Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar will be the cynosure of all eyes when he returns to the mat after three long years at the National Wrestling Championship, commencing on Thursday. While Sushil is the lone big name in men's freestyle wrestling, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and Geeta Phogat will be the star attractions in the women's field at the four-day event.
However, London Games bronze winner Yogeshwar Dutt will continue his absence from the competitive fold, while his protege Bajrang Punia also won't be seen in action as he is all set to participate in the Under-23 World Championships to be held in Bydgoszcz, Poland from November 21-26.
Gearing up for a comeback next year with Commonwealth and Asian Games lined up, Sushil is not expected to leave any stone unturned when he will vie for top honours in the 74kg category at the Nationals. He will be representing Railways.
Sushil, who was having a training stint in Tbilisi, Georgia, rushed back to the country last week to take part in the selection trial against Dinesh in the 74kg category.
But he hardly had to break a sweat as Dinesh, the national junior champion, gave him a walkover.
"Wrestling fans will see a re-energised Sushil Kumar at the nationals," Sushil had said after qualifying for the competition.
The 34-year-old was last seen in action at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where he finished with a gold.
Sushil was stopped from taking part at the Rio Olympics in 2016 after the WFI reneged on its promise of holding a trial to decide who among him and Narsingh would represent India at the Summer Games.
Subsequently, Sushil took legal recourse but even the Delhi High Court rejected his plea for a trial in the 74kg category and he could not get a showdown with Narsingh as had been promised to him by the WFI after an injury prevented him from competing in the Olympic qualifiers earlier.
Sakshi and Vinesh Phogat will look to get back to form after dismal performances at the World Championships in August.
Sakshi will be competing in women's 62kg at the event which will see the participation of around 800 wrestlers, 100 coaches and 50 technical officials.
Babita Kumari, meanwhile, would not be a part of the tournament owing to an injury.
(With PTI Inputs)