Indian Greco-Roman wrestlers miss Olympic quota at Asian qualifier in Almaty

None of India’s six wrestlers in action could secure an Olympic quota for the Tokyo Games even as Ashu and Gupreet Singh won bronze medals at the Asian qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Friday.

Only the finalists will earn a place at the Tokyo Games from this event and five Indians have lost in the last four stages to miss out on the chance to qualify on the opening day of the competition.

Much was expected of Sunil Kumar, but the best Greco-Roman wrestler in the country could not qualify.

Competing in the 87kg category, Asian champion Sunil started his campaign with a 7-0 win over Kyrgyzstan’s Sukhrob Abdulkhaev but lost a tough semi-final 5-9 to local hopeful Nursultan Tursynov, who landed a solid winning throw towards the end of the fight.

He lost his bronze jump-off by technical superiority against Masato Sumi of Japan.

Ashu (67kg) and Gupreet Singh (77kg) went on to win bronze medals in contrasting fashion.

None of India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers have yet qualified for the 2020 Games, but three freestyle wrestlers (men) – Bajrang Punia (65 kg), Ravi Dahiya (57 kg) and Deepak Punia (86 kg) – qualified for the world championship.

Vinesh Phogat (53 kg) is the only Indian wrestler to have qualified for the Games.

Those who miss out on this event will have one last chance at the World Qualifiers, scheduled for Sofia, Bulgaria, May 6-9.

Ravi (97 kg) lost his quarter-final but still managed the bronze jump-off against Korean Seyeol Lee, against whom he lost 1-3.

The women’s competition is on Saturday while the men’s freestyle competition is scheduled for Sunday.

Gyanender (60kg) started by beating Jui Chi Huang of Taipei by technical superiority but lost his semi-final 1-6 against Zholaman Sharshenbekov of Kyrgyzstan. He then lost his bout for the bronze medal 3-4 to Korean Hanjae Chung.

At 67kg, Ashu won his quarter-final 5-3 over Qiye Tyan but lost the semi-final by technical superiority to Iranian Mohammadreza Abdolhamid Geraei. Putting on a dominating show in the bronze medal fight against Sheroz Ochilov of Tajikistan, Ashu won 8-1.

Gurpreet started in impressive fashion, winning the 77kg quarter-final against Korea’s Hyeonwoo Kim, but lost the semi-final 2-8 to Kyrgyzstan’s Akzhol Makhmudov. He won bronze when his Palestinian opponent Rabie KA Khalil failed to appear due to injury.

Naveen lost his semi-final 1-7 to Korea’s Minseok Kim and his third-place finish to China’s Lingzhe Meng 1-5.

Robert J. King