Asian Wrestling: Vinesh Phogat wins bronze; Sakshi settles for silver

Sakshi Malik settled for silver following a 2-0 loss to Naomi Ruike in the title clash.

Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat beat Thi Ly Kieu of Vietnam 10-0 to win bronze at the Asian Wrestling Championships   -  AP

The highs of Thursday were tempered with reality on Friday as Indian women wrestlers ran up against a Japanese wall in the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships, faltering in each of the five weight categories on the day.

India only managed to add three bronze and a silver to its previous day’s tally of three golds and a silver. The biggest of the Indian names including Vinesh Phogat were unable to find a way past the Japanese. Drawn up against her nemesis Mayu Mukaida in the quarterfinal, Vinesh was unable to break her losing streak, going down 2-6 before winning 10-0 against Thi Ly Kieu of Vietnam for a consolation bronze.  

Vinesh’s struggles against Mayu would be a concern considered one of the biggest hopes for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics later this year. This was her third straight loss to the Japanese, including quarterfinal losses at the previous edition of this meet and the World Championships last year. 

Against a quicker and stronger Mayu, Vinesh was found wanting in both. Mayu hardly gave her a chance to find a hold and the one time Vinesh managed, towards the dying seconds of the first round, she was unable to break Mayu’s defensive hold. On the flip side, this was the first time Vinesh managed to score points off the Japanese. Interestingly, like in the previous two instances, Mayu faltered again in the final here, pinned by Kazakh Tatyana Akhmetova Amanzhol while leading 8-2.

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Sakshi Malik (in blue) fights Nabira Esenbaeva of Uzbekistan in the women's 65kg semifinal.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

With the Chinese wrestlers absent and a comparatively weaker Japanese squad, the host was favourite to dominate. That was not to be. Sakshi Malik, the Olympic bronze medallist, has been struggling for a while now with her form, even losing the national trials in the 62kg and forced to compete in the non-Olympic 65kg here.

With just six entrants in the draw, Sakshi was expected to have it easy but a 1-2 loss to Naomi Ruike made things difficult. Interestingly, she was the only one to better her performance from the previous outing – she had a bronze in 2019 -- reaching the final and a re-match against Ruike to finally settle for a silver with a 0-2 loss in the title match. 

In the 57kg and 62kg categories, the Kawai sisters – Risako and Yukako respectively – ended the golden dreams of Anshu and Sonam in dominating fashion. Yukako, in fact, stunned reigning who won World Champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 6-1 in the quarterfinals, scoring four points with a throwdown in the final three seconds.

Sonam ended up against Tynybekova in the bronze-medal playoff and expectedly lost 11-0. In the 72kg, Gursharanpreet Kaur got bronze.

Meanwhile, the WFI has decided to hold trials to select India’s entry at the Olympic Qualifiers in the 62kg and 76kg among women and 60kg in Greco-Roman, citing dissatisfaction with performances.

The results

53kg: 1. Tatyana Akhmetova Amanzhol (KAZ), 2. Mayu Mukaida (JPN), 3. Vinesh (IND), Aktenge Keunimjaeva (UZB); 57kg: 1. Risako Kawai (JPN), 2. Davaachimeg Erkhembayar (MGL), 3. Altynay Satylgan (KAZ), Anshu (IND); 62kg: 1. Yukako Kawai (JPN), 2. Ayaulym Kassymova (KAZ), 3. Aisuluu Tynybekova (KGZ), Nomin Erdene Purvee (MGL); 65kg: 1. Naomi Ruike (JPN), 2. Sakshi Malik (IND), 3. Bolortungalag Zorigt (MGL); 72kg: 1. Zhamila Bakbergenova (KAZ), 2. Mei Shindo (JPN), 3. Gursharanpreet Kaur (IND).

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