The Greco-Roman once again proved to be India’s weakest link as none of the six wrestlers were able to make the Tokyo Olympics cut on the opening day of the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty on Friday.
As many as five Indian wrestlers made it to the semifinals but failed to hold on to the momentum.
Gyanender (60kg), Ashu (67kg), Gurpreet Singh (77kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), and Naveen (130kg) all lost in their respective semifinal bouts. Ravi (97kg) had earlier lost his quarterfinal bout to Uzur Dzhuzupbekov of Kyrgyzstan.
According to the tournament rules, whoever books a place in the finals, qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics berth.
The Indian wrestlers will once again get a chance to book their tickets to the Tokyo Olympics in the World Qualifiers tournament, which is scheduled to happen in Sofia, Bulgaria from May 6-9.
Star Indian wrestler and two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar is expected to participate in the event in Sophia.
Gurpreet Singh stuns two-time Olympic medallist Kim Hyeonwoo
The day started on a bright note as Gurpreet Singh stunned 2012 Olympic gold and 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist Kim Hyeonwoo of Korea with a pin. However, the Indian failed to hold on to his winning momentum, losing to 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Akzhol Makhmudov of Kyrgyzstan 2-8.
In the 60kg category, Gyanender too started in dominating fashion with a 10-0 quarterfinal win against Chinese Taipei’s Jui Chi Huang. Against Kyrgyz Zholaman Sharshenbekov in the semifinals, the Indian couldn’t replicate his previous round performance to go down 1-6.
Competing in the 87kg category, Sunil Kumar was in the driver’s seat leading 3-1 against Nursultan Tursynov of Kazakhstan at one point of time in the semifinals. However, the 30-year-old Kazakh turned the tables suddenly to take a 7-3 lead against the Indian. Tursynov won the bout 9-5.
Earlier in the quarterfinals, Sunil Kumar won 7-0 against his Tajikistan opponent Sukhrob Abdulkhaev.
In the 67kg category, Ashu started India’s journey with a 4-1 thrashing of Chinese Qiye Tian. Surprisingly, the 2020 Asian Championship bronze medallist, Ashu, looked out of sorts against his Iranian opponent Mohammadreza Geraei in the semifinals before surrendering 0-9
Naveen, struggling in the 130kg category, was also a no match for his South Korean opponent Minseok Kim in the semifinals, losing 1-7. Earlier, Naveen had to come from behind to outfox his Kyrgyz opponent Roman Kim in the quarterfinals.
India pin hopes on Women and Men's Freestyle wrestlers
With the Greco-Roman category done and dusted, India’s hopes now pin on the women and men’s freestyle wrestlers on April 10 and 11 respectively. Among the women, India’s best bet is Sonam Malik in the 62kg category.
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The other women competing are Seema Bisla (50kg), Anshu Malik (57kg), Nisha Dahiya (68kg) and Pooja Sihag (76kg).
In the men’s freestyle event, Sandeep Singh Mann (74kg), Satyawart Kadian (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg) will compete. Till now, four Indians -- Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Vinesh Phogat (women’s 53kg) have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.