Indian wrestlers booked two more Tokyo Olympics berths after Sonam Malik and Anshu Malik won their respective semifinal bouts in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty on Saturday. While Sonam Malik got the better of Ayaulym Kassymova of Kazakhstan in the 62kg category, Anshu defeated Shokhida Akhmedova of Uzbekistan in the 57kg segment.
Sonam Malik has been grabbing eyeballs for quite some time. The winner of the 2017 and 2019 Cadet World Championships gold medals, Sonam Malik has stunned Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik twice in a year and is being touted as a giant killer. She also became the youngest female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics.
Sonam Malik rallies to book a place at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics
On Saturday, Sonam Malik started her campaign by defeating Chinese Jia Long 5-2 in the first round. The Indian wrestler continued her domination in the second round, beating Chinese Taipei’s Hsin Ping PAI 11-0 to book a place in the round of four.
In the semifinals, Sonam Malik was on the back foot early and trailed her Kazakh opponent 0-6. Despite dealing with what looked like a knee injury, Sonam Malik rallied shortly after half-time to equalize 6-6.
The 19-year-old never looked back from there as she dominated Kassymova with impeccable moves that never let her opponent open up. Sonam Malik clinched the ticket to her maiden Olympics with a 9-6 victory and will now play Long in the final for the gold medal.
Meanwhile, Anshu Malik's journey to Tokyo began with a dominant 10-0 win over Jieun Um of Korea in the first round. She replicated her performance in the second round, where the Indian wrestler got the better of Kazakhstan's Emma Tissina with a similar 10-0 win.
In the semifinals, Anshu continued her impressive run by beating Uzbekistan’s Akhmedova 12-2 to book her maiden flight to the Tokyo Olympics. She will wrestle against Khongorzul Boldsaikhan of Mongolia in the final.
Sonam and Anshu Malik's strong displays were a big positive for the nation after the disappointment of the opening day, on which none of the Indian Greco-Roman wrestlers made the Tokyo Olympics cut.
Pooja, Nisha and Seema falter in respective categories
Among the other Indian wrestlers, Pooja (76kg), Nisha (68kg) and Seema (50kg) faltered on the day.
Pooja lost her first two bouts against Mongolia’s Ochirbatyn Burmaa and Aiperi Medet Kyzy of Kyrgyzstan respectively. Although she managed to win her third bout of the day against Shakhribonu Ellieva of Uzbekistan, it wasn’t enough to secure a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
On the other hand, Seema lost all three of her bouts. She lost against Mongolia’s Namuuntsetseg Tsogt Ochir, Dauletbike Yakhshimuratova of Uzbekistan and Japanese wrestler Yui Susaki.
Meanwhile, Nisha won her first two bouts against Korea's Hyeonyeong Park and Svetlana Oknazarova of Uzbekistan.
However, in her semi-final bout against Kyrgyzstan Meerim Zhumanazarova, Nisha faltered and fell to a 3-13 loss. India didn’t field any athletes in the 53kg category as Vinesh Phogat had already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
Phogat defeated highly-fancied American Sarah Hildebrandt at the 2019 World Championships to book her ticket. The other Indians who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics are Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Bajrang Punia (65kg).