Woman wrestler cries foul over Games selections

By Praveen Kumar, IANS,

New Delhi : Just two months before the Commonwealth Games, an award-winning wrestler and daughter of renowned sportsperson Chandgi Ram has alleged that the selection procedure for Indian woman grapplers has been unfair.

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Sonika Kaliraman has moved Delhi High Court alleging unfair selections by the Wrestling Federation of India for the Games. Admitting the petition, the high court has issued notices to the central government, the Indian Olympic Association and the Wrestling Federation of India asking them to file their replies by Monday.

“The performance trial taken by the committee was not fair and justified and the petitioner was not given proper opportunity to prove her ability, for reasons best known to the committee,” said the petition filed by the 26-year-old wrestler from Delhi.

“The petitioner has been completely avoided to prove her full ability without any fault of hers. The petitioner is a fit person and deserves a selection trial or a chance to participate in the Commonwealth Games,” the petition said.

Sonika also accused the selection committee of favouring and selecting some wrestlers despite their average performance. She alleged they had not even won a medal in the national championships.

She claimed she had been preparing for the Oct 3-14 Games for the last four years, during which she also won several medals.

According to the petition, Sonika joined a coaching camp in Punjab Jan 10, 2009, and was selected for the Dave Schultz International Wrestling Tournament (US).

“The petitioner went to the US to participate in the tournament but during the tournament she became injured after which she was advised to take rest,” the petition said.

After recovering from the injury and passing the fitness test she was again selected for the National Championship in Bhopal in October 2009, where she won a silver medal. The same month a list of probable candidates for the Commonwealth Games was released for the national coaching camp but her name was not mentioned in it, she said.

Disappointed by the move, Sonika submitted her case before the WFI and also sent letters to the Sports Authority of India and the sports ministry.

It was after a direction passed by the sports ministry in January 2010 that Sonika’s name was included in the list of probables for the Commonwealth Games. Sonika joined the camp in February where she had to compete with three wrestlers, the petition said.

But Feb 18, 2010, the petitioner was directed to leave the camp. Shocked by the decision, Sonika rushed to Delhi and informed the officials concerned, but they kept delaying the matter, the petition said.

In order to be fit for the Commonwealth Games, she went to the US for practice at her own expense. She returned this month, but the authorities have kept silent on why she was told to leave the camp in February.

Sonika wants to contest the 72 kg category of women’s wrestling in the Games.

She began her career in 1998 winning a silver medal in the 72 kg category in the National Wrestling Championship.

In her career of more than 12 years, she has won 16 titles at the national level and participated in various international events. She secured the third position at the Dave Schultz International Wrestling Tournament, US, in 2002.

Sonika’s late father and ace wrestler Chandgi Ram, recipient of Arjuna and Padma Shri awards, served as additional director of sports in Haryana and was conferred the wrestling titles of Hind Kesari, Bharat Kesari, Bharat Bhim, Rustom-e-Hind and Maha Bharat Kesari. He was a gold medalist in the 1970 Asian Games.

Chandgi Ram won the gold medal in the 100 kg category in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok. Two years later, he represented India in the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich. He died following a cardiac arrest in June this year.

(Praveen Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])