India's top wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia will travel abroad for training and competition ahead of the selection trials for the Asian Games and World Championships, which are scheduled to be held in August 2023.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) approved and sanctioned their proposals under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) on Thursday after the duo called off their protests against the former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over charges of sexual harassment.
Vinesh will train in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from July 2 to 10 and in Budapest, Hungary from July 10 to 28. The Tokyo Olympics Bronze medallist will also compete in the fourth international ranking series event in Budapest from July 13 to 16, which will be her first competition since the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July-August 2022. Phogat will be accompanied by her physiotherapist Ashwini Jeevan Patil, sparring partner Sangeeta Phogat and coach Sudesh. Patil will travel with her at no cost to the government.
Whereas Bajrang, who also won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the men's 65kg category, will train in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan from July 1 to August 5. He will be joined by his coach Sujeet Maan, physiotherapist Anuj Gupta, sparring partner Jitender Kinha, and strength and conditioning expert Kaazi Kiron Mustafa Hasan. Gupta and Hasan will travel at no cost to the government.
Both Vinesh and Bajrang have been away from the wrestling mat for a major part of the year due to injuries and their legal battle against Brij Bhushan. The wrestlers resumed training at the SAI centre in Sonepat two weeks ago but felt moving abroad would keep them away from distractions and help them prepare better for the trials.
The trials for the Asian Games and World Championships will be conducted by the Indian Olympic Association-run ad-hoc committee tentatively between August 5 and 15. The IOA-appointed ad-hoc panel, overseeing the organization, had reduced the upcoming selections trials to a one-bout competition for the six protesting wrestlers, who will be required to beat just the winners of the trials to seal their places in the Indian teams for the two prestigious events.
The Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23 to October 8, while the World Championships will be held in Belgrade, Serbia from September 16 to 24.