World Wrestling C’ship: Bajrang among medal hopes

Since the top six of the Rio Olympics are either absent or have moved to a higher weight, Bajrang stands a good chance of bettering his 2013 feat.

Reigning Asian champion Bajrang Punia will be keen to achieve greater glory in Paris and keep himself on the right track for the Asian and Commonwealth Games next year.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Reigning Asian champion Bajrang Punia will be India’s biggest medal hope in the World wrestling championship starting in Paris on Monday.

Bajrang, who was known as a training partner of London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, has come out of the shadow of his famous mentor in recent years. A bronze medal in the 2013 Budapest World Championship, silver medals in the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games followed by the Asian crown have endorsed his talent and grooming.

The 23-year-old will be keen to achieve greater glory in Paris and keep himself on the right track for the Asian and Commonwealth Games next year. Success at these events will not only boost his confidence but also prepare him for the main target – the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Bajrang had missed the National selection trials held in Sonepat on July 6 due to viral fever. However, keeping his accomplishments in mind, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had decided that a bout between Bajrang and Rahul Mann, who had emerged as the best in the trials, would determine India’s representative in 65kg freestyle category.

Bajrang won the bout held at the national camp and secured his place in the side.

Since the top six of the Rio Olympics are either absent or have moved to a higher weight, Bajrang stands a good chance of bettering his 2013 feat.

Former Asian champion Sandeep Tomar, who joined the squad late due to visa issue, along with another Asian title winner Amit Dhankar (70kg), former Asian bronze medallist Parveen Rana (74kg), Commonwealth Games silver medallist Satyawart Kadian (97kg) and Asian silver medallist Sumit (125kg) are also capable of making the country proud.

Among the women, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat (48kg) and Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (60kg) can finish within the medal bracket.

Interestingly, Vinesh, who had won a 55kg silver in the Asian championship in May, has gone down to fight in an Olympic weight, while Sakshi, who secured her Olympics bronze in 58kg and got an Asian silver in 60kg, has stuck to the non-Olympic weight.

The presence of three-time world cadet champion and Asian champion Yui Susaki (Japan) and Pan-America winner Victoria Anthony (USA) may make Vinesh’s journey tougher.

Sakshi may face the likes of Rio Olympics 63kg gold medallist Risako Kawai (Japan), European champion Lyubov Ovcharova (Russia) and current World silver medallist Allison Ragan (USA).

Asian bronze winner Harpreet Singh (80kg) will be among the Greco Roman wrestlers who may spring a surprise at the elite event.