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Explained: Repechage rule in wrestling and how it has helped India at the Olympics

Sushil Kumar won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 66kg freestyle wrestling event. Photo credit: Getty Images
Sushil Kumar won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 66kg freestyle wrestling event. Photo credit: Getty Images
Abhishek Saini
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Recent editions of the Olympics have seen India enjoy considerable success in wrestling. After KD Jadhav earned India's first bronze medal in wrestling at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, six decades passed by until Sushil Kumar repeated the feat at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Sushil followed it up with a silver at the 2012 London Olympics, while Yogeshwar Dutt won bronze. Sakshi Malik chalked up another bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Three of those four medal victories - Sushil's bronze in 2008, Yogeshwar's bronze in 2012 and Sakshi's bronze in 2016 - were possible only because of a repechage round. It allowed the three wrestlers to win a podium place despite losing a match.

What is the repechage system in wrestling?

The word repechage comes from the french word repecher, which means, to rescue. The repechage system, if used in a competition, allows a participant who has lost a game to compete in the following rounds, and eventually fight for a podium finish.

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In wrestling, a competitor who has lost in the pre-quarterfinal round or later is allowed to compete further and try to claim a bronze medal. However, this is only allowed if the wrestler they lost to has secured a place in the final. To put it in simpler terms, the participants/wrestlers who're beaten by the finalists of the competition are brought together in a small tournament and given a chance to claim the bronze medal. The losing semi-finalists are directly placed in the bronze medal match against the wrestlers who have won the repechage rounds.

The reasoning behind giving wrestlers a chance to rescue themselves is that they should not suffer due to facing another strong wrestler in the early rounds of the competition.

India's good repechage record at Olympics

Ever since the repechage rounds were introduced in the Olympics in 2008, Indian wrestlers have used them to their benefit and secured medals at all three editions of the Games.

In 2008, Sushil Kumar lost to Ukraine's Andriy Stadnik in the pre-quarterfinals. Stadnik's qualification for the final enabled Sushil to contest in the repechage rounds. He pipped American Doug Schwab, Albert Batyrov of Belarus and Kazakhstan's Leonid Spiridonov in the repechage rounds and clinched the bronze medal.

Dutt won bronze at the London Olympics in the 60kg freestyle category through the repechage round
Dutt won bronze at the London Olympics in the 60kg freestyle category through the repechage round

In 2012, Yogeshwar Dutt faced a disappointing loss at the hands of Russia's Besik Kudukhov in the pre-quarterfinal round. However, after the four-time world champion secured a place in the final, Dutt was placed in the repechage rounds. He won three consecutive bouts and bagged the bronze medal.

Similarly, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sakshi Malik bowed out to Russia's Valeria Koblova in the quarterfinals and was given a chance to compete in the repechage rounds. She made good use of the opportunity, winning both her following bouts and claiming the bronze medal for India.

Also read: Has Noah Lyles qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2020?


Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
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