A critical analysis of Wrestlers’ Protest in India
In a powerful act of protest against the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat contemplated discarding their hard-earned medals into the Ganga. This symbolic act triggered widespread reactions, with many questioning the wrestlers’ ownership of the medals and emphasizing the taxpayer money invested in their training. However, it is crucial to understand that these medals unequivocally belong to the athletes themselves, representing their personal journey and sacrifices.
Medals as a Symbol of Personal Achievement:
While substantial sums of money are invested in India’s Olympic and World medallists through initiatives like the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), it is important to recognize that these funds are not handed out as charity. They are allocated to potential medal candidates with the goal of achieving national glory and prestige on the international stage. The wrestlers’ achievements have already fulfilled this purpose, with politicians and the federation basking in their success and taking credit for their accomplishments. The medals have served their intended purpose by bringing honour to the nation.
Medals Do Not Equate to Owed Debt:
Critics argue that the wrestlers owe the nation and taxpayers for the money invested in their training. However, it is a fallacy to reduce their success to mere financial support. Simply pouring funds into the system does not guarantee medals if the athletes themselves do not possess the necessary talent, determination, and resilience. The idea that the wrestlers owe a debt falls short because their success is not solely reliant on funding. India’s position in the Olympic medal tally illustrates that financial investment alone cannot secure medals.
The Role of Coaches:
Coaches play a vital role in the athletes’ journey. While they are compensated at the highest levels, it is important to acknowledge that many coaches invest their own time and money in nurturing promising athletes during their initial stages. This charitable action is significant, but it is essential to remember that when an athlete achieves success, it positively impacts grassroots coaches as well. The recognition of being the coach who identified and nurtured a champion is a lifelong credit, regardless of the fate of the medal.
The Value of Athletes’ Feats:
Even if the wrestlers had gone ahead with their intention to discard their medals, their accomplishments would remain intact. The Olympic stadiums would continue to bear their names, and their achievements would be forever engraved in the record books. Just as Muhammad Ali’s feats in Rome endured, the wrestlers’ legacy and contributions to their sport would persist. The medals are personal mementos, encapsulating their blood, sweat, and tears, and the meaning attached to these objects belongs to the athletes alone.
The Quest for Greater Impact:
By considering parting ways with their hard-earned medals, the wrestlers conveyed their profound dissatisfaction and frustration. Their contemplation of relinquishing their medals underscored the wrestlers’ deep sense of disillusionment and marked their belief that this was their last resort. Their intention was not to undermine their own achievements but to draw attention to the issues plaguing Indian wrestling and the need for substantial reforms.
For these athletes, the fight for justice and improvement in the sporting system was more significant than any physical medal. As Vinesh Phogat expressed in an interview with ESPN, the impact an athlete can have on the sport itself holds far greater value than any individual medal. Their struggle for a fair and transparent system was, in their eyes, a battle worthy of the highest accolades.
In the case of Muhammad Ali, his decision to discard his Olympic gold medal was a powerful statement against racism and discrimination. Ali believed that the medal had lost its meaning when his own country failed to uphold the values it represented. Similarly, the wrestlers’ willingness to let go of their medals symbolized their belief that the current state of Indian wrestling was marred by corruption and injustice, and that their greatest achievement would be in effecting positive change.
It is crucial to recognize the broader context in which these protests unfolded. The wrestlers’ actions were not born out of a sense of entitlement or ingratitude but rather from a profound desire to fight for a better future for their sport and its athletes. Their sacrifices, dedication, and accomplishments cannot be reduced to monetary value or attributed solely to funding. They represent the embodiment of the athlete’s spirit, talent, and unwavering determination.
The response to the wrestlers’ protest should not be one of criticism or condemnation but rather an opportunity for reflection and introspection. It is a call for the stakeholders of Indian wrestling, including the federation, administrators, coaches, and policymakers, to address the grievances raised and work towards creating a system that is fair, transparent, and supportive of its athletes.
In conclusion, the wrestlers’ contemplation of discarding their medals was a powerful act of protest, highlighting their frustration with the state of Indian wrestling. The medals rightfully belong to the athletes, symbolizing their personal journey and sacrifices. Their intention was not to diminish their achievements but to draw attention to the need for reform and justice within the sport. It is essential for all stakeholders to listen to their concerns, engage in meaningful dialogue, and work towards building a sporting ecosystem that values and supports its athletes, fostering an environment where future generations can thrive and excel.