Sushil Kumar © Getty Images
Sushil Kumar gave a plea seeking selection trials in the 74 kg freestyle category © Getty Images

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed two-time Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar’s plea seeking selection trials in the 74 kg freestyle category for Rio Olympics, saying that “last minute challenge to selection can disturb the mental preparation of the selected” athlete Narsingh Yadav. Justice Manmohan accepted Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) submission that the “consistent current form” of Narsingh Yadav was better than Sushil Kumar. He also took note of the fact that Sushil Kumar failed to take part in selection trials in 2014 and 2015 as well as in the National Championship in December 31, 2015 and January 1, 2016 and the Asian Championship held in February 2016.

The court said Sushil Kumar has not won any major national or international tournament between September 2014 and now whereas Narsingh Yadav in December 2015, in the Pro Wrestling League, defeated even Purvjav Unurbat of Mongolia, the silver medallist in the September 2015World Championship. On Sushil Kumar’s contention that he was sent to Georgia and Sonepat (Haryana) for training in 2016, the court said it “does not mean that it is mandatory to hold a trial today” and that too at a belated stage.

Holding that the national sports code gives full flexibility and autonomy to WFI to decide the process of selection and when to hold a trial, it noted that WFI conducted a fair and transparent selection trial prior to the qualification event. “In international arena of sports, medals are won not only by ‘brawn’ but also by ‘brain’. The last minute challenge to selection can disturb the mental preparation of the selected.

“Consequently, a sportsperson innocently asking for ‘just a trial’ may be jeopardising the chances of the selected candidate to win, having disastrous consequences for national interest. In the duel asked for, the country will be the loser,” said the court. Also due to short-time gap between the event and the filing of the writ as well as high probability of an injury in a trial, Sushil Kumar’s prayer cannot be allowed, it said.

“It is not understood as to why Sushil Kumar has challenged Narsingh Yadav to a ‘duel’ only in the month of May, 2016 i.e. with only two and a half months left for the Olympics,” the court said. “Sushil Kumar being a professional wrestler himself would know that any direction to hold a trial at this stage would seriously jeopardise the chance of India winning a medal in the Olympics inasmuch as Narsingh Yadav would have to halt his training midway and would have to lose his weight earlier than scheduled,” it added.

“The high probability of an injury in a trial cannot be ‘lost sight of’,” the court noted, holding that that the practice that a wrestler who has earned the berth for the country will represent it, is neither perverse nor contrary to national sports code, the selection procedure followed by the WFI. The court also issued notice to WFI vice president Raj Singh for allegedly filing false affidavit in connection with the case, asking him as to why perjury proceedings should be not initiated against him.

Sushil Kumar won the bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver in the 2012 London Olympics in the 66 kg division, but the category was abolished by the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) in 2014. This prompted him to move up to the 74 kg weight category which brought him into direct competition with Narsingh Yadav, 26, who was the top Indian wrestler in this class till then.

Sushil Kumar, 32, missed the qualification for Rio Olympics due to injury, and Narsingh Yadav secured the berth. After repeatedly requesting the WFI for holding trials and being denied time and again, Sushil Kumar moved the court for relief.