Will it be Dipika's squash or Sushil's wrestling at Olympics 2020?
India's wrestling and squash fraternity is waiting with bated breath for the International Olympic Committee's highly-anticipated vote on September 8 to decide on the inclusion of one of the disciplines to the 2020 Olympic roster.
A sense of anxiety has gripped the country's leading wrestlers and squash players ahead of the IOC's crucial meeting during its ongoing 125th Session in Buenos Aires, where the world body will choose among baseball/softball, wrestling and squash for the lone available slot at the 2020 Summer Games.
Olympic medallist wrestlers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, and squash players Dipika Pallikal, Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal are excited and nervous as well as the full IOC members meet to take a call on their future at the Games.
"I am hopeful that wrestling will be re-inducted into the Olympic programme. Wrestling is a popular sport and deserves a place in Olympics," two-time Olympic medallist Sushil said.
Image: Wrestler Sushil Kumar and squash player Dipika Pallikal
'All young wrestlers would love to see their game back in Olympics'
London Olympics bronze-medallist and Sushil's long-time friend Yogeshwar Dutt said since wrestling has introduced new changes to make it more spectator-friendly it stands a chance.
"Wrestling has made India a force to reckon with in the Olympic arena and we are making every possible effort to make IOC reconsider its decision. I am confident that we will again become part of the Olympic movement," said Yogeshwar.
Olympian Geeta Phogat said, "All young wrestlers would love to see their game back in Olympics."
Image: Geeta Phogat
'It will be a dream come true for all of us'
The country’s squash players, too, are optimistic about their discipline being included in the Olympic fold. They believe they will be third-time lucky after two failed attempts by the World Squash Federation (WSF) on previous occasions.
"We deserve to be in the Olympics. Our sport has evolved so much over the years and we truly are an Olympic sport. We are fighting with wrestling and baseball to get in and I feel we definitely are a step ahead of them as a sport to get into the Olympics. Give us a chance and you will see what everyone missed out for all these years in the Olympics," said Dipika.
Dipika said it will be a "dream come true" for her if squash makes the cut for the 2020 Summer Games.
"It will be a dream come true for all of us. For many athletes winning medals at the Olympics is their highest point. But for us knowing that squash is an Olympic sport after all these years of hard work will definitely be the highest point."
Image: Dipika Pallikal
'We tick all the right boxes for the sport to be included in the Games'
Chinappa, however, chose to be more realistic in her expectations.
"It's a tough battle between squash and wrestling, but I really believe that squash has a great chance to get into the Olympics 2020. A lot has been done to promote the game internationally by each player as well as the administrators. I am anxious and really hoping that I hear we made it!" she said.
India's No 1 men's player Ghosal expressed hope of the IOC finding merit in the squash body’s presentation.
"I'm extremely hopeful that squash will make the cut for the 2020 Olympics. Winning a medal at the Olympics would be the biggest thing in my career and I really want a shot at it.
"I think we have presented a very good bid this time around. I feel we tick all the right boxes for the sport to be included in the Games," he said.
Image: Saurav Ghosal
Squash gets Murray's backing
Recently, reigning Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open champion Andy Murray had also backed squash's Olympic bid.
The IOC will decide on the inclusion of an additional sport after baseball/softball, squash and wrestling deliver short presentations to the session ahead of the vote.
The IOC's Executive Board had, in its meeting in Lausanne on February 12, dropped wrestling from the 2020 Olympics. Squash, wrestling and baseball/softball were shortlisted by the IOC Executive Board in Russia on May 29 for a final vote in Buenos Aires.
Image: Andy Murray
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images