WFI says no immediate camp for wrestlers since SOP rules are too strict

File photo of Sushil Kumar working out at the SAI Regional Centre in Sonepat, Haryana. ESPN

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has decided not to resume national training camps owing to the severity of the conditions it is expected to follow as part of the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) standard operating procedures (SOP) for the resumption of sport activities in the country.

"The SOPs are very restrictive in what they allow," said Vinod Tomar, assistant secretary of the WFI. "The SOP rules for wrestling say you have to sanitise the wrestling mat after every use. You can only train with a wrestling dummy, you can't spar with a partner and there are many restrictions on gym activities too. With all these limitations, there's no point holding a camp currently. The matter was discussed and it was felt there's not much point in wrestlers coming to the camp and not doing any serious training. It's best that we wait until the lockdown ends and until the SAI guidelines are less strict."

All camps have been closed since March 25 when India entered a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. WFI's decision comes two days after the SAI issued a document of SOPs for resumption of sport activities in the country and five days after the Home Ministry permitted the opening of sports complexes and stadiums.

Prior to the release of the document, the WFI had sent suggestions to SAI on how they sought to resume training. The WFI had suggested it would resume training camps for one wrestler in 15 weight divisions -- six in men's freestyle, six in women's freestyle and three in men's Greco-Roman wrestling. Apart from that wrestler, a sparring partner would also be part of the camp. It was suggested that both wrestler and sparring partner undergo Covid-19 tests prior to joining the camp and stay in isolation until the results came out. While national camps for men and women were to be conducted in Sonepat (Haryana) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), a joint camp was also considered.

That wouldn't be possible according to the SOP document. According to it, wrestling came under the full-contact sport category. In the permitted activities section of the document, wrestlers could spar only with name-tagged personal dummies with just one wrestler on the mat at a time. Mats and dummies had to be sanitised pre and post-use and human sparring of any form or contact was prohibited. The SOP document also restricted the use of gyms, suggesting this was only to be allowed as per government guidelines.

Coaches, too, had said the SOPs were too restrictive for the sport of wrestling. "No one uses dummies in wrestling unless they are children or if they are learning a very complex move. There's nothing a senior wrestler will gain by training with a dummy," said a senior national coach who did not want to be identified.

"Right now, all our wrestlers are at their homes and they are carrying out their regular training activities. In this situation, it doesn't make sense to call them and disturb their schedule. It's best that they continue training wherever they are," Tomar said.