There's plenty on the line at the World Wrestling Championships starting in Belgrade on September 16 as India's wrestlers will have their first chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
The Wrestling World Championships have 90 quotas on offer across 18 Olympic weight categories and will see the world's best wrestlers grapple it out over the next week in the Serbian capital.
However, India's best wrestlers won't be competing at the Worlds.
But wait...wasn't the Wrestling Federation of India [WFI] suspended?
You got that right, global body United World Wrestling [UWW] has suspended the WFI for its failure to conduct its elections. The Indian Olympic Association [IOA] had appointed an ad-hoc panel on April 27 and the committee was supposed to hold elections within 45 days.
However, the committee has been in power for over four months and has failed to conduct the elections.
So, India's wrestlers will compete without the Indian flag?
Yes, due to the WFI's suspension, India's wrestlers will not be allowed to compete under the Indian flag and will have to compete under a neutral International Olympic Committee flag at the World Championships. If an Indian wrestler wins gold, the national flag will not be displayed and the national anthem will also not be played during the medal ceremony. The medal will not be awarded to India.
However, if an Indian wrestler wins a quota, that will be awarded to India since the quota belongs to the National Olympic Committee [NOC], in which case it will belong to the IOA. For example, if Aman Sehrawat wins a quota in the men's 57kg category, the quota will not belong to him but to India.
Okay, and why aren't Bajrang, Vinesh or Ravi competing at the Worlds?
Bajrang Punia, an Olympic bronze medallist, has chosen to skip the event to prepare for the Asian Games, while Deepak Punia also pulled out of the Worlds for the same reason. Vinesh Phogat has undergone knee surgery and hence will miss the Worlds, as will Ravi Dahiya. Ravi, who won silver at the Tokyo Olympics, did not qualify for the Worlds and has been sidelined by injury.
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- Vinesh Phogat (@Phogat_Vinesh) August 17, 2023
Who is in India's squad now?
Two of India's most promising wrestlers headline the contingent.
Aman Sehrawat, touted as Ravi's successor, will be the one to watch out for in the 57kg category. The 19-year-old is the Asian champion, but the Worlds are a different beast and will pose a mighty challenge for him.
Another 19-year-old, Antim Panghal, will hope to make an impression. The two-time U-20 World champion, who is seen as India's next-best wrestler in the Vinesh-dominated 53kg category, will be making her Worlds debut.
Some other names to watch out for will be Commonwealth Games champion Naveen Malik (74kg), Sarita Mor (57kg) and Divya Kakran (76kg).
What's at stake at the World Championships for India's wrestlers?
A chance to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The World Championships have five quotas on offer, in each weight category - the four medallists (gold, silver and two bronze winners) will gain a quota each. In addition to this, a bout between the two losers of the bronze medal matches will be held and the winner of that will also claim a quota.
Are there other avenues to qualify for the Olympics?
Indian wrestlers who miss out on an Olympic quota at the Worlds will have two more chances to seal their spots in the Paris Games: the 2024 Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Kyrgyzstan from April 19-21 and the World Qualifying tournament.
What's India's full squad for the 2023 World Wrestling Championships?
Men's freestyle: Aman Sehrawat (57kg), Akash Dahiya (61kg), Anuj Kumar (65kg), Abhimanyu (70kg), Naveen Malik (74kg), Sachin More (79kg), Sandeep Mann (86kg), Pruthviraj Patil (92kg), Sahil (97kg), Sumit Malik (125kg).
Women's Freestyle: Neelam Sirohi (50kg), Antim Panghal (53kg), Neha (55kg), Sarita Mor (57kg), Anjali (59kg), Manisha Bhanwala (62kg), Antim Kundu (65kg), Priyanka (68kg), Jyoti Berwal (72kg), Divya Kakran (76kg).
Men's Greco-Roman: Ajay (55kg), Manish (60kg), Vikram (63kg), Vinayak (67kg), Ankit Gulia (72kg), Gurpreet Singh (77kg), Sajan (82kg), Manoj Kumar (87kg), Shailesh (97kg), Mehar Singh (130kg).
Where can I watch the 2023 World Wrestling Championships?
The 2023 World Wrestling Championships will be shown live on the UWW website and app.