Tokyo Olympics Wrestling: Spotlight on Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia

An in-form Vinesh, the only Indian woman wrestler to compete in two Olympics, stands a chance to erase her sad memories of Rio.

An in-form Vinesh, the only Indian woman wrestler to compete in two Olympics, stands a chance to erase her sad memories of Rio.   -  AP

Nineteen-year-old Sonam Malik will begin India’s campaign in wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. The nation will be expecting a few medals from the star grapplers.

Sonam, the youngest in the seven-member squad, will meet Asian Championships silver medallist Bolortuya Khurelkhuu in the first round 62kg clash.

For India, the star attraction will be top-seeded Vinesh Phogat (53kg) and triple Worlds medallist Bajrang Punia (65kg).

An in-form Vinesh, the only Indian woman wrestler to compete in two Olympics, stands a chance to erase her sad memories of Rio. Japanese Worlds silver medallist Mayu Mukaida, who has beaten the Indian multiple times, will be a threat.

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Twice Worlds medallist Chinese Pang Qianyu, 55kg American World champion Jacarra Winchester, Swedish World and Olympic medallist Sofia Mattsson, double World champion Vanesa Kaladzinshaya from Belarus are the other big names.

Second-ranked superstar Bajrang, who has consistently got medals in elite events in the last few years, is another strong medal contender.

Bajrang Punia.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Russian top seed and World champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov, former World champions Japanese Takuto Otoguro, and Azerbaijani Haji Aliyev are in the most competitive field.

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Fourth-seeded Ravi Dahiya (57kg), a Worlds bronze medallist, is keen to prove his worth.

His field comprises World champion Yuki Takahashi of Japan, Worlds medalists Suleyman Atli of Turkey and American Thomas Gilman.

Second-ranked Worlds silver medallist Deepak Punia (86kg) also faces a star-studded field, including World and Olympic champion Iranian Hassan Yazdani, Worlds bronze medalists Stefan Reichmuth of Switzerland and Artur Naifonov of Russia and former American World champion David Taylor.

Anshu Malik (57kg) and Seema Bisla (50kg) are eager to make their mark.

It is a challenging field for Anshu with World and Olympic champion Japanese Risako Kawai, former World champion Rong Ningning of China, twice Worlds bronze medallist Belarusian Iryna Kurachkina, and double World champion American Helen Maroulis.

Triple Olympic medalist Azerbaijani Maria Stadnik, double Worlds medallist Ana Vuc of Romania and Individual World Cup winner Russian Ekaterina Poleshchuk are the top rivals in Seema’s category.

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