After winning medals, national wrestlers return sitting near train toilets for 36 hours
After winning medals at national championships, state grapplers had to endure a very uncomfortable Faizabad-Manmad train journey to get home as they did not have reservations
If you are wondering why Maharashtra has not produced an Olympic medal-winning wrestler after Khashaba Jadhav (bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics), you only have to look at this latest example of sporting apathy. Half the group of 20 wrestlers (men and women) who represented the state in the senior National Wrestling Championships at Gonda, UP, had to endure a very uncomfortable Faizabad-Manmad train journey to get home as they did not have reservations.
Komal Gole, the bronze medal-winner in the 68kg category, had a nightmare of a journey along with 92kg men's category gold winner Sikandar Shaikh, 62kg bronze winner Suraj Kokate and others, who spent 36 hours adjusting themselves near toilets of compartments of the Saket Express.
Maharashtra women's team coach Sandhya Panbude, who represented the state in nine senior nationals, told mid-day from Nashik: "It was a terrible experience. I am short of words to describe the situation in which my girls and me completed our journey. Someone had to take responsibility and confirm our reservations, but sadly there was no one who helped. You cannot run away from responsibility by just giving tickets to the players.
Maharashtra women's team wrestlers are comforted by coach Sandhya Panbude (centre) as they travel unreserved near the toilets of the Saket Express during their return journey from Faizabad to Manmad
"Ranjit Nalawade, who despite being an international wrestler, came to our compartment and helped us since he had a seat. We had to stand, sit and also eat near the toilet during this long journey." It was the responsibility of the Maharashtra Kustigir Parishad (MKP) to ensure their players had confirmed bookings. Though MKP secretary Balasaheb Landge agreed that the association must ensure such incidents are not repeated, he refused to apologise to the state's wrestlers. "There is no need to say sorry," said Landge.
The Maharashtra women's team coach alleged that even though players and coaches travelled by train without reservations, the wrestling association officials returned by air. "Men's team coach Sambhaji Pawar had a reservation, but they did not turn up to help us during the journey and all other MKP officials travelled by air.
"Dinesh Gund — a referee during this event and also the father of Ankita, who won bronze in 59kg for Maharashtra — was with us while travelling to the championships, but they both preferred to fly back," said Panbude Gold Coast Commonwealth Games gold medallist Rahul Aware, who won the yellow metal for Railways in the 61kg category at Gonda, had a reservation. He and a few of his teammates helped the hapless wrestlers. Aware revealed that wrestlers often face such travel upheavals.
"How can you expect your medal winners or wrestlers who are representing your state undertake a 36-hour long journey without any reservation? As a few us work for the Railways, we had reservations and accommodated a few wrestlers. But it is the responsibility of the MKP. They must provide facilities to wrestlers before and after competitions," added Aware.
Meanwhile, Landge expressed his helplessness. "We tried our best to confirm the tickets. The Railways assured us that it would be done before the train departs. I will speak to our (MKP) president Sharad Pawar to honour these medal winners with cash awards," he said. Some misplaced consolation that, many would reckon. But that's how things are for some sports in India.
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