Vinesh Phogat clinched India’s first silver medal at the ongoing Asian Wrestling Championship in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan after a tough 2-3 loss in the final of the 50kg category (freestyle) against China’s Chun Lei on Thursday.
This is India’s third medal from the event after Greco-Roman wrestlers Harpreet Singh and Rajender Kumar clinched bronze earlier. This is also Vinesh’s second consecutive silver at the continental event, following her impressive run to the podium last year in New Delhi on her comeback from a major knee injury.
Vinesh came into the final in Bishkek high on confidence after narrowly edging out Japan’s Yuki Irie after the scores were tied 4-4. The final, however, turned out to be bit of a damp squib for the most part with both wrestlers preferring to wait for the other to commit a mistake. The only point in the first round went to the Chinese after a passivity warning for Vinesh.
The Indian, however, started the second half on a brighter note when facing a second passivity warning. She took the attack to the Chinese wrestler and with a little over a minute and a half left took a 2-1 lead.
Lei fought back almost immediately and despite a sharp defensive play by the Indian to ward off a series of attacks, the former took a 3-2 lead with under a minute left on the clock.
With screams of “chal Vinesh, attack, attack” towards the end from her coaches, the Haryana girl could not find a finishing move. In the end, she paid for a sluggish start.
Vinesh started the day by defeating Hyungjoo Kim of South Korea in the qualification round, and sealing a berth in the quarter-finals. The Indian was in top form and defeated Marina Zakshevskaya by a comprehensive 12-3 margin and entered the last four. She prevailed in the semis after coming out on top in an engaging tactical battle.
The 23-year-old’s win in the final four was all the more impressive considering that Irie has been in top form going into the tournament. In the Japanese Championship in December last year, she defeated 2017 world champion Yui Susaki and 2016 Olympic champion Eri Tosaka.
Sangeeta bagged India’s fourth medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships when she defeated Um Jieun of Korea Republic 9-4 on Thursday in the 59 kg freestyle category. There was, however, no medal this around for the 19-year-old Divya Kakran, who won silver last year in New Delhi. She went down in the bronze medal bout, losing in the 68kg category against Meerim Zhumanazarova 6-12. The latter had plenty of support from her home crowd, and remained in the lead pretty much for the entire duration of the bout.
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