health and injury concerns. Nearly 70 wrestlers are sweating profusely in the main hall, which is unfit for training when the temperature in NCR is over 45 degrees.
One of the coaches in charge of the national camp noted that the temperature inside the main hall during training might reach a scorching 39 degrees at times. "Ideally, we should train when the temperature is around 23-24 but we are just exposing our wrestlers to injuries by asking them to train in such hot conditions. This is not ideal when Commonwealth Games are approaching," the coach said.
"It feels like we are taking a sauna bath. That's the kind of heat that is generated," said one of the wrestlers.
The Indian wrestlers on the regular users train at Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt Hall, but since it is undergoing renovations, they have been training at the main hall, which has a 12.5-meter ceiling, rendering the air conditioning useless. Olympic bronze medalist Bajrang Punia, recent Ranking Series gold medalist Aman Sehrawat, and CWG-bound Mohit Grewal (125kg) all train at the facility.
Jitender Kinha and Deepak Punia, who generally train in Chhattrasal stadium, and Ravi Dahiya, the silver medalist from the Tokyo Olympics, train at Sonepat on occasion. The national camp began early this year at SAI Centre, and the indoor temperature was not suitable for training over the winters as well.
"If outside it was 10 degrees celsius, inside the hall, it would be 7 or 8 degrees. It became freezing cold since this hall is not fit for wrestling training." SAI Executive Director Lalita Sharma stated that some coolers have been installed inside the venue to assist the wrestlers. "We have arranged six coolers today only. We are trying to help the wrestlers. Hopefully, the renovation will be complete in a month's time," said Lalita.
"The renovation work began before COVID struck but it had to be stopped due to the pandemic. The structure was already dismantled by then, so they are training in the hall which is used for badminton and volleyball training." Even the coaching staff and the wrestlers are dissatisfied with the food quality given in their meals.
"There is variety but the food lacks quality. We don't even get juice and coconut water on a daily basis. At best, they serve us watermelon juice and that too in the evening. Is what wrestlers need to take?" asked one wrestler. "We actually need Mosambi (Sweet Lemon) and Pomegranate juice that helps in recovery after training."
It has been discovered that Bajrang Punia and several other wrestlers refuse to dine at the SAI mess, preferring instead to consume home-cooked meals. "They do not even have enough utensils and cutlery in the mess. One coach carries his own steel glass because there are not enough glasses there. Sometimes the coaches drink milk from plates," said a wrestler, who did not wish to be named.
"It was better till a private contractor was working but ever since the new contractor has come, things have become worse. The mess is in a complete mess."
"Earlier, we would get food even if we reach the mess late due to extended training sessions but it's not the case anymore. Sometimes you have to go without food because they stop serving food after stipulated time."
The SAI ED, on the other hand, refuted the report, claiming that they only serve what the nutritionist recommends. "We don't serve what tastes well but what nutritionist suggests. The wrestler will take some time to adapt. We only try to help them in training in the best possible manner."
The SAI facility, on the other hand, has upgraded the Sakshi Malik Hall with advanced technology, allowing athletes to have Vo2 testing performed under the supervision of specialists. "That's a good thing that has happened. Some quality machines have been added. Bajrang had recently got his Vo2 test done to check oxygen level checked," said a wrestler.