Further proving his position, the Under-23 wrestler claimed that while Bajrang had lost to the same wrestler by technical superiority at the World Championships the previous year, he had recently defeated American John Michael Diakomihalis by a commanding 8-2 margin.
Celebrated wrestler Bajrang Punia has been granted a direct entry to the prestigious Asian Games, sparking a heated debate over the selection process in India’s wrestling community. Amid the jubilation surrounding Punia’s inclusion, an under-23 Asian champion has voiced his discontent, questioning the criteria that led to the direct entry decision.
Sujeet Kalkal, the current U23 Asian champion, criticized the IOA ad-hoc committee on Wednesday for allowing Bajrang Punia direct entry to the Asian Games, claiming it was unjust to the young wrestlers who desire to win Olympic gold.
The Tokyo Olympic bronze medalists Bajrang (65 kg freestyle) and Vinesh Phogat (53 kg) were excused from the Asian Games trials on July 22–23 by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) ad hoc tribunal, which was chaired by Bhupender Singh Bajwa.
At least five or six wrestlers in the 65kg freestyle division, according to Kalkal, who won bronze at the U20 World Championships, are capable of defeating Bajrang.
“I had wrestled with Bajrang a year back during the (Birmingham) Commonwealth Games trials, which was very close. During the trials, Bajrang was handed a direct semifinals entry and we had to contest all the bouts,” said Kalkal.
Further demonstrating his thesis, Kalkal claimed that while Bajrang had lost to the same wrestler by technical superiority in the World Championships the previous year, he had just defeated American John Michael Diakomihalis by a commanding 8-2 margin.
In the coming weeks, all eyes will be on Bajrang Punia as he represents India at the Asian Games, aiming to add another feather to his illustrious cap. Meanwhile, the wrestling community continues to call for improvements in the selection process, aiming to create an environment that rewards talent, dedication, and recent performance, ultimately fostering a stronger and more competitive wrestling landscape in India.
The Asian Games will start on September 23 in Hangzhou, China.