Amit to lead challenge in WC in Sushil, Yogeshwar`s absence

PTI| Updated: Mar 10, 2014, 17:33 PM IST

New Delhi: World Championship silver winner Amit Kumar Dahiya will spearhead the Indian challenge in their maiden Freestyle World Cup in Los Angeles from March 15-16 in the absence of Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt.

The Indian contingent, comprising of Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang (61kg), Rajnesh (65kg), Amit Dhankar (70kg), Praveen Rana (74kg), Pawan Kumar (86kg), Satyavrat (97kg), Krishan Kumar (125), along with three coaches Anil Mann, Anil Kumar and Vinod Kumar, left for the American city last night to attend a preparatory camp, which will conclude on March 13.

Two-time Olympic champion Sushil and London Games bronze medallist Yogeshwar have been given rest by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) from national duties.

The two celebrated grapplers haven`t taken the mat since their medal-winning feat at London Games in 2012 and both are eyeing return at the Commonwealth Games in July this year. Before the Commonwealth Games, Sushil and Yogeshwar are expected to compete in two invitational tournaments in May-June in Italy. Sushil will compete in 70kg while Yogeshwar will be seen in action in 65kg.

"We have a good chance of winning the medal in all eight weight categories. We had a good pre-tournament preparation at the Sonepat centre and all the boys are ready to take on the world`s best at the championship," chief national coach Vinod Kumar told PTI before leaving for Los Angeles.

"We have a strong team and I am confident that boys will make us proud in our first appearance at the event," he added. India had earned a maiden World Cup berth on the back of its best-ever sixth-place finish in men`s free-style at the World Championships in Budapest last year in September. The World Championship acted as a qualifying event for the World Cup.

India finished the tournament in the men`s freestyle category with 23 points, which catapulted the country to sixth in rankings behind Iran, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and USA.

As per FILA rules, the top eight teams in the World Championship automatically qualify for the World Cup and Dahiya`s silver medal in the 55-kg and Bajrang`s bronze in the 60-kg freestyle category had ensured India their maiden World Cup appearance this year.

Prior to this, India`s best-ever finish in the World Championship in men`s category came in 2009 when it finished 10th, while the country finished 13th in 2010 and 31st in 2011.

"There would be two groups with five nations in each pool at the World Cup. It`s a team event and we are expecting some tough competition from Iran, Russia and Ukraine. The last tournament at Colarado Springs has benefited our wrestlers immensely and the experience will definitely hold us in good stead," said Kumar.

Kumar also informed that after the World Cup, the Indian team will leave for Oklahoma city on March 17 to participate in a two-day invitational tournament beginning March 18. The invitational tourney will see participation from 8-10 countries, said Kumar.