All eyes on Yogeshwar at Asian Olympic wrestling qualification

Star grappler Yogeshwar Dutt would seek to grab an Olympic quota place in his first opportunity when he spearheads a 17-member Indian campaign at the Asian Olympic Qualification wrestling championship, starting in Astana on Friday.

Yogeshwar had won bronze at the last Olympics in Men’s 60kg Freestyle but since then moved up to 65kg.   -  PTI

Star grappler Yogeshwar Dutt would seek to grab an Olympic quota place in his first opportunity when he spearheads a 17-member Indian campaign at the Asian Olympic Qualification wrestling championship, starting here tomorrow. It will be a tough three-day competition from March 18-20, considering that only the top two finishers in each weight category here will secure an Olympic berth for a country.

This is the second qualifying event for the Rio Games. [ >READ: Wrestler Dutt earns more than Dhoni and Kohli ]

The first was held last year at the World Championship in Las Vegas, where just one Indian in Narsingh Yadav bagged a quota place for the country in Men’s 74kg freestyle. With India’s entry at Rio de Janeiro ensured in 74kg category, no one will be competing in this category. Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar also fights in the same weight division as Narsingh.

Thus, the squad consists of five grapplers in men’s freestyle, six in Greco-Roman and six in female wrestling.

Yogeshwar has best chance

London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar, who pulled out of the 2015 World Championship due to an injury, has the best chance of grabbing an Olympic berth for India as well as a medal. Yogeshwar had won bronze at the last Olympics in Men’s 60kg Freestyle but since then moved up to 65kg after the international governing body FILA re-jigged the weight classes at the end of 2013.

However, the 33-year-old grappler faced little trouble while competing in the higher bracket as he has so far managed to win nothing less than a gold medal at whichever tournament he has participated in since climbing up the weight division.

While Yogeshwar remains India’s best bet here, men’s freestyle team also comprises the likes of Rahul Aware (57kg) and Satyawart Kadiyan (97kg), both of whom according to chief national Freestyle coach Jagminder Singh have good chance of earning Olympic berths too.

Aiming for 2-3 quota places

“Not just Yogeshwar, other wrestlers also have a good chance. I have high hopes from Rahul Aware and Satyawart,” Jagminder told PTI.“We are hoping to bag at least 2-3 quota places during this competition. We are well prepared and are pretty confident of doing well,” he added.

Others in the fray in Men’s Freestyle are Somveer (86kg) and Hitender (125kg). In the women’s section, both the Phogat sisters — Babita Kumari (53kg) and Vinesh Phogat (48kg) — have the ability to book Olympic quota places for India.

Even Sakshi Malik (58kg), who defeated veteran Geeta Phogat during the recent trails which was conducted in Lucknow for the Asian Championship, stands a very good chance.

Anita (63kg), Navjot Kaur (67kg) and Kiran (75kg) complete the Indian women’s line-up. India will also be fielding a six=member team in the Greco-Roman category, though that is not India’s forte.

After this crucial tournament here, which is the first qualifying event for the Olympics this year, the team will head to Mongolia for another qualifying tournament — 1st World Qualification tournament from April 20 to 24.

The last Olympic qualifier — 2nd World Qualification tournament — is scheduled at Istanbul, Turkey from May 6-8.

The Squad:

Men’s Freestyle: Rahul Aware (57kg), Yogeshwar Dutt (65kg), Somveer (86kg), Satyawart Kadiyan (97kg), Hitender (125kg).

Men’s Greco-Roman: Ravinder Singh (59kg), Ravinder (66kg), Gurpreet Singh (75kg), Ravinder Khatri (85kg), Hardeep Singh (98kg), Naveen (130kg).

Female Wrestling: Vinesh Phogat (48kg), Babita Kumari (53kg), Sakshi Malik (58kg), Anita (63kg), Navjot Kaur (67kg), Kiran (75kg).