New Delhi, Feb 19 : World Ranking Series champion Gurpreet Singh is looking ahead to a good start to the season in the 77kg category at the two-day National Greco Roman Championships starting on Saturday in Jalandhar.
The 26-year-old Punjab wrestler says he wants to retain the 77kg title he won before the Covid-19 pandemic it the country. "The overall performance would reflect on my preparation for the upcoming Asian Olympic qualifier in April," Gurpreet told IANS.
Three months ago, Gurpreet had tested positive for Covid-19. That happened just a week before Indian team's departure to the Belgrade's Individual World Cup in Serbia. It robbed him of an opportunity to gain crucial international experience.
"I've fully recovered. The symptoms of the virus were very mild. I have been training hard for the past six weeks. I'm looking forward to a good performance on Sunday," he said.
Despite being a leading wrestler in his weight category, Gurpreet isn't taking opponents lightly. "I might face tough competition from the Railways squad. The departmental teams have the cream of wrestling. So, I can't take it easy," he said.
Gurpreet is considered to have the potential to qualify for this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In January last year, he switched to 82kg, a non-Olympic weight category to compete in the World Ranking Series in Sassari, Italy. He won gold to become the first Indian to win back-to-back titles in the World Ranking Series. Since the 2020 Asian Olympic qualifier was postponed due to pandemic, the in-form wrestler couldn't showcase his talent in the continental competition. "I hope this time there wouldn't be any change in the schedule," he said.
Competiton will be held in 10 weigth categories in which more than 300 wrestlers are expected to compete at the Grco Roman Nationals from Saturday.
Haryana's Sunil Kumar will also be one to watch out for during the national meet. The silver medalists in the 87kg category of the 2020 World Ranking Series, is also in good form, says chief coach Hargobind Singh.
"I'm expecting good competition in all the weight categories. Since domestic competition resumes after 12 months, I see a lot of enthusiasm amongst the competitors. It makes us believe that an exciting contest is on the cards," said the chief coach.
In the 2019 Olympic qualification cycle, India's top Greco Roman wrestlers have so far not earned any quota place for the Olympics. However, in freestyle, India has secured four quota places through Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), and Vinesh Phogat (53kg).