The Delhi High Court dashed the Olympic hopes of wrestler Sushil Kumar, 32, refusing his plea to conduct a special trial against Narsingh Yadav to decide participation in the 74 kg freestyle competition at the Rio Olympics, scheduled in August.
“All I am asking for is a trial for Rio Games” — the plea by the two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar was rejected by the Delhi High Court, which said his argument made for “an interesting sound-bite” but was legally untenable.
The bench of Justice Manmohan in his order held that there was no perversity the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) decision to send Narsingh Yadav at the event. Also, pulling up Sushil for “belatedly” asking for a trial, the bench observed that “petitioner being a wrestler himself would know that any direction to hold a trial at this stage would seriously jeopardize the chance of India winning a medal in the Olympics inasmuch as Yadav would have to halt his training midway”.
Sushil is a double Olympic medallist and a former world champion in the erstwhile 66kg category. Yadav won the 74kg bronze medal in the 2015 Worlds and, in the process, bagged the Rio quota.
The court accepted the opinion of the WFI that Yadav was a better candidate for the Olympics. “Power and responsibility go hand in hand. The National Sports Federation cannot be held responsible for the performance of its athletes, if it does not have power to select them according to a flexible procedure as long as the same is fair, transparent, reasonable and consistent,” held the court. The court also observed that the national sports code provide 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.
Senior Advocate Pradeep Dewan had also informed the court that Kumar had not participated in any national or international event since 2014.
The court also did not lose sight of the high probability of injury if a trial is ordered now with just two months to go for the Olympics. The court finally observed that “last minute challenge to selection can disturb the mental preparation of the selected athlete Narsingh Yadav”.