Vishal wins trials but can’t make it to Asian Games

- July 23, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

Wrestler Vishal Kaliraman wins 65 kg freestyle trials on Sunday but exemption and guaranteed spot given to Bajrang Punia dashes his hopes just as it did of woman wrestler Antim Panghal on Saturday

Wrestler Vishal (second from left) with coach Praveen Dahiya (second from right)

At the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium on Sunday evening, Subhash Chander Kaliraman and wife Raj Bala were in tears as they spoke about the misfortune of their son Vishal Kaliraman who won the 65 kg final in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) trials for the Asian Games.

There was disappointment on the faces of the two just as it was on the face of Vishal’s coach, Praveen Dahiya.

Vishal had beaten his opponent Rohit comprehensively 7-3 but still wouldn’t make it to the Asian Games unlike winners in other categories as the WFI has already decided to send Bajrang Punia to the Hangzhou Asian Games in the category.

Punia, along with Vinesh, was exempted from the trials after they missed regular practice due to their involvement in the protest against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at the Jantar Mantar.

On Saturday evening, it was U-20 world champion Antim Panghal, who had beaten Manju in the 53 kg final but lost out in the battle for the Asiad spot as Vinesh was already going to the Asian Games without having to participate in the trials.

Vishal pins down Rohit in the 65 kg final

And just like Antim made her disappointment clear on Saturday, even threatening to approach Supreme Court after the High Court ruled in favour of Vinesh, Vishal challenged Bajrang to come to the mat and fight for the right to go to Asian Games.

“Whoever would have been my opponent, I would have come first. Doesn’t matter even if it was Bajrang. I don’t see who it is, Bajrang or anyone when I wrestle. I respect Bajrang but competition is different. The way to go is through trials,” said Vishal, who hails from Hissar and trains at Chhatrasal Stadium, Delhi.

As many as four of the six winners who made it to Asiad on Sunday, train at Chhatrasal.

“Bajrang getting selected means destroying a kid’s future. I have been working hard for the past 10-11 years at the Chhatrasal Stadium. In village too, I trained for five-six years. I have been preparing for 15-16 years. If he is qualifying directly, what is the point of me working hard,” complained Vishal, who was hit in his right eye in the day’s first bout.

“Even if we have to go to Supreme Court, we will go for our right,” threatened Vishal, who said that a case filed by another wrestler should be enough for all of them.

Coach Dahiya too said that it is unfair.

“Whoever wins trials should go to the Asian Games. We will mull over it and then decide what to do. You are seeing for yourself how tough it is. He fought five bouts today. Imagine he is not going. His entire family is sitting in front of Indian Olympic Association office protesting for the past three-four days,” said Dahiya.

The coach added that at the moment the WFI is sending two names – one qualifier and the other, the next best, as standby. Sunday’s win makes Vishal standby behind Bajrang.

Dahiya is hoping things will pan out well and WFI will listen or even Bajrang will relent.

“Everyone knows that the winner in trials should go. Yesterday it was Antim, today it is Vishal.”

Father Subhash Chander said, “I would request Bajrang to let him go. He has been toiling hard. His mother doesn’t get to see his face for months. He has been working so hard. This is not fair.”

Although Sakshi Malik, another protester, had been given a guaranteed place, she refused to take it even though she didn’t turn up for competition trials.