Greco-Roman wrestling “hopes” for new life in India

A long, nervous walk in the arena; he wipes his face with his sweaty palms, looks through part of the crowd as if trying to make a statement, with “hope” in his heart of winning a wrestling medal for his country at the Olympics .

It was Sushil Kumar about to make history at the Beijing Olympics, clinging to a “hope”; the very “hope” that would have lit a fire in a young wrestler KD Jadhav to win a medal for India at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.

Today, although it is moving in the right direction in freestyle, India has not quite been able to do justice to the Greco-Roman form, “hope” being the only thread to which the the latter’s fortune seems to be linked. The wrestling style, which is very popular mainly in Eastern Europe, is starting to find its marks in some Asian countries like Iran and Japan, but unfortunately India seems to be far behind in this group. Not that the country does not produce any Greco-Roman wrestlers, but there is a visible distinction in quality and quantity.

A form that alone has six Olympic medals and has been part of the Games since the first edition in 1896, very little is done in the country to claim those additional medals. While it’s understandable that it takes a big win to bring about a paradigm shift in sport in India, it didn’t quite happen with the Greco-Roman.

The success badminton witnessed in India following Pullella Gopichand’s All England triumph in 2001 is unparalleled. The country has produced dozens of champions, with Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu emerging as a class of their own. Sushil’s bronze in 2008 can be referred to in the same way, as can Mary Kom’s bronze in 2012. state of obscurity. The form of wrestling where grapplers are prohibited from using their legs for attack or defense, and rely primarily on throws and lifts to score, has a handful of takers around the country.

In what should have been a stepping stone to greater success, India has no medals to show at the World Championship after Yadav’s bronze. The tally at the Olympics is still zero, with no Greco-Roman wrestler qualifying for the Games this time around. With the situation looking baffling, it comes as no surprise to former Greco-Roman national coach Kuldeep Singh, who was in charge when Yadav won in 2013 in Budapest.

Aware of the reality on the ground, an articulate Singh points out that the wrestlers or even the federation are hardly to blame. It is just a cultural block of the Puritans of Akhara, which does not accept anything western. “The bad returns of Greco-Roman wrestling in the country can be attributed to the freestyle-prone culture. We just don’t have a strong culture of Greco-Roman wrestling in the country,” Singh told SportsCafe.

It is this culture that to date Greco-Roman wrestlers are selected in the freestyle lot only. There are hardly any schools, Akharas or academies that train young grapplers in Greco-Roman from the start, as it should be.

“In short, wrestlers don’t start in Greco-Roman, but only in freestyle. If there is a grassroots push, where these young people participate in many competitions; So in India almost all Greco-Roman wrestlers have a solid background in freestyle wrestling, say for around 18-20 years, and that’s when they are chosen for the other so you can understand why we are not a force to be reckoned with in this style.

“In the 80s and 90s we never had dedicated wrestlers in this discipline, in fact the second best would represent the country in Greco-Roman. It is only for 15 years that we have dedicated tournaments now, and the scene has changed a bit, but no turtle. “

At least for now, small changes have started to happen, which could lead to a brighter future. In addition, some of the wrestlers in today’s culture – Gurpreet Singh, Harpreet Singh and Sunil – have in them the strength to make their presence felt on the world stages. “Greco-Roman started in some places at the school and university level, but again it will take a while for results to come from there. But we could do with a better system in place. The only major difference between a few years earlier and now is that we have a regular participation in Greco-Roman.

“Some of our boys are good enough to take on wrestlers from Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, but to be at the level of Russia we may have to wait a while. But hopefully the results will come more. sooner rather than later, I think it’s obvious that, as we’ve invested in freestyle, the same model should be adopted for the Greco-Roman, and the results will follow, ”Singh concluded.

Hanging on to that “hope”, India will truly become a wrestling giant, when nothing less than an equal focus on Akhara wrestling, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling is paid off. All three should coexist, each feeding off the success of the other. But for that to happen, India would have to come to terms with what is not hers.

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Robert J. King