Vinesh Phogat gets tough draw in Wrestling World Championship

If Phogat gets past Olympic medallist Mattsson, she could be up against reigning champion Mukaida. If the Indian surpasses that, she will likely face last edition’s silver medallist Hildebrandt in the quarterfinal.

Vinesh Phogat is India's biggest medal hope at the World Championships.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Tension was palpable in the Indian camp after the country’s biggest medal hope Vinesh Phogat was pitted against Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson in the “toughest possible” draw for the World Championships here on Monday.

Vinesh had recently beaten Sofia, a six-time World Championship medal winner, on way to the Poland Open title-win last month, but facing the formidable Swede in the very first round is a different proposition.

The 29-year-old Sofia won the last of her fourth European Championship gold medal in 2016 and the seasoned campaigner will surely be a threat to India’s hopes.

She is ranked five in the world in 55kg, which is a non-Olympic category.

If Vinesh, who is ranked sixth in 53kg, manages to get past Sofia, she will likely have to lock horns with world number two (in 55kg) and reigning world champion, Mayu Mukaida.

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If that hurdle is crossed, world number one and last edition’s silver medallist Sarah Ann Hildebrandt will await the Indian in the quarterfinals.

That she is a bit worried could be felt as Vinesh walked into the training area grim-faced.

The coaches around her did their best to keep her cheerful.

“If you want to be World Champion, you will have to beat the best in business. Why fear?,” said Vinesh’s personal coach Woller Akos.

India’s national coach Kuldeep Malik, too, looked a bit tense but remained hopeful.

“Whenever she has got a tough draw, she has ended up winning a medal. Let's see,” he said.

India’s foreign coach Andrew Cook was of the view that facing tough opponents early would enhance Vinesh’s prospects to reach the medal round.

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“One of those girls will surely be in final,” said the American.

In the other Olympic category, Seema Bisla, the world number three, will clash straight in the 50kg pre-quarterfinals.

She will face the winner of Qualification match between Nigeria’s Miesinnei Mercy Genesis and Azerbaijan’s Mariya Stadnik.

In the two non-Olympic categories, Lalita will open her campaign against Monglia’s Bolortuya in the 55kg pre-quarterfinals.

In the 72kg, Komal Bhagwan faces Turkey’s Beste Altug in her qualification round.

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