Gurpreet wants to start with a win

By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, February 19: World-ranked champion Gurpreet Singh is expecting 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 upcoming Asian Olympic qualifiers in April,” Gurpreet told IANS.

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

“I have completely recovered. The symptoms of the virus were very mild. I’ve been training hard for the past six weeks. I expect a good performance on Sunday,” he said.

Despite being a top wrestler in his weight class, Gurpreet doesn’t take his opponents lightly. “I could face stiff competition from the railway team. The departmental teams have the cream of the fight. 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 last year, he moved up to 82kg, a non-Olympic weight class, 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 in-form wrestler hasn’t been able to showcase his talent in the continental competition. “I hope this time there will be no change in the schedule,” he said.

The competition will be held in 10 weight classes in which more than 300 wrestlers are expected to compete at the Grco Roman National Championships starting on Saturday.

Sunil Kumar of Haryana will also be one to watch during the national encounter. The 2020 World Ranking Series 87kg silver medalists are also in good shape, head coach Hargobind Singh said.

“I expect great competition in all weight classes. Since the national competition resumed after 12 months, I see a lot of enthusiasm among the competitors. It makes us believe that an exciting contest is on the cards,” the head coach said.

In the 2019 Olympic qualifying cycle, India’s top Greco-Roman wrestlers have so far not secured any quota places for the Olympics. However, in freestyle, India secured four quota places thanks to Ravi Dahiya (57 kg), Bajrang Punia (65 kg), Deepak Punia (86 kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53 kg).

Disclaimer: This story is automatically generated from the IANS service.

Robert J. King