Gurpreet Singh eager to start with a win

World Ranking Series champion Gurpreet Singh expects a strong start to the season in the 77kg category at the two-day Greco-Roman National Championships which kick off in Jalandhar on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Punjab wrestler says he wants to retain the 77kg title he won before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. “The overall performance would reflect my preparation for the next Asian Olympic qualifier in April,” Gurpreet told IANS.

Three months ago, Gurpreet tested positive for Covid-19. It happened just a week before the Indian squad left for the Individual World Cup from Belgrade to Serbia. This deprived him of an opportunity to gain crucial international experience.

“I have fully recovered. The symptoms of the virus were very mild. I have been training hard for the past six weeks. I look forward to a good performance on Sunday,” he said.

Although he is a leading wrestler in his weight class, Gurpreet does not take his opponents lightly. “I could face stiff competition from the railroad team. The departmental teams have the cream of the crop. So I can’t take it easy,” he said.

Gurpreet is considered to have the potential to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In January of last year, he upgraded to 82 kg, a non-Olympic weight category to compete in the World Ranking Series in Sassari, Italy. He won gold to become the first Indian to win back-to-back World Ranking Series titles. Since the 2020 Asian Olympic qualifiers were postponed due to a pandemic, the fit wrestler has been unable to show his talent in continental competition. “I hope this time there will be no change in the schedule,” he said.

The competition will take place in 10 weight classes in which more than 300 wrestlers are expected to compete at the Grco Roman Nationals from Saturday.

Haryana’s Sunil Kumar will also be one to watch during the national meeting. The silver medalist in the 87 kg category of the 2020 World Ranking Series is also in good shape, said head coach Hargobind Singh.

“I expect good competition in all weight classes. As the national competition resumes after 12 months, I see a lot of enthusiasm among the competitors. It makes us believe that an exciting competition is in sight,” said said the head coach.

In the 2019 Olympic qualifying round, India’s top Greco-Roman wrestlers have so far failed to secure any quota places for the Olympics. However, in freestyle India secured four quota spots thanks to Ravi Dahiya (57 kg), Bajrang Punia (65 kg), Deepak Punia (86 kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53 kg).


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Robert J. King