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Dubai flood leaves Indian wrestlers Deepak Punia, Sujeet Kalkal stranded at airport ahead of Paris Olympic qualifiers

Published at :April 18, 2024 at 8:37 PM
Modified at :April 18, 2024 at 10:56 PM
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(Courtesy : Deccan Herald)

Ajay Gandhar

Wrestlers are accompanied by Russian coach Kamal Malikov and physio Shubham Gupta.

Indian wrestlers Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalkal are desperately trying to make it to the Wrestling Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan after being stranded at the Dubai International Airport since Tuesday due to record rainfall and flooding in the United Arab Emirates.

Punia, a medal hopeful for India at the 2024 Paris Olympics in the 86kg category, and Kalkal (65kg) were caught in the unprecedented situation after severe thunderstorms battered Dubai this week. The rains were the highest the UAE has seen in 75 years, with up to 259.5 mm of rainfall recorded on Tuesday alone.

The resulting floods have caused major disruptions at Dubai’s main airport, with around 300 flights canceled so far and hundreds more delayed, according to the BBC. With their Friday bouts at risk, Punia and Kalkal have been forced to continue training at the airport itself while sleeping on the terminal floor. Both wrestlers are accompanied by Russian coach Kamal Malikov and physio Shubham Gupta.

The situation has taken a major toll on the wrestlers’ preparations. With limited access to proper food and rest, concerns are growing about whether they will be physically and mentally ready to compete even if they make it to Bishkek.

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As per Indian Express, Sujeet Kalkal’s father Dayanand has informed that the stranded wrestlers are pinning their hopes on securing a late-night flight out of Dubai. If such a flight takes off, it would mean they arrive in Bishkek around 4:30 am local time.

“At least then they will be able to appear for the weigh-in at 8 and participate in their bouts later in the day,” “But it’s a tense situation. I am worried for their well-being.”

“They have been sleeping on the floor of the terminal and have not been able to eat proper food. They are in a terrible situation.”, he further added

The Sports Authority of India has confirmed that arrangements have been made for the wrestlers to travel on a flight from Dubai to Bishkek, scheduled for departure on Thursday.

“Officials of CGI Dubai are in touch with wrestlers, Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalkal who have been stranded in Dubai due to the disruption of flights. They will be accommodated in a flight from Dubai to Bishkek tonight ahead of the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament.”

The Asian qualifying event presents one of the last opportunities for Punia and Kalkal to book spots for India at the Paris Olympics. Punia has represented India at Tokyo, while the tournament is the first major test for the promising Kalkal.

With time quickly running out, all eyes are now on whether the duo can secure last-minute travel to Bishkek and still be in a competitive condition for the crucial Olympic qualifiers. Their Paris dreams hang precariously in the balance amidst the unprecedented climate crisis in the UAE.

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