Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik on Saturday booked Olympic quota places in women’s 48kg and 58kg respectively in the second Olympic Games World qualifying event in Istanbul and take India’s overall berths to six.
It was a moment to cherish for the wrestling fraternity as Indian wrestlers qualified for the Olympics in all three categories. Sandeep Tomar (57kg), Yogeshar Dutt (65kg), Narsingh Yadav (74kg) in freestyle and Hardeep (98kg) in Greco Roman had earlier qualified for the Olympics.
Vinesh, who was reprimanded for being overweight in the Olympic qualifying event in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, beat Natalia Pulkovska of Ukraine (10-0), Julie Martine Sabatie of France (11-0), South Korea's Yumi Lee (11-1) by technical fall points. In the semifinals she tamed home favorite Evin Demirhan (12-2) to reach the title clash and book her ticket to the Rio Games.
In the final, Vinesh, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist, upset 2014 World championship silver medallist Iwona Matkowska 6-0 to win the title and finish in style.
“Going to the Olympics has been my dream. I had to cast aside whatever happened in Mongolia and concentrate on the task at hand. I put everything I had to seal the quota and prove myself,” said 20-year-old Vinesh.
Sakshi defeated Spanish wrestler Irene Garcia (10-0) and Romania Kateryna Zhydachevska (12-2) by technical fall points to reach the semifinals. Sakshi fought back to tie the scores at 10-10 and stun former World champion Lan Zhang of China to enter the title clash and ensure a berth in the Olympics.
“We had been training quite intensively in Bulgaria and I was mentally prepared for the pressure of this competition. I was in good rhythm and it was a matter of keeping my composure in the semifinal," said Sakhi, who lost to Russian Valeria Koblova 7-3 in the final to settle for silver.
Interestingly, Geeta Phogat, who was recently issued a show-cause notice by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for forfeiting her bronze medal match in Ulaanbaatar, had qualified for the London Olympics in the same weight.
WFI president Brijbhushan Singh congratulated Vinesh and Sakshi. “I am glad that we will participate in the Olympics in all three styles. I hope this will boost the wrestlers to do well in Rio,” he said.
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