With the finals of the 76 kg. category coming to a close, freestyle wrestling at the Asian Games 2018 officially ended on 21 August. Ever since women's wrestling was introduced at the 2002 Asiad held in Busan, the current Asian Games shall go down in history as one of the best campaigns ever, with a gold and a bronze medal in India's kitty.
Ever since Geetika Jakhar first shocked the Asian circuit by storming into the finals of Doha Asiad, women's wrestling has come a long way since. Now that Vinesh Phogat has won back to back medals with a historic gold, we only tend to wonder if an immortal Olympic gold can come from this arena or not.
Vinesh Phogat: The legend is back:-
Who would've thought a girl, just back from a career-threatening injury, would script history in such a way at the Jakarta Asiad? But that's Vinesh Phogat for you. Cousin of sisters Geeta and Babita, she and her younger sister Priyanka were adopted by her legendary uncle Mahavir following the untimely death of her parents when she was barely 5.
Having received his impressive tutelage, Vinesh, despite getting lesser coverage than her cousins, turned out to be the better wrestler, earning medals from many international stages. But the way she won the Jakarta Asiad gold medal, becoming the 1st Indian woman wrestler to do so, has been nothing less than historical.
Pummeling the very Chinese opponent Sun Yanan, who robbed her of her deserving Olympic medal at Rio 2016 with a knee injury in the very first round, Vinesh cruised to the finals with ease, like a smooth knife through hot butter. In the finals, she met a tough Japanese opponent in Yuki Irie, a junior wrestling stalwart. However, surprising her with relentless attacks, Vinesh finally overcame the Japanese challenge to win the bout 6-2 and the gold medal as well.
Divya Kakran: Consistency counts:-
Another impressive performance was from Divya Kakran, the bronze medalist from Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018. Divya Kakran got eliminated in the quarterfinals itself, but lady luck smiled upon her, as her opponent, Sharkhugiin Tumentsetseg of Mongolia, cruised into the finals with ease, allowing her a chance at the bronze medal through repechage, which she did not waste for a moment, pummeling Chen Wen Ling of Chinese Taipei comprehensively by 10-0.
Consistency is what defines Divya Kakran, who stuck to her basics throughout, and didn't give any opportunity to let her opponents snatch away her medal.
Pooja Dhanda and Sakshi Malik: So near, yet so far!:-
However, this successful campaign also had a tragic episode, the whisker misses of Olympic sensation Sakshi Malik and ex-Youth Olympics silver medalist. Both had improved a lot since their stint at Gold Coast CWG 2018 and looked all set to give India a historic high at Asian Games. However, in the semifinals, both lost to their respective opponents.
For Sakshi Malik, the semifinals were like a living nightmare. She lost by 7-9 to the very opponent, against whom she bounced back in the dying seconds of the bronze medal bout to win a historic medal at Rio Olympics 2016. Kyrgyzstan's Aisulu Tynnebekova had a poetic revenge, clinching the silver medal ultimately. Like Pooja Dhanda, Sakshi couldn't recover from the semifinal loss and subsequently lost her bronze medal bout as well!
The road ahead:-
The Jakarta Asian Games 2018 have a promising future ahead for India's women wrestlers. If they perform the same way at the upcoming UWW Budapest World Championships 2018, nothing can stop them from achieving the unthinkable at Tokyo Olympics 2020. However, all eyes will now be focused on Vinesh Phogat, who has taken a solemn vow that she won't rest until she wins the Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020. Let's see if she manages to script history in that event as well!