Pro Wrestling League added to crowded Tokyo 2020 build-up

If Pro Wrestling League is held in May or June, as the organisers hope – could further crowd an already packed calendar in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Indian wrestlers will warm-up for the Tokyo Olympics by competing in a gruelling, multi-city league weeks before the Games begin. The fifth edition of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL), which could not be held so far because of the differences between Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and the league’s rights-holders ProSportify, is now likely to be held in May or June. WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said the league will “ensure Indian wrestlers are well tested before the Olympics and also get good preparation.”

However, the league – if held in May or June, as the organisers hope – could further crowd an already packed calendar in the build up to the Olympics. From April 30 to May 3, the final Olympic Qualifying Tournament for all three categories – men and women freestyle, and Greco-Roman – will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria. A month later, from June 4 to 7, Poland capital Warsaw will host the Ranking Series tournament, which will influence seeding for the Olympics.

The last three editions of PWL, which started in 2015, were held in January. However, WFI and ProSportify had a falling out after the former reportedly revealed their plans to conduct a Kushti Dangal with a separate partner. According to reports, WFI had written a letter to the PWL owners in November, saying the league could not be held during its usual slot as the wrestlers would be busy preparing for the continental Olympic qualifiers, to be held in March.

Sharan, though, said the differences between the two parties are now sorted out and insisted the league will not interfere with the wrestlers’ schedule. “In fact, it will help us assess their form. For instance, if Deepak Punia had not taken part in Rome, we would not have known the areas he still needs to work on,” Sharan said, referring to world championship silver medalist’s first-round defeat at the Ranking Series in January. “We are still finalising the dates. But PWL will ensure good preparation for Indian wrestlers and will also be a good test.”

However, it remains to be seen if the top wrestlers agree to compete in the league, which roughly lasts for three weeks and is held in multiple cities. Medal contenders Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, who have already qualified for the Olympics, are likely to spend most of their time training abroad in isolation. The rest, too, are likely to follow suit.

The world’s top wrestlers, too, are likely to skip the league. Last year, the likes of reigning Olympic champion in 57kg, Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Russia and Cuba’s Frank Chamizo did not participate due to a combination of a high base price and a salary cap on franchises.

Sharan, though, said he does not see any hurdles in getting top Indian or foreign wrestlers to compete in the league. “I don’t see any reason why Indian wrestlers would not want to compete. It will be beneficial for them,” he said. “All the top foreigners too will come running to be a part of this event.”

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