Wrestler Bajrang Kumar's scuttled trip to the USA for a crucial competition was brought back on track by Olympic bronze-medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, who convinced SAI officials in New Delhi to sanction his expenses for the Dave Schultz Memorial International Tournament in Colorado Springs.
Miffed at the treatment meted out to his "younger brother" Bajrang, London Olympics bronze-medallist Yogeshwar met Sports Authority of India Director General Jiji Thomson and SAI's Teams Division head Rajinder Singh at the SAI headquarters.
He requested them to sanction Bajrang's travel, boarding and lodging expenses for the all-important fortnight-long training-cum-competition programme.
After his meeting with SAI officials in the afternoon, Thomson gave the go ahead for SAI to fund Bajrang's expenses for the tournament.
Bajrang has decided to leave on January 21 from the capital to join his other eight freestyle teammates, who had left on Wednesday accompanied by chief national coach Vinod Kumar.
"I have sanctioned his trip. He can leave for the US whenever he wants to. Yogeshwar and Bajrang met me today at my office and after a discussion with Rajinder Singh, I ordered that his funds should be immediately released," Thomson said.
"We have also suspended a key project officer Satish Rana for allegedly tampering with the official document pertaining to Indian wrestling team's tour to the USA. We have initiated a detailed internal inquiry against him. He has claimed that he did it on the instructions of Wrestling Federation of India. We have enough documentary evidences against him to prove him guilty," he added.
After his meeting with SAI officials, Yogeshwar admitted that he was deeply upset about the officials' refusal to bear Bajrang's expenses.
"I took the matter into my own hands and decided to meet SAI DG and requested him to release his funds. I am happy that SAI has accepted my request and allowed Bajrang to join his teammates there," said Yogeshwar
Bajrang said had it not been for Yogeshwar, it wouldn't have been possible for him to go for the tournament.
"I am thankful to Yogeshwar bhai that he fought for me. I am relieved to know that I am going for the tournament. It feels great. Whatever happened today is because of Yogeshwar bhai," said an elated Bajrang.
Yogeshwar said he had even planned to fund Bajrang's trip out of his own pocket which would have cost him Rs 4-5 lakh.
"I just wanted him to go there and participate. He is a bright medal prospect. He will take my place after my retirement. He is the one who will compete in my weight category when I will hang up my boots," he said.
Yogeshwar also partly blamed the WFI for the entire mess.
"They did not send the entries on time, that's what SAI DG told me. Bajrang's name came very late and it wasn't possible for SAI to act on such a short notice. WFI should be cautious in their approach and I will take up this matter with the WFI president."
Yogeshwar also informed that he would not be travelling to the USA for the tournament and Bajrang would compete in his place in 65kg.
Bajrang had got the shocking news from his federation that he was not travelling to the USA hours before leaving for the airport. SAI had said that Bajrang could travel to US at "no cost to government".
SAI approved eight freestyle grapplers, eight greco-roman and eight women wrestlers and the coaching staff for the event after FILA re-jigged the weight classes.
Image: Yogeshwar Dutt
Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images