Deepak Punia, the Olympic-bound Indian wrestler, withdrew from the Poland Open on Tuesday to avoid worsening his left-elbow ailment, which he took into the last Ranking Series tournament before the Tokyo Games.
Punia was scheduled to compete in the 86kg category, however he was forced to forfeit his quarterfinal match against American Zahid Valencia. According to reports, the 2019 World Championships bronze medalist received the injury during practice two to three days before travelling for Warsaw.
“It’s a minor injury, there is nothing to worry about. He sustained it while practicing in India. We just did not want to aggravate the injury. The Federation was kept in loop. He is still practicing, so there is nothing worrisome,” national coach Jagmander Singh stated.
Singh further denied claims that the injury was staged in order for him to secure a certain Olympic draw. “There’s nothing like it. We’re not looking too far ahead,” he explained.
The sequence of events was authenticated by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). “Yes, we had given him the option. We don’t want to put pressure on wrestlers, and the Olympics are just around the corner, so there’s no use in taking chances,” said WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar.
Punia will stay with the team until July 5 for a training camp organized by the Polish Federation. The WFI is also attempting to negotiate training camps for India’s Olympic wrestlers with Turkey, Romania, and Russia.
With Punia’s withdrawal, only three Indians remain in the competition. Ravi Dahiya, who qualified for the Games in the 57kg weight class, will participate in the 61kg weight class in this event.
Vinesh Phogat (53kg) and Anshu Malik (57kg) will compete in the women’s event on Friday.
Bajrang Punia has also opted to skip the event in order to practise in Russia. Seema Bisla (50kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg) did not travel to Warsaw since they are nursing their respective injuries.
Sumit Malik (125kg) has been suspended by the world body for failing a dope test in Sofia, where had made the cut for the Tokyo Games.