India’s hopes of a strong showing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics were dealt a severe blow yesterday when wrestling’s world body FILA decided to drop the 60kg and 66kg freestyle weight classes from the marquee event.
India have so far won two medals in the 66kg freestyle event, thanks to Sushil Kumar’s bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 and his silver at London in 2012. In the 60kg category, Yogeshwar Dutt won the bronze medal at the London Games.
Despite the adverse effect that the decision is likely to have on India’s medal prospects, Yogeshwar put on a brave face. “We already knew that these two weight classes were likely to be dropped when wrestling was trying to come back into the Olympic fold and had to rejig freestyle categories. So, we were prepared for this.
“The decision will hurt India considering three of our medals in the Olympics have come in the two weight classes that have been dropped. Our wrestlers have traditionally done well in the weight classes below 74kg, so if these two weight classes were not dropped, we could have won at least four medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“The decision will affect our wrestlers in 2016 — there are no two ways about this. But despite the changes, we can still clinch two or three medals,” Yogeshwar told MiD DAY yesterday.
In Rio, 57kg and 65kg will replace the 55kg, 60kg and 66kg events that were part of the London Games. Yogeshwar also allayed fears that he and Sushil may end up competing in the 65kg category.
He said: “There is a very slim chance that both Sushil and I will participate in the same weight class (65kg). I will move into the 65kg category while Sushil, I think, may move into the 74kg category. I haven’t spoken to him about this yet.”