Can Narsingh Yadav, Yogeshwar Dutt salvage India’s pride at Rio 2016?
India had sent a 100-plus contingent to the Rio Olympics 2016, but are yet to clinch a single medal at the 17-day sporting extravaganza that commenced on August 5 and are in danger of putting their most disappointing show at the mega event. With time running out, the onus now shifts to the wrestlers to start their campaign with a win and stay on course for the long-awaited medal.
Hence all eyes will be on star grapplers Yogeshwar Dutt, London Games bronze medallist, and Narsingh Yadav. India finished the 2012 London Olympics with two medals in wrestling and the grapplers will aim to take this one step forward and better the mark in Rio.
But the build up to the Games for wrestling was a bitter one, with Narsingh fighting a protracted battle to get himself cleared in an ugly doping scandal at the last moment, after being involved with two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar in a court battle regarding selection in the men’s 74kg category freestyle event.
But the Delhi High Court dismissed Sushil’s plea of seeking a trial and Narsingh was given the go-ahead after a couple of consistent performances lately.
But with 20 days to go for the Games, Narsingh tested positive for a banned substance in two dope tests conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
Narsingh appealed to NADA and the latter constituted a panel to hear his case. Later, just few days ahead of the Games, the NADA gave its verdict in Narsingh’s favour, saying he was a victim of “sabotage”.
The Maharashtra-born wrestler was subsequently given the green light to compete at Rio in the 74kg category.
Now it is time for Narsingh to put these troubles aside and deliver his best to win a medal.
Jordan Burroughs, the defending Olympic champion, will pose a threat to any opposition and is favourite to win the 74kg division.
Besides Narsingh, London Olympic bronze medallist in the 60kg category Yogeshwar Dutt will aim to give his all in probably his last Olympics and clinch victory in the 65kg freestyle category.
All eyes will be on the 33-year-old who will aim to sign off with a medal in the finals scheduled to take place on August 21.
Italy’s Frank Chamizo, 2015 World champion, and Soslan Ramonov of Russia, World champion in 2014, will be tough challenges for Yogeshwar.
Sandeep Tomar, who will participate in the 57kg freestyle category, will also aim to give his best.
In the women’s field, the Indians to be watched are Vinesh Phogat in 48kg, Babita Kumari in 53kg and Sakshi Malik in 58kg categories.