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February 25, 2024 5:54 pm

‘It hurts me to see…’: Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra extends support to protesting wrestlers

New Delhi, April 28

Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra on Friday extended his support to the protesting wrestlers and called for “quick action” from the authorities in order to ensure that justice is served.

Chopra expressed his disappointment a day after Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha came down heavily on the wrestlers for hitting the streets to resume their protests instead of approaching its athletes’ commission to lodge their complaints against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation.

Ace javelin thrower Chopra, who scripted history by winning India’s first-ever gold medal in athletics at the Olympics, said “it hurts” to see fellow athletes taking to the streets in search of justice.

He tweeted, “It hurts me to see our athletes on the streets demanding justice. They have worked hard to represent our great nation and make us proud. As a nation, we are responsible for safeguarding the integrity and dignity of every individual, athlete or not. What’s happening should never happen.

“This is a sensitive issue, and must be dealt with in an impartial and transparent manner. Pertaining authorities must take quick action in order to ensure that justice is served.”

The wrestlers have now received support from the country’s only two individual Olympic gold medallists, with 2008 Beijing Games shooting champion Abhinav Bindra too recently voicing his support to the grapplers.

The wrestlers, who include Olympics, Commonwealth and World Championships medal winners in Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, have been sitting in at Jantar Mantar in the heart of the national capital since last weekend.

“As athletes, we train hard every day to represent our country on the international stage. It is deeply concerning to see our athletes finding it necessary to protest on the streets regarding the allegations of harassment in the Indian wrestling administration,” Bindra had tweeted.

Chopra, who is currently training in Antalya, Turkey and has his season-opening event in Doha Diamond League on May 6, has been getting compliments on social media since expressing his views on the issue.

Also backing the wrestlers is cricket legend Kapil Dev and six-time Winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan, among others.

On Friday, the Supreme Court will be hearing the plea by seven wrestlers seeking registration of FIR against the WFI president.

The SC noted that there are serious allegations that are contained in the petition by wrestlers who have represented India. The apex court also issued notice to Delhi Police pertaining to the plea filed by the wrestlers.

Over the last four days, the wrestlers have slept and trained at the protest site.

Speaking to reporters after an executive committee meeting of the IOA on Thursday, Usha said, “Our feeling is that for sexual harassment complaints, IOA has a committee and athletes’ commission. Instead of going to the street (again), they should have come to us, but they have not at all come to IOA.”

The IOA also announced the formation of a three-member committee to run the day-to-day affairs of the WFI and conduct fresh polls within 45 days.

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