It seems the heatwave was too much for India’s sportspersons today, as a referee was assaulted and the offending wrestler was banned for life on an eventful day at the trials for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in Delhi today. While wrestlers Ravi Dahiya, Bajrang Punia and Deepak Punia, each one a star, thanks to their feats at international events, voyeurs were distracted by a brawl that did not involve any of them.
Having lost the 125 kg final, Satender Malik from Haryana walked across the mat and allegedly uttered cusswords, addressing senior referee Jagbir Singh before punching him in the face. The unseemly incident unfolded right in front of the podium where Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was seated. It forced the WFI to impose a life ban on Malik. “It happened right in front of me. We will obviously take serious action. Just wait,” said Singh as he stormed out of the hall immediately after the match.
Within hours of the incident, WFI announced that Malik had been banned for life following the decision made at a committee meeting after the incident. “We had a quick committee meeting and it was decided to hand him a life ban. It happened right in front of us and the athlete’s behaviour was clearly unacceptable. We have imposed a life ban on him and hope this will deter other athletes from crossing the line in the future. Such behaviour will not be tolerated,” WFI secretary Vinod Tomar said.
Malik’s final bout against Mohit at the CWG trials was until the latter Mohit managed a takedown and pushed his opponent outside the mat with just 18 s left for the bout to end. While Mohit got no point for the takedown, Malik presumed otherwise and challenged the non-existent decision.
So far, senior referee Jagbir Singh was nowhere in the picture. “I was not even watching this bout but was requested to check the replay as the jury for the bout Satyadev Malik had stepped aside as he was from Satender’s village and felt it could be a conflict of interest,” explained the coach said, as per the report in The Indian Express.
Jagbir ruled in favour of Mohit who was awarded three points, thus changing the score to 3-3, which was also the final result. Since the last point was scored by Mohit, Malik lost the bout and a chance to board the flight to Birmingham where the CWG will be held this time. Outraged by the result, Malik marched towards Singh and assaulted him while Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya was in action on the first mat. Officials rushed in and defused the situation, but the incident became the talking point of the event.
“I am a category-one senior official. I have seen even Olympic wrestlers gracefully accept decisions but this was shocking. Never in my career have I faced this. I feel deeply hurt that he hurled abuses at me and hit me in front of everyone for just doing my duty,” said a flustered Singh. “The (WFI) president has also asked me to file an FIR.”
Tomar later said that an FIR had indeed been registered at IP Estate police station.
Unplayable conditions at CWG trials
The wrestlers and sports lovers in hundreds present at the venue had to withstand the intense heat and humidity, as the air conditioners in the arena were not functioning. Even as two rows of lights were turned off, it did not reduce the heat palpably. Wrestlers sweated profusely during their games, which affected their performance.
“It was very humid and I was sweating profusely. I didn’t play very aggressively because there was a risk of slipping and getting hurt due to all the sweat,” said Bajrang Punia, relaxing after his final bout. The officials were not sure why the air conditioning did not work and athletes were left with no choice.
The Malik saga was not the end of drama at the CWG trials venue. Officials called in Delhi Police cops to inspect the damage to walls caused by Vishal Kalliraman, who narrowly lost the 65 kg berth to Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia.
Kalliraman, who lost the final 1-2, broke down after his bout. In a fit of rage, he landed punches on the dry walls of the wrestling hall, leaving gaping holes. “He did not stop there. He went to the basketball hall and kicked the wall there too,” said a stadium security staffer, pointing at the damage.