Gurpreet of India considers Greco-Roman Olympic berth

New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Indian Greco-Roman wrestler Gurpreet Singh is ready for the world Olympic qualifiers, which begin Thursday in Sofia.

The world qualifying tournament, to be held from May 6 to 9, features two Olympic places in each of the 18 weight categories.

India have won six Olympic freestyle quota spots so far, but have yet to qualify for the Greco-Roman event.

Gurpreet, a 26-year-old wrestler from Punjab, was unable to win a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics during last month’s Asian qualifiers in Almaty.

Head coach Hargobind Singh, however, is confident Gurpreet will perform well in Sofia.

“We hope he stays calm and doesn’t make stupid mistakes. He could have won an Olympic quota spot at Almaty, but lost a crucial fight to pull out of the Asian tournament. World qualification is tough but let’s hope for the best, ”the head coach told IANS from Sofia.

In the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, Gurpreet beat 2016 Korean Olympic medalist Kyeonwoo Kim in the preliminary round by a whopping 12-1 margin. “But he lost the next round which was not that difficult. We hope Gurpreet will be more alert in Sofia, ”said the head coach.

Six Indians participate in the Greco-Roman event.

The Greco-Roman 77kg in Sofia is supposed to be tough as world bronze medalists Fatih Cengiz from Turkey and Aik Mnatsakanian from Bulgaria are other main contenders for Olympic places.

“Several new wrestlers have been selected for the Tokyo Olympics while Olympic medalists like Kim have yet to qualify,” said the Indian coach.

Asian champion Sunil Kumar (87 kg) is another prominent Greco-Roman wrestler who is aiming for the Olympics. “It would depend on the games. A difficult first round could spoil the chances of reaching the quarterfinals, ”said the head coach.

In freestyle, all eyes will be on Amit Dhankar who is competing in the men’s 74 kg event. The Indian Wrestling Federation (WFI) selected him for the world qualifiers after Sandeep Singh Mann fell short of expectations during the Asian Olympic qualifiers April 9-11 in Almaty.

Twelve Indians are among more than 400 wrestlers from around the world competing in the World Olympic Qualifications in Sofia.

–IANS

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Robert J. King