India’s wrestling fraternity rues 2026 CWG abolishing sports

Wrestling, India’s second most prolific sport during the Commonwealth Games (CWG), is excluded from the 2026 edition to be held in Australia. This is the fourth time the sport has been dropped from the CWG program since its introduction in 1930 – Auckland 1990, Kuala Lumpur 1998 and Melbourne 2006 were the other examples.

India was disappointed when the shooting, in which they return a rich harvest every time, was dropped from the 2022 CWG. Although the sport has recovered during the next Games to be held in the state of Victoria, it is the turn of the wrestlers to feel upset.

India has topped the wrestling medal at CWG four times, three times in the last four editions. In Birmingham, they won 12 medals this year, six of which were gold, making them the largest contributor to India’s tally of 61 medals.

The decision was not entirely unexpected, as the local organizing committee had excluded shooting, wrestling and archery from their original list in April. Shooting is India’s most successful sport at CWG (135 medals). A total of 20 sports and 26 disciplines, including nine fully integrated parasports, will be part of the next CWG to be held in multiple cities for the first time – Geelong, Gippsland, Ballarat and Bendigo.

Vinesh Phogat, only the second Indian wrestler to complete a gold hat-trick at CWG – double Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar was the first – called it a “sad day for Indian wrestling”.

“It’s not good news for Indian wrestling, but what can we do? If government intervention is required, so be it. There are only a handful of sports that we do well on a global level, and if you take the wrestling away, what’s left?” the 28-year-old asked.

“How many major multidisciplinary events are actually broadcast in India? It’s just CWG, Asian Games and Olympics. This is the only time our sport reaches households and people actually sit down and take note of what we’re doing. Now that we’re wrestling out of CWG, imagine wrestling could become a hit in terms of popularity,” she said.

Speaking of her days as a rookie in 2014, when she won her first international gold in 2014 in Glasgow, the two-time Olympian said: “I’ve been to three CWGs, so I know the value of these Games. I know what it means to have a young and up and coming wrestler and go to your first CWG. The kind of exposure you get is huge. That’s where people took notice of me, and that confidence made me who I am,” said Phogat, a two-time World Championship bronze medalist.

Aside from international success, CWG’s success also brings financial rewards. This year, the national government reached 20 million, 10 lakh and 7.5 lakh for the gold, silver and bronze medalist. Haryana, the center of Indian wrestling announced: 1.5 crore for all gold medalists. For India’s elite wrestlers, that income stream is now gone.

“Many of us come from very humble backgrounds,” Phogat said. “In Haryana, people even sell their ancestral land to feed their child’s wrestling dreams, so these financial benefits allow us to provide for our families. The exclusion of Wrestling from CWG will hurt us a lot.”

Former national team coach Kuldeep Singh agreed. “CWG’s success brings financial gain, jobs, promotions and media attention. It has been one of the most productive sports for India and it provided a good platform for young people,” he said.

However, the level of competition is not of the highest level at CWG. With wrestling superpowers such as Russia, the US, Japan and Eastern European countries not part of the Commonwealth, the loot is shared mainly by Canada, which leads the way with 147 wrestling medals, and India (114). Pakistan, the third best wrestling nation in CWG, has less than half of India’s medal tally.

“It’s not our problem that the competition isn’t great,” Singh said. “In Birmingham, each weight category had 16-17 wrestlers. So you cannot say that there is no competition. It’s just that we’re the best.”

Phogat said: “Such things are said by people who don’t play sports. We prepare every event the same way. The training, focus, weight loss, everything stays the same. If the competition was really that easy, we would have come home from Birmingham with 12 gold medals.”

Yogeshwar Dutt, bronze medalist at the London Olympics, called it an “unfortunate development that will affect Indian wrestling”. The two-time CWG Gold Medalist (2010, 2014) said: “CWG used to be an excellent platform for us. Despite what people may say about the level of competition, a medal is a medal, and every medal does wonders for a person’s self-confidence. a wrestler. Wrestling has been one of our most productive sports, so cutting it out will have a direct impact on India’s medal count in 2026.”

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