Four Indian wrestlers — Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Deepak Punia — have booked their spots for the Tokyo Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.
The Indian wrestling contingent were hit with a doping scandal ahead of the 2016 Rio Games, which resulted in freestyle medal contender Narsingh Pancham Yadav being disqualified just days before his scheduled opening bout.
“Last time also I had expected three medals, but due to the controversies and Vinesh getting injured it was our bad luck (that we didn’t),” Brij Bhushan told ANI on the sidelines of the 65th national freestyle senior wrestling championship.
“But this year I am very hopeful and confident that our athletes will definitely get four medals.”
Sakshi Malik, who clinched bronze for India’s only wrestling medal at the Rio Games, is yet to secure a Tokyo qualification spot.
She will be joined by two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, Sonam Malik and Pooja Dhanda at the World Olympic qualifiers, starting on April. 29.
Indian wrestlers finished with just one medal at the individual World Cup event in Serbia last month, and Brij Bhushan said it was down to lack of competition amid the pandemic.
“I realised that due to no competitions our players were struggling and that impacted performance,” he said.
“We used to organise Greco-Roman, men’s freestyle and women’s freestyle together but this time due to COVID-19 and keeping in mind the social distancing (protocols) and hygiene we have segregated this tournament in three different parts.”