India wrestling coach Kuldeep Malik insisted that it was not going to be a cakewalk for the big guns in the women’s team when they compete in the trials for the upcoming World Championships
Malik, who oversees the national camp along with the foreign coach Andrew Cook, said the younger crop of wrestlers are motivated to do well against some of the high-profile names. The men’s trials in New Delhi lacked competition, as Bajrang Punia and Deepak Punia had to contend with just one opponent in their respective categories.
The only competitive draw came in the 57kg, where Ravi Dahiya emerged winner, getting the better of Sandeep Tomar and Utkarsh Kale. “It’s going to be tough for everyone. The girls have trained well. They are motivated to do well. There are going to be tough bouts on Sunday,” Malik was quoted as saying PTI.
However it remains to be seen how the young wrestlers will fare against Commonwealth and Asian Games champion Vinesh Phogat.
Phogat has switched to 53kg from 50kg and already has gold medals at Grand Prix of Spain and Yasar Dogu International. Given the level at which Phogat competes, she is not likely to be challenged by her compatriots.
But Malik felt: “Pinki is in good shape. She is expected to do well in 53kg, despite the presence of Vinesh.”
While Phogat is consistent, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik has struggled to repeat her success at the big stage over since her epic win three years ago. She has been searching for consistency at big tournaments and like Phogat, is unlikely to break a sweat at the domestic level.
Malik beat reigning world champion Petra Olli of Finland en route a silver-winning performance at the Dan Kolov-Nikol Petrov tournament in Bulgaria but did not reach the medal round at Yasar Dogu event in Istanbul. Kuldeep Malik weighed on the draw: “Deepika Jakhar could be a threat for Sakshi in the 62kg.”
World Championship bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda has definitely made some good strides. She too won a gold in Bulgaria but did not reach the medal round in Istanbul.
“Sarita Mor, Manju and junior wrestler Anshu are all in 59kg. It will be interesting fight in this category. Pooja is in good form but all these wrestlers are also working very hard to prove their mettle,” said Kuldeep Malik.
Similar to the men, the trials for women will also be held only for six Olympic weight categories – 50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg and 76kg.
For the remaining four categories, the Wrestling Federation of India will conduct trials later. The World Championships, slated to be held in Kazakhstan from September 14-22, is first qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Games.