Grade A Contracts for Vinesh, Bajrang; Sakshi, Sushil Get Grade B
Star wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia were kept in the highest grade along with Pooja Dhanda as the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) rolled out its revolutionary contracts system for Indian grapplers.
Vinesh and Bajrang were expected to feature in the top grade on the back of their stellar performances in 2018 – a year where both achieved the double of gold medals at the Commonwealth as well as the Asian Games – while Pooja later became only the fourth Indian woman to win a medal at the World Championships.
However, Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Sushil Kumar found themselves in Grade B following their struggles with form in recent times.
WFI’s announcement coincided with the start of the National Wrestling Championships in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh, on Friday, 30 November.
The contracts were announced by WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who inaugurated the 2018 senior Nationals.
“Grapplers could move up or down after review in the grades,” said Singh.
“Sushil changed the face of the sport in the country with his two Olympic medals. We have to have him in the list despite the fact that he is not competing much. Sakshi's performance is also going up and down but wrestlers can jump into the next category with good performance(s),” the WFI boss added.
Grade A wrestlers will be offered financial support to the tune of Rs 30 lakh per year by WFI, while grapplers with Grade B contracts will draw Rs 20 lakh. Athletes in Grade C and Grade D will be aided with Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively per annum. The contracts will come into review after one year.
24-year-old Vinesh hailed WFI’s revolutionary move, saying it will give a huge boost to the sport at both the senior and the junior level.
“It is good for the junior wrestlers. It will be an added motivation. It’s really a good incentive for the Cadet and junior level wrestlers,” Vinesh told PTI.
“The budget will shoot up now and we can use it for more exposure in terms of training and competitions abroad. We can plan better now without worrying about funds. I plan to compete in at least 5 tournaments, specially the UWW ranking events, next year," she said.
Sakshi has endured a tough time since the high of her historic bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016 – settling for a bronze at the CWG earlier this year, and failing to win a medal at the Asiad. She admitted to being a tad “disappointed” at not featuring in the top grade.
“Yes, I was expecting to be in top grade but once I again start performing strong, there is a good chance to get upgraded to the top bracket,” she said.
Talking about her lean patch, Sakshi said, “I was winning in last 4-5 seconds earlier but now I am losing at the same time, giving away points in the last few seconds. I think I am getting puzzled. I am working on (the) mat. We are not machines, performance can go up and down.”
The C category, offering support of Rs 10 lakh, features Sandeep Tomar, Greco Roman grappler Sajan Bhanwal, Vinod Om Prakash, Ritu Phogat, Sumit Malik, talented Deepak Punia and Asian Games bronze medallist Divya Kakran.
The D category, which will give Rs 5 lakh support, will have Rahul Aware, Naveen, Sachin Rathi, Greco Roman's Vijay, Ravi Kumar, Simran, Mansi and Anshu Malik.