Seema Bisla clinched India’s eighth Tokyo Games qualification spot in wrestling by winning in the semifinals of the World Olympic Qualifiers while Nisha Dahiya and Pooja Dihag were ousted from their categories competition in Sofia, Bulgaria on Friday.
Competing in the 50kg category, Seema lost only two points en route the semifinals, where clashed with Poland’s Anna Lukasiak for a place in the Tokyo Games. In the low-scoring semi-final against the recent European bronze medallist, Seema’s two points in the first period were enough after she conceded a passivity point early. The second period was all about defence and the 29-year-old, herself a continental bronze medallist in Almaty recently, prevailed in style to celebrate her dream.
“This bout was very tough for me because this was my last chance. My coaches and everyone back home were waiting for me to qualify and they were confident as well,” Seema told United World Wrestling.
“In Almaty, I was ready but I don’t know [what happened], the travel and then I had reduced my weight to 50kg after a long time. Despite that I was trying to motivate myself that I will qualify but my body did not work there. But before coming here, I was confident that I will qualify.”
Coach Kuldeep Malik said he was impressed with her performance, calling it one of her best days. “Her attack was good but defense was better,” he added.
She will now fight for gold against Ecuador’s Lucia Yamileth Yepez Guzman on Saturday.
Indian wrestlers have now matched their overall tally of eight quota spots that was achieved in the build-up to the Rio Olympics. Three Indian women wrestlers had previously qualified for the Tokyo Olympics – Vinesh Phogat (53kg), Anshu Malik (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg). It will be first time that four Indian women wrestlers will compete in the Olympics, reported PTI. In the 2016 edition, three Indian women wrestlers had competed.
On day one of event, men’s freestyle wrestler Sumit Malik had qualified in the 125kg on Thursday in Sofia. But he pulled out from the bout for gold medal against Russia’s Sergei Kozyrev, the 2018 Youth Olympic champion. Due to an injury, Sumit finished with silver.
National coach Jagmander Singh told PTI that Malik had injured his right knee during practice at the national camp a few weeks back and competed only because an Olympic quota was at stake.
“There is a minor ligament injury and we did not aggravate it since he had already locked the Olympic quota. He had competed in Almaty last month (Asian Championships and Olympic qualifiers) with this injury,” he said.
“This was one last chance to get the Olympic quota, so he competed. He came here without much practice and winning four bouts was remarkable,” he added.
Defeats for Nisha (68kg) and Pooja (76kg) meant that India will not be represented in those categories in Tokyo, as this event is the final chance to earn quotas.
Seema, who won a bronze at the recent Asian Championship in Almaty, was solid in her defence against Belarus’ Anastasiya Yanotava and logged four points in each of the periods to win 8-0.
The Indian was more dominant against Sweden’s Emma Jonna Denise Malmgren whom she pinned with 43 seconds to spare to win the bout. Seema used her power better and stayed aggressive. She was leading 10-2 when she launched a counterattack to pin her rival.
Nisha (68kg), who was also in quarterfinals, found the immensely powerful Bulgarian Mimi Hristova which she lost by technical superiority. The Bulgarian pulled off a breathtaking four-point throwdown and then followed that with a series of two-pointers after which Nisha could not find a way to break her rival’s defence.
Nisha had won her opening bout by fall against Poland’s Natalia Iwona Strzalka.
Meanwhile, Pooja, the third Indian in the competition, lost out in the 76kg opening bout, losing 3-4 to Lithuania’s Kamile Gaucaite.
(With PTI inputs)
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