National Games: Wrestlers and lifters all set to add glitter a day after opening ceremony

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The opening ceremony of India’s prestigious multi-discipline sporting extravaganza, National Games, will be held in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Though competitions in a few disciplines like table tennis, kabaddi and lawn bowls have already started, the opening ceremony will also signal the beginning of competitions in other sports in six cities across Gujarat and New Delhi.

Olympic medallists like Neeraj Chopra, PV Sindhu, Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya though will be conspicuous by their absence, the event will witness presence of stars like weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, shuttler Laskhya Sen, members of Olympic bronze medal-winning men’s hockey team and athletes, who recently bagged medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

A day after the opening ceremony, wrestling and weightlifting competitions will start in Gandhinagar with Mirabai being the major attraction. After the historic silver at the Tokyo Games last year, she also pocketed 49kg gold at the CWG cementing her status as one of the best lifters the country has produced so far. “Mirabai will be competing in 49kg at the event. Top eight weightlifters in each weight category will compete at the Games. Competitions will be held in seven weight categories each in men’s and women’s sections,” Vijay Sharma, head coach of the national weightlifting team, told this daily.

However, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jeremy Larinnunga, silver medallist Sanket Sargar and bronze medallist Gurdeep Singh will skip the event being held after a gap of seven years. “Sanket, who sustained an elbow injury at the CWG, has been given rest. Jeremy is also recovering from the injury he sustained during the CWG. A stress fracture has been detected in Gurdeep’s hand while we were in St Louis, USA for a rehab camp and hence he was also advised four-week rest,” added the coach.

Like weightlifting, wrestling stars like Bajrang and Ravi along with double Worlds medallist Vinesh Phogat and 2022 CWG gold medallist Sakshi Malik will also skip the event. Both Bajrang and Vinesh suffered injuries at the Worlds, where they bagged a bronze medal each. Bajrang suffered a head injury while Vinesh injured her right knee during the bouts. 

In absence of senior pros, Naveen, who clinched a 74kg gold in Birmingham, will lead the men’s freestyle team while Divya Kakran, who finished with a 68kg bronze at CWG, will headline the women’s campaign.

“Some of the CWG medallists including Bajrang, Ravi, Vinesh and Sakshi are not competing in the Gujarat event but others like Divya, Pooja Gehlot, Mohit Grewal will compete in the wrestling event,” Vinod Tomar, assistant secretary of the Wrestling Federation of India, told this daily.

The wrestling competitions will begin with qualification, repechage and medal rounds in six weight categories – 57kg and 97kg of men’s freestyle, 67kg and 87kg of men’s Greco-Roman and 62kg and 76kg of women’s wrestling. This will be the 36th edition of the Games. The previous edition was held in Kerala with Services topping the medal tally followed by the hosts and Haryana.

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