Asian Games Gold medallist Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have bagged Grade 'A' annual central contracts, announced the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) in an event at Gonda, Uttar Pradesh on Friday. The contracts came into effect from November 15.
Another wrestler Pooja Dhanda, who recently won a bronze medal in the World Wrestling Championship, also joined Punia and Phogat in the Grade 'A' contract list. The three marquee wrestlers will get an annual retainership of ? 30 lakh, besides other benefits.
In an inaugural ceremony, which was attended by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, WFI Brij Bhushan Saran Singh officially announced the central contracts to the wrestlers. The WFI, thus, became the first national sports federation under the aegis of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to grant annual contracts to its athletes. Earlier, only, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was authorised to do this.
Among those present on the occasion included World Championship silver medallist Bajrang Punia, Asian Games gold medal winner Vinesh Phogat, World Championship bronze winner Pooja Dhanda, 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik and close to 800 participants who convened for the 63rd Men's and 21st Women's Wrestling Championship.
Speaking on the occasion, Brij Bhushan Saran Singh said that 144 grapplers, including those at the grassroots level, will receive funds under different slabs of the scheme. WFI is the only Olympic sports body that has taken such an initiative for the benefit of its wrestlers on the lines of BCCI's central contract system to its cricket players.
"Our idea is to give maximum benefits to wrestlers, right from the ones who are on national duties and performing consistently to the ones who show the potentials to take this legacy forward. The money will not only give them sustenance but also motivate to keep doing well at all levels, especially internationally," said the WFI president.
"With all their needs addressed and a financially-secured present, the players can freely focus on their training and pursuit for excellence," he added.
Expressing delight over the central contracts, Bajrang Punia said, "Wrestling can't get better than this. The central contracts system is a big boon and will boost our morale."
Echoing his views, Vinesh Phogat said, "It (the money) will motivate us more than ever and it provides a good competition among wrestlers."
Wrestling icon and double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and Rio Games bronze medal winner Sakshi Malik, who were put in Category B, will receive Rs. 20 lakh each. Grade C has seven grapplers -2016 Asian Championship Gold medalist, Sandeep Tomar, World Junior Championship Silver medalist, Sajan Beniwal, Vinod Kumar Omprakash, Ritu Phogat, Sumit, Deepak Punia and Asian Games Bronze medalist Divya Kakran. Each one of them will receive Rs. 10 lakh each annually.
Rahul Aware, Naveen, Utkarsh kale, Sachin Rathi, Vijay, Simran, Manshi and Anusha are part of Category D and are entitled for Rs. 5 lakh each, while Navjot Kaur, Kiran, Harpreet Singh and Jitendra will get Rs. 3 lakh each, having been placed in Grade E.
The WFI will also support 120 boys and girls, who have been placed in grades F, G, H and I where the U-23, Junior, Cadets and U-15 will reap the benefits for the development and growth programmes. In Grade F, WFI has kept all Under-23 National-level gold medal winners across all categories and these wrestlers will get an annual stipend of Rs. 1.2 lakh, thereby each of them collecting Rs. 10,000 per month.
Harping on the central contract system, the WFI president said that it gives the wrestlers a guaranteed annual income.
The overall grading of wrestlers is purely based on the performances in the World Championships, Olympics and Asian Games, the London and Rio Games.
The contracts handed out to the wrestlers will, in no way, hamper or undermine players' individual contracts with their private sponsors. "The wrestlers are free to receive any prize money and grants from other sources," added the WFI president at the sidelines of the Wrestling Nationals opening ceremony.
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