World Wrestling Championships 2019: Vinesh Phogat Eyes #WWC Title :- India’s top wrestlers will not only be chasing glory but also Tokyo Olympics qualification as the World Championships gets underway on Saturday. In her quest to become the first Indian woman wrestler to finish on the top podium at the UWW World Senior Wrestling Championships, Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat faces a path littered with some of the biggest names from the wrestling world as the women freestyle events get underway in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Vinesh Phogat Eyes #WWC Title
For 25-year-old Vinesh Phogat, the season began in a new weight category as she moved up to 53kg from 50kg. She took some time to settle in her new class but still made five finals, winning three golds — Yasar Dogu, Grand Prix of Spain and Poland Open. A bronze at the Asian Championships along with a couple of silver medals at the Dan Kolov and Medved International tournaments gave enough testimony to the fact that the star wrestler was beginning to find her comfort level even in her new weight category.
In the qualifying rounds, the seventh seed faces Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Mattson and a win over her will fetch her a chance to compete against the two-time world champion Mayu Mukaida of Japan.
While skill is not an issue with Vinesh, holding off strong candidates for six minutes is a big challenge, as admitted by herself recently. However, the big-stage competition will help her make an assessment on this count as she eyes a maiden Worlds medal. A last-minute elbow injury had forced her to opt-out of the Budapest Championships last year. No Indian woman has ever won a gold at the Worlds and Vinesh has it in her to end India’s drought.
World Wrestling Championships 2019 Live
In 50kg, all Indian hopes will rest on the shoulders of the second seed Seema Bisla, who won gold at the Yasar Dogu 2019 Ranking Series tournament in July. A win over the three-time Olympic medallist Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan in the starting campaign will put her in the way of either European Games bronze medallist Miglena Selishka or Yasar Dagu silver medallist Ekaterina Poleshchuk.
Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik has been struggling on the international circuit. She has not won a title since her triumph at the 2017 Commonwealth Championships.
Divya Kakran, in contrast, is a bundle of energy and remains relentless throughout her bouts. She has won two gold and as many bronze medals this season and looks hungry for more.
Pooja Dhanda, who became only the fourth Indian woman to win a medal at the Worlds last year, could not book a berth in 57kg, which is an Olympic category but will fight for her second medal in 59kg.
In 72kg, sixth-seeded Komal Bhagwan Gole will be in contention for a berth in the quarter-finals when she faces off against Turkey’s accomplished Beste Altug. Should she manage a win there, she has a tough proposition in the next round as she will have to square off against the top seed Zhamila Bakbergenova of Kazakhstan.
Bajrang Punia has been in the form of his life but there is a chink in his armour and his weak leg defence, will surely be tested. Sushil Kumar has won a World title in men’s freestyle in India’s wrestling history and Bajrang would be keen to end India’s wait for a second medal.
The 25-year-old himself has two World Championship medals but not gold. His road though is full of challenges with the presence of Russian Gadzhimurad Rashidov and Bahrain’s Haji Mohammed Ali in his category.
Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar has been struggling of late and is returning to the Worlds after a gap of eight years. He will be watched keenly in the 74kg competition as his relevance is being discussed for some time now. He remains bullish about his chances and the World will provide an opportunity to test his claims.
Among other men’s freestyle grapplers, Deepak Punia is capable of springing a surprise. He is heading into the Championships after becoming India’s first junior World champion in 18 years.
He outplayed his seniors during the trials. This is a perfect opportunity for him to announce his arrival on the senior circuit.
Gurpreet Singh (77kg) and Harpreet Singh (82kg) will be India’s best bet in Greco-Roman style.
However, India’s national Greco-Roman coach Hargobind Singh says a lot would depend on the draw.
The Championships is offering six Olympic quotas in six categories in all three styles.
(Men’s Freestyle): Ravi Kumar (57kg), Rahul Aware (61kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Karan (70kg), Sushil Kumar (74kg), Jitender (79kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Parveen (92kg), Mausam Khatri (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg).
(Men’s Greco-Roman): Manjeet (55kg), Manish (60kg), Sagar (63kg), Manish (67kg), Yogesh (72kg), Gurpreet Singh (77kg), Harpreet Singh (82kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Ravi (97kg) and Naveen (130kg).
(Women’s Freestyle): Seema (50kg), Vinesh Phogat (53kg), Lalita (55kg), Sarita (57-kg), Pooja Dhanda (59-kg), Sakshi Malik (62kg), Navjot Kaur (65kg), Divya Kakran (68kg), Komal Bhagwan Gole (72kg) and Kiran (76kg).