In what turned out to be a disappointing campaign, Greco-Roman wrestlers from India made a blank in the world Olympic qualifiers as neither of them were able to win a quota for the Tokyo Games in Bulgaria , in Sofia, Saturday.
India will not field any wrestlers in the men’s Greco-Roman categories, but a total of eight quota places have been confirmed for the Olympics, tying the country’s best qualifying record reached at Rio 2016.
Overall, if wrestlers from all eight qualified categories compete in Tokyo, India will field its largest wrestling contingent at the Olympics with four male freestyle wrestlers and as many female wrestlers.
In the last edition in 2016, India fielded seven wrestlers – two male free wrestlers, two Greco-Roman wrestlers and three female wrestlers. In the men’s 74kg freestyle a quota was won but no wrestler was entered.
Male freestyle wrestlers Sumit Malik (125 kg) and Seema Bisla (50 kg, women) won quotas at this event in Sofia. Prior to this event, Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53kg women) had qualified via the 2019 World Championship in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. Young guns Anshu Malik (57 kg) and Sonam Malik (62 kg) also qualified via the Asian qualifiers in Almaty last month.
Later on Saturday, Seema Bisla clinched gold in the women’s 50kg category after her Ecuadorian opponent Lucia Guzman defaulted with injury. Seema had already won a quota on Friday as wrestlers who reach the last tickets for the quadrennial event starting in July.
This is the first international title for Seema, 29, since triumphing at the Yasar Dogu event in July 2019, PTI reported.
India’s best 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 of Azerbaijan.
Huseynov pulled off a quick four-point move to knock out Gurpreet. Before Gurpreet could regroup, the Azerbaijani fired another four-point shot to end the bout in the first half itself.
Gurpeet, who won a bronze medal in the Asian qualifiers last month, was overlooked by Tajikistan’s Daler Rez Zade in his first game.
Sachin Rana lost his opening bout to retire from the 60kg competition. “He didn’t feel well after the weigh-in. He said he noticed blood in his urine so we took him out of the competition. Health is paramount, ”Indian national coach Hargobind Singh told PTI.
Ashu (67kg) wasted On the ground position advantage to lose 3-8 against Aliaksandr Liavonchyk of Belarus.
Sunil Kumar missed many chances against Russia’s Davit Chakvatadze in the 87 kg pre-quarterfinal. He was leading 1-0 but did not take advantage of the “Par Terre” by letting the Russian out of the defensive position.
Chakvatadze, gold medalist at Rio 2016, was tired towards the end but the Indian could not benefit from a fierce fight.
Deepanshu was pinned down by Spain’s Jesus Gasca Fresnada as he led 3-7 in his 97kg pre-quarterfinal.
Only the two finalists are allocated a quota for the Tokyo Olympics in this competition, which is the last opportunity to win tickets to the Summer Games.
Earlier, Naveen Kumar, who was scheduled to compete in the world Olympic qualifiers in the 97kg Greco-Roman, had tested positive for Covid-19 on opening day, forcing him to withdraw from competition.
This is the second time that Naveen (97 kg) has contracted coronavirus because he had been infected a few months ago but had recovered.
Hargobind said it was always difficult for Indians to pass this competition, given the presence of powerful European wrestlers.
“Gurpreet’s weight had 30 wrestlers. Greco-Roman is very popular in Europe. They have the advantage of training with strong wrestlers. In the Indian subcontinent, this style is not popular. We had better chances in the Asian qualifiers.
“In addition, there was not enough time to prepare as the Nationals were delayed due to the pandemic which resulted in a late selection. We were unable to organize a training trip abroad. You don’t have good Greek wrestlers in the Indian subcontinent, ”Hargobind told PTI.
(With PTI inputs)