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Bajrang, Dahiya out of Paris Olympics qualification race

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Sonepat, March 10: Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya – the Tokyo Games medallists – were on Sunday eliminated from the race for the Paris Olympics qualification after losing their respective bouts in the selection trials for the national team.
Punia, who was a prominent face of protest against former WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, suffered a crushing 1-9 defeat in the men’s freestyle 65kg semifinal against Rohit Kumar. This was after he barely managed to win against Ravinder (3-3 on criteria) in the opening round.
If Ravinder had not conceded a caution point in the bout, Punia would have been eliminated in the opening bout itself.
Punia had trained in Russia to prepare for the trials, which are being organised by the IOA ad-hoc panel.
Punia though won a case in the Delhi High Court after contending that the suspended Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had no authority to conduct trials.
He left the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre here in a huff after being eliminated. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials tried to collect a sample for a dope test from Punia but he did not stay back even for the third-fourth place bout.
As fate would have it, it will be Sujeet Kalakal who will now strive to earn qualification in the 65kg for the Paris Games after winning a spot in the Indian team.
Sujeet had lost a legal case against Punia when he had challenged his direct entry for the Hangzhou Asian Games. Sujeet beat Rohit by technical superiority in the final.
Rohit will now represent India at the Asian Championships.
The winners at the trials will get the opportunity to compete at Asian and World Olympic Qualifiers to be held in Bishkek from April 19-21 and in Istanbul from May 9-12.
The men’s 57kg, being organised in Nordic format, was always a tough category since both Tokyo Games silver medallist Dahiya and star-in-making Aman Sehrawat were in contention.
Dahiya, who is making a comeback from an injury, lost the high-scoring opening bout 13-14 to Aman. Both of them train at Chhatarsal Stadium.
Aman has made a name for himself after winning medal at almost all tournaments in 2023 when Dahiya did not compete. Aman, the Asian Games bronze medallist, staved a last-minute push from Dahiya to win the close bout. Dahiya lost the next bout to U20 Asian champion Udit to be eliminated.
Aman will represent India at the Olympic Qualifiers in 57kg and he stands a good chance to succeed. (PTI)

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