Ahead of World Wrestling Championships, Indian wrestlers’ visa interviews delayed

With less than a year to go for the Olympic Games, Indian wrestlers are hoping to secure as many quota berths as possible by taking part in the World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas from September 7 to 12.

However, the 24-member contingent’s plans have gone awry because of a delay in their visa application process. Yogeshwar Dutt, Narsingh Yadav, Amit Kumar Dahiya, Sandeep Tomar, Bajrang, Satyavrat Kadiyan, Vinesh and Babita Phogat are some of the affected grapplers. The contingent was to start training at the Orleans Arena from August 16, However, their visa papers are “still stuck in New Delhi”.

Not only will the world meet serve as the first qualifying event for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but the event will also offer the maximum number of quota places for grapplers from more than 100 participating nations.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had approached the US Embassy well in advance with a request to grant early visas to the Indian contingent. But the US Embassy did not pay heed to the plea and set the date for visa interviews on August 24.

Even if the visa is cleared on August 24, it would not be possible for Indian players, coaches and physios to reach Las Vegas before August 27. “This simply means that we (wrestling team) will loose 11 important days of practice which was planned by keeping in mind various important factors before the start of the actual competition,” said a WFI official on Tuesday.

“There could well be further delay and that will severely hamper the preparation of the US-bound grapplers and could possibly result in securing less Olympic berths as was initially expected. We don’t know the reasons (for the delay). Even the biometric procedure has been completed,” an official told dna, adding: “We had requested the embassy officials to grant visas to grapplers for August 15, but we got the appointment date for August 24. We again requested them to advance the interview date to August 20 as the wrestlers need to reach Las Vegas for a preparatory camp, but they refused to entertain our requests. They stuck to their allotted date.”

The reason the embassy gave was that according to the world championships organisers, the training camp will begin on August 25. So, there was no need for the wrestlers to travel to the US at an earlier date.

According to the WFI, the organisers had no problem in hosting the Indian team in advance and they were ready to make all the necessary arrangements. “When the local organisers have no problems, there was no need for the embassy officials to delay the visa process. But we have no choice now but to wait till August 24 for our interviews. This will seriously affect our medal chances there,” the official added.