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Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat seal berths for Birmingham Commonwealth Games

Sakshi Malik (in orange) in action at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Image courtesy: Getty Images)
Sakshi Malik (in orange) in action at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Image courtesy: Getty Images)
Navneet Singh

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik and two-time Olympian Vinesh Phogat have made a comeback to the national squad for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Sakshi, 29, has been struggling with her form for a long time and even failed to earn a podium at the National Wrestling Championships held in Uttar Pradesh last year. However, on Monday at the National Selection Trials held in Lucknow, Sakshi defeated Manisha 7-4 in the final of the women’s 62kg category to seal a berth for the Commonwealth Games.

It will be Sakshi’s third Commonwealth Games. While the international wrestler from Haryana won bronze in 62kg at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Australia, she clinched silver at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 58kg.

Returning from a lay-off due to injury, Sonam Malik, India’s promising teenage wrestler and Tokyo Olympian wasn’t able to impress in the 62kg category. She lost her semifinal bout to bow out of the National Selection Trials. Due to injury, Sonam also skipped the trials for the Asian Wrestling Championships held last month in Mongolia.

India’s two-time Olympian and star female wrestler Vinesh, too, has been out of form for some time. After missing the national team for last month’s Asian Wrestling Championships, the 27-year-old made a massive comeback in the 53kg category on Monday. Vinesh, the defending Commonwealth Games champion, beat Antim to cement her place in the national team for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

“Vinesh's perseverance paid off," a national coach told Sportskeeda. "Monday's national selection trials were the last chance for top wrestlers to earn a ticket to the Commonwealth Games and Vinesh didn’t let that opportunity slip from her hands."

In the 50kg category, Pooja Ghelot defeated Neelam, while Olympian and World Championships silver medalist Anshu Malik outplayed Sarita Mor to establish herself atop the field in 57kg. Both Pooja and Anshu will make their Commonwealth Games debuts.

Divya Kakran was also successful in the final of the women’s 68kg event. She beat Nisha Dahiya 10-0 to stay on track for her second Commonwealth Games. Divya won bronze at the 2018 edition of the Commonwealth Games held in Australia.

Pooja Sihag will also make her Commonwealth Games debut as she defeated Bipasha to earn a place in 76kg.

“The wrestling competition at the Commonwealth Games is generally considered a cakewalk for the Indian wrestlers,” a senior wrestling coach said. “We have a good, experienced team for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. We hope to win podium finish in all the six weight categories.”

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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