Dubai rains: Wrestlers Deepak Punia, Sujeet Kalakal stranded at airport enroute to Olympic qualifiers

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DUBAI: Indian wrestlers Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalakal’s dreams of qualifying for the Paris Olympics were put on hold after the two were left stranded at Dubai International Airport due to heavy rainfall in the Gulf nation on Thursday.

Deepak (86kg), who came close to earning a medal at the Tokyo Games, and Sujeet (65kg) were on their way to Bishkek to compete in the Asia Olympic qualifiers, the second-last qualifying event for the Paris Olympics, which begin on Friday.

However, the duo was stranded at Dubai International Airport as the country experienced the greatest recorded rainfall in history, flooding major highways and roads and causing chaos at one of the world’s busiest airports.
Meanwhile, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) said that officials of the Consulate General of India (CGI) in Dubai were in touch with the wrestler duo.

“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 SAI said in a post on X.

Reportedly, the two, accompanied by Russian coach Kamal Malikov and physio Shubham Gupta, have been forced to sleep on the floor and have had no access to appropriate food due to the rain-induced situation.

Deepak and Sujeet were training in Dagestan, Russia, from April 2 to 15 when they chose to fly from Makachkala to Bishkek via Dubai. The final chance to qualify for Paris will be the World Qualifiers in Turkey in May.

As of now, only Antim Panghal has qualified for the Paris Olympics after her sensational performance in the World Championships last September.

She produced an upset by defeating the defending champion, Parrish, in the opening round. She stumbled in the semi-finals as she lost to Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus. But she went on to bag a bronze medal with a dominating win over two-time European champion Jonna Malmgren, securing her berth in the Paris Olympics.

The Paris Olympics will begin on July 26 and run until August 11. (ANI)

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