Indian Judo team will be participating in the Budapest Grand Slam -- which contributes to the Olympic qualification -- between October 23 and October 25. This will be the first tournament that the Indian judokas will be playing since the nationwide lockdown was imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ahead of the departure for Hungary, Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday met the contingent which comprises five judokas -- Tulika Mann, Avtar Singh, Vijay Yadav, Jasleen Singh Saini and Sushila Devi -- and coach Jiwan Sharma.
The Sports Minister wished the contingent luck for the tournament and said preparations are in place to ensure that a strong talent pool emerges for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.
"The team is leaving for Hungary today and I am hopeful that some of the athletes will qualify. Judo is a priority sport for us and we will enhance capacity both in terms of training facilities and coaches," said Rijiju.
"The idea is to extend full support to the elite athletes while building up a talent pool of young athletes who can compete in the Olympics of 2024 and 2028. We will discuss a more exhaustive roadmap with the federation and plan ahead," he added.
Best wishes to Indian Judo players leaving for Hungary to compete in the IJF Grand Slam competition which will also be Olympics qualifying matches at Budapest. pic.twitter.com/WgYVWCG8oI — Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) October 19, 2020
Jasleen, world number 56 and a good prospect to qualify for next year's Olympics, said, "This will be the first tournament we will be played after the Covid-19 lockdown."
"We used to play every month earlier, so it is really good to be playing again. From the entire Judo fraternity, would like to thank the Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India and the Judo Federation of India for organising this for us," he added.
Around 645 competitors from around 81 countries will be participating in this tournament and the contingent is enthusiastic to be back in action in competitive sport after such a long break.
Sushila, the highest ranked women's judoka in the contingent -- ranked 41 in the world and an Olympic hopeful -- said, "This is the first time we have met the Sports Minister and he is really doing a lot for sports in India so with his encouragement, we are feeling very motivated. It is good to play once again after the lockdown and would like to thank SAI for the support in getting this international exposure organised for us. We will try to give our best."