Star Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat was on Tuesday pushed out of the title race by reigning champion Mayu Mukaida of Japan at the World Championship in Nursultan, Kazakhstan but her hope of securing Olympic quota and a bronze medal were kept alive.
It was a second consecutive defeat for Phogat against the Japanese this season after losing to the two-time world champion at the Asian Championship in China.
Phogat has Commonwealth Games and Asian Games titles to her name but is yet to win a medal at the Worlds.
Later, Mukaida reached the finals and kept Phogat not only in the medal hunt but also for Tokyo Olympics qualification.
In another Olympic category, Seema Bisla (50kg) lost her pre-quarterfinal 2-9 to three-time Olympic medallist Mariya Stadnik. The Azerbaijani has also reached the finals, keeping Bisla alive in the competition.
In non-Olympic categories, Komal Gole was too defensive against Turkey’s Beste Altug and lost her 72kg Qualification bout 1-4, while Lalita was outplayed 3-10 by Mongolia’s Bolortuya Bat Ochir in 55kg. Both the grapplers are now out of the championship since Bolortuya and Altug later lost their respective quarterfinals.
Placed in an extremely tough 53kg bracket, Phogat made a dominating start by outclassing Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson, winning 13-0 in her opening round.
However, in the much-anticipated clash against world number two Mukaida, Phogat could not be her usual attacking self and lost 0-7.
The first 60-70 seconds remained without scores as they measured each other. Phogat lost a point on passivity and from there on, the Japanese began to dominate.
A quick take-down, followed by an expose and another take-down gave the Japanese a commanding 7-0 lead.
Phogat needed to attack but Mukaida’s defence was like an immovable rock. The Indian made two double-leg attacks and also got hold of Mukaida’s left leg but could not convert those moves into points.
Against Mattsson, Phogat followed a strategy of staying away from the Swede. She did not allow her to come close to play her hold-game. In no time, she raced to a 4-0 lead and made it a commanding 8-0 with a double leg attack and a takedown from a waist attack.
A healthy lead in her pocket, Phogat just needed to stay calm and save some energy in the second period. She ended the bout with a four-point throw near the edge of the mat. Vinesh had recently beaten Sofia, the six-time World Championship medal winner, en route the Poland Open title-win last month.
Bisla, world number three in 50kg, could not overcome the seasoned Stadnik. The consistent double leg attacks by Stadnik always had Bisla on the run as she lost points for stepping out.
A take-down followed by a gut-wrench gave Stadnik a 6-0 lead at the break. Bisla could only score two points with a take-down towards the end of the bout.
Earlier, India’s campaign in the Greco-Roman style folded after Naveen lost his 130kg repechage round by technical superiority to Estonia’s Heiki Nabi.
Azerbaijan’s Stadnik defeated China’s Sun Yanan in the 50kg semis while Japan’s Mukaida ousted Maria Prevolaraki from Greece. Phogat will take on Blahinya of Ukraine in the first repechage round on Wednesday while Bisla will take on Genesis of Nigeria. If she wins that she will have to beat Poleshchuk of Russia to fight for bronze against Sun Yanan.
(With PTI inputs)