Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after holding off world number one Sara Ann Hildebrandt with some superlative defensive display in the World Championships in Nur-Sultan on Wednesday.
At least, five times Hildebrandt had got hold of Phogat’s right leg but with her immense upper-body strength, the Indian did not let her rival take advantage and won 8-2 in her second repechage round.
At the beginning itself, Phogat put pressure on Hildebrandth, taking 2-0 with a take-down on double leg attack. The American thrice attacked Phogat’s right leg in the first period and twice in the second but the Indian kept her on the ground, using all her power.
But whenever Phogat got the opportunity, she converted attacks into take-down points.
Countering the wrestler from USA was not new for Phogat, who had beaten Hildebrandth at the beginning of the season at Dan-Kolov tournament in Bulgaria, immediately after switching to 53kg category from 50kg.
In the first repechage, the Ukrainian largely went for head-locks but Phogat not only defended well but also timed her double-leg attacks to log take-down points.
After being placed in an extremely tough 53kg draw, Phogat had lost to reigning champion Mayu Mukaida in the second round.
In her first repechage round, she had easily dispatched Ukraine’s Yuliia Khavaldzhy Blahinya 5-0.
While it has been a spectacular career for Phogat with gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, none of her three attempts at the World Championship resulted in a podium.
Competing in her fourth Worlds, she is one win away from her maiden medal and standing in her way is Greek wrestler, Maria Prevolaraki.
Follow the live action from Nur-Sultan here.
(with PTI inputs)