In what turned out to be a disappointing campaign, India’s Greco Roman wrestlers drew a blank at the World Olympic Qualifiers as none of them could earn a Tokyo Games quota in Bulgaria, Sofia on Saturday.
India will not be fielding any wrestler in the men’s Greco-Roman categories, but a overall tally of eight quota spots have been confirmed for the Olympics matching the country’s best qualification record achieved at Rio 2016.
Overall, if wrestlers from all eight qualified categories take to the mat in Tokyo, India will field its biggest ever contingent in wrestling at Olympics with four men’s freestyle wrestlers and as many women wrestlers.
In the last edition in 2016, India had fielded seven wrestlers – two men’s free style, two Greco Roman and three women wrestlers. In the men’s freestyle 74kg, a quota was earned but no wrestler was fielded.
Men’s freestyle wrestler Sumit Malik (125kg) and Seema Bisla (50kg, women) earned quotas from this event in Sofia. Before this event, Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Vinesh Phogat (women’s 53kg) had qualified through the 2019 World Championship in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. Young guns Anshu Malik (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg) had also qualified through the Asian Qualifier in Almaty, last month.
Later on Saturday, Seema Bisla clinched the gold medal in the women’s 50kg category after her opponent Lucia Guzman from Ecuador defaulted due to injury. Seema had earned a quota already on Friday as the wrestlers who reach final punch tickets for the quadrennial event starting in July.
It is first international title for 29-year-old Seema since she triumphed at the Yasar Dogu event in July 2019, reported PTI.
India’s brightest chance was with Gurpreet Singh but he was ousted after losing his 77kg pre-quarterfinal in just 48 seconds to 2020 European champion Rafig Huseynov from Azerbaijan.
Huseynov pulled off a quick four-point move to stun Gurpreet. Before Gurpreet could regroup, the Azerbaijani effected another four-pointer to end the bout in the first period itself.
Gurpeet, who had won a bronze medal at last month’s Asian Qualifiers, had got a walkover from Tajikistan’s Daler Rez Zade in his opening bout.
Sachin Rana had forfeited his opening bout to bow out of the 60kg competition. “He was feeling unwell after weigh-in. He said he noticed blood in his urine, so we withdrew him from the competition. Health is paramount,” India’s national coach Hargobind Singh told PTI.
Ashu (67kg) squandered Par Terre position advantage to lose 3-8 against Aliaksandr Liavonchyk of Belarus.
Sunil Kumar missed chances aplenty against Russia’s Davit Chakvatadze in the 87kg pre-quarterfinal. He was up 1-0 but did not take advantage of the ‘Par Terre’ as he let the Russian get out of the defensive position.
Chakvatadze, gold medal winner at Rio 2016. was tired towards the end but the Indian could not take advantage in what was a hard-fought bout.
Deepanshu was pinned by Spain’s Jesus Gasca Fresnada when he was trailing 3-7 in his 97kg pre-quarterfinal.
Only the two finalists are given Tokyo Olympics quota in this competition, which is the last opportunity to win tickets to the Summer Games.
Earlier, Naveen Kumar, who was set to compete in the World Olympic Qualifiers in 97kg Greco Roman, had tested positive for Covid-19 on opening day, forcing him to withdraw from the competition.
It is second time that Naveen (97kg) has contracted coronavirus as he had got infected a few months back but had recovered.
Hargobind said it was always difficult for Indians to get through this competition, considering presence of strong Europeans wrestlers.
“Gurpreet’s weight had 30 wrestlers. Greco Roman is very popular in Europe. They have advantage of sparring with strong wrestlers. In Indian sub-continent, this style is not popular. We had better chance at Asian Qualifier.
“Also, there was not enough time to prepare because the Nationals were delayed due to the pandemic which resulted in late selection. We could not arrange a training trip abroad. You don’t get good Greco wrestlers in Indian sub-continent,” Hargobind told PTI.
(With PTI inputs)
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