After flight delay in Dubai, 2 Indian wrestlers denied participation in Olympic Qualifiers


India’s Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalakal were denied a chance to compete in the Asian Wrestling Qualifiers in Kyrgyzstan after they arrived late for the mandatory weigh-ins. The two wrestlers were stranded in Dubai and faced a flight delay due to the unprecedented rains in the Gulf nation. The weigh-in for Deepak Punia’s 86kg category and Sujeet’s 65kg category was set to happen at 8 am local time and their bouts were scheduled for later on Friday. The two wrestlers missed their second-last chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics, starting July 26.

Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalakal were stranded at the Dubai airport on Thursday after unprecedented rain left the city flooded and threw one of the world’s busiest airports in disarray. Several flights had to be rescheduled and the two Indian wrestlers were caught in the unfortunate crisis. A 17-member Indian squad reached Bishkek, but Sujeet and Deepak were left stranded in Dubai.

A source in the Wrestling Federation of India told India Today that Deepak and Sujeet’s flight to Bishkek was delayed as the runway in Dubai was not operational over the last two days. The two wrestlers were scheduled to take a late-night flight and land in Kyrgyzstan at 4:40 am. However, a flight delay ensured that the two wrestlers were not able to reach the venue of the Asian qualifiers for the weigh-in on time.

“Coaches and WFI president Sanjay Singh requested the UWW (world wrestling body), but the wrestlers were late and the UWW denied a chance to complete their weigh-in. In fact, after the request from the WFI, the officials at the venue waited 10 more minutes for the two wrestlers to complete their mandatory weigh-in after the deadline. But the two wrestlers were not able to make it on time, the source said.

Deepak, who came close to winning a medal in the Tokyo Olympics, won a silver at the Hangzhou Asian Games in 2023 and Gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

The duo, accompanied by Russian coach Kamal Malikov and physio Shubham Gupta, has been forced to sleep on the floor and has no access to proper food due to the rain-induced crisis.

Notably, the Sports Authority of India said on Thursday that the two wrestlers would travel to Bishkek and that the officials were in touch with the organisers of the Olympic qualifiers.

Deepak and Sujeet will have another opportunity to qualify for the Olympics when they compete in the World Qualifiers in Turkey in May.

Four more Indian wrestlers will be in action in the men’s freestyle event with Aman in the 57kg category, Jaideep in the 74kg category, Deepak in 97kg category and Sumit in the 125kg category.

For India, Antim Panghal, 19, has already sealed a quota place in women’s 53kg en route to her bronze medal-winning feat at the 2023 World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. And it will be time for the rest of the Indian wrestlers such as Vinesh (50kg), Reetika Hooda (76kg), the current Under-23 world champion Anshu (57kg), Mansi (62kg) and Nisha (68kg) to put their best foot forward and seal their quota places.

A total of 36 quotas in 18 weight categories are available for grabs in the continental Olympic qualifier.

Published By:

Akshay Ramesh

Published On:

Apr 19, 2024




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