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Bajrang Punia, an under-23 Asian champion, receives a direct entry to the Asian Games

Bajrang Punia

Sujeet Kalkal, the current U23 Asian champion, criticized the IOA ad-hoc committee on Wednesday for allowing Bajrang Punia direct entry to the Asian Games, claiming it was unjust to the young wrestlers who desire to win Olympic gold. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medalists Bajrang (65 kg freestyle) and Vinesh Phogat (53 kg) were excused from the Asian Games trials on July 22–23 by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) ad hoc tribunal, which was chaired by Bhupender Singh Bajwa.

At least five or six wrestlers in the 65kg freestyle division, according to Kalkal, who won bronze at the U20 World Championships, are capable of defeating Bajrang.

“I had a really close match against Bajrang a year ago at the Commonwealth Games trials in Birmingham. We had to compete in every match because Bajrang was given a direct semifinals entry during the trials, according to Kalkal, the current senior national champion and junior Asian gold medalist from the previous year.

Further demonstrating his thesis, Kalkal claimed that while Bajrang had lost to the same wrestler by technical superiority in the World Championships the previous year, he had just defeated American John Michael Diakomihalis by a commanding 8-2 margin.

“Bajrang received entrance into the World Championships (in 2022) to compete without trials. I am 8-2 in the World Ranking series versus the American wrestler (Yianni Diakomihalis), who Bajrang fell to 0-10. In Tunis in July 2022, Sujeet had won that Ranking Series competition.

I don’t claim to be the only one who can defeat Bajrang. Bajrang can be defeated by at least five or six wrestlers in our weight class. For this reason, a fair trial and equal opportunity for all wrestlers should be held.

“It is also my dream to win the Olympic gold medal, but how will we realize our goals if these wrestlers (like Bajrang and Vinesh) keep receiving direct entries?” he continued.

The Asian Games will start on September 23 in Hangzhou, China.

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