Tokyo Olympics: Malik confident of another successful campaign for wrestlers

Encouraged by the increase in the number of quota places for women, Kuldeep Malik expects a better show from the squad, which has a mix of youth and experience.

Anshu Malik (left) and Vinesh Phogat   -  SPECIAL ARRANGMENT

For the first time, more women wrestlers are going to represent the country in the Olympics than their male counterparts, and women’s squad chief coach Kuldeep Malik is confident of another successful campaign in Tokyo.

Four women — Seema Bisla (50kg), Vinesh Phogat (53kg), Anshu Malik (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg) — and three freestyle men wrestlers — Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) — have made it to the Olympics this time after the suspension of Sumit Malik (125kg) due to a doping offence.

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Five years ago, four men — two each in freestyle (after the suspension of Narsingh Yadav due to doping) and Greco Roman – and three women had qualified for the Rio Games. Sakshi Malik had emerged as the first woman wrestler from the country to get an Olympic medal.

Encouraged by the increase in the number of quota places for women, Malik expects a better show from the squad, which has a mix of youth and experience.

“We are medal contenders in all four weights. Since Sonam and Anshu are young, they don’t fear anything. Vinesh and Seema are experienced. All of them are focused only on winning,” Malik told Sportstar.

Sakshi Malik celebrate her 2016 Olympics bronze with her coach Kuldeep Malik.   -  PTI

 

Malik, who recently returned from camps in Poland and Estonia, counted the benefits of the exposure.

“Wrestlers, including those who have qualified for the Olympics, from nearly 10 countries were there. Apart from sparring, we gathered a lot of ideas about our opponents.”

Malik will now oversee a 12-day camp which began on Wednesday at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Sonepat. Seema, Anshu and Sonam will take part in it.

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The wrestlers will leave for Tokyo on July 26. Vinesh, who has been training with her personal coach Woller Akos in Hungary, will join the squad directly.

Malik, who had lifted Sakshi on his shoulders after she bagged a bronze medal in Rio, said he would do so again if anyone won a medal in Tokyo.

“Definitely. We should all pray for such success again. I do not lift a wrestler on my shoulders, it is the whole country which lifts her up… We are among the best of the best and our opponents now fear us,” said Malik.

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