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Athlete first, administrator later: Meeting protesting wrestlers, PT Usha pledges support

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After receiving criticism from all sides for her perceived lack of consideration for the protesting wrestlers, IOA President PT Usha visited them on Wednesday at the protest site and assured them of her support, stating that she was an athlete before becoming an administrator.

Usha, a former sprinter, had criticized the wrestlers harshly for continuing their protest rather than bringing their concerns to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

She had made comments that drew condemnation for her and the IOA, saying that the wrestlers should have shown some restraint and that they had damaged the country's reputation by taking to the streets.

Her remarks prompted criticism from all quarters, and two Indian Olympic gold medalists, Neeraj Chopra and Abhinav Bindra, joined the protests on social media.

Usha departed without speaking to the reporters, but according to Bajrang Punia, she promised them assistance.

“When she first stated that, we felt awful, but she later clarified that her remarks were misunderstood. The bronze-medal winner from the Tokyo Games, Bajrang, said of the woman, “She remarked that she is first an athlete and secondly an administrator.

“We expressed to her that we want justice. We don't argue with the administration, the opposition, or anybody else. We have gathered here to advance wrestling. Legal action should be taken if this matter is settled and the charges (against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) are shown to be true, he said.

Punia said “Nothing of that sort” when asked whether Usha had presented a solution from the IOA or the government.

She merely mentioned being with us.

After the meeting with Usha, when asked if he was satisfied, he responded, “If she is giving us an assurance, I suppose she should fulfill that assurance. However, we made it clear to her that this protest would continue “until and unless things are not okay and we receive justice, of which we are very hopeful.”

When asked whether a solution had been found, he said, “There will surely be a solution to this problem if the things she has spoken about… if there is an effort along those lines. She promised to make an effort to address all of our issues. She has the ability to accomplish anything.

After the IOA's Executive Committee meeting last week, PT Usha responded to the wrestlers' resumption of protest by saying, “Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye (there should be some discipline)”. They haven't come to us; they've just gone out into the streets. It is detrimental to sports.

IOA President Dr. PT Usha would want to stress that this type of agitation is not healthy for the country's image, IOA interim CEO Kalyan Chaubey had said. India has a solid reputation worldwide. This bad press is not helpful for the nation.

Usha had drawn criticism for not comprehending the wrestlers' perspective despite being a former athlete and a woman herself because of this.


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