If the fourth position was a medal, India would have had three by now but unfortunately, it’s not. After Abhinav Bindra, Mirza/Bopanna, Dipa Karmakar could only salvage the fourth spot in their respective events, India’s medal tally this year is yet to receive a head start. After a bleak and somewhat disappointing display so far including Saina Nehwal’s shock exit in the group stages of women’s badminton, the onus is now on the Indian wrestlers to deliver the first medal for their country.
It is up to the sport of wrestling now to save the blushes of India who could be heading for its first ever zero medal count in an Olympic Games for the first time since 1992 . The likes of Yogeshwar Dutt, Narsingh Yadav, and Vinesh Phogat are all expected to be among the medal contenders. Indeed India will be sending it’s largest ever contingent in wrestling with as many as 8 individuals scheduled to compete at the Rio games.
Indian wrestling has been on a high and expectations are high from the Indian wrestlers following a positive set of results heading into the Olympics. But while expectations are high from the Free-stylers, let’s not forget that India is making a return to the Greco-Roman form of wrestling for the first time since 2004. It all begins today on India’s birthday as Ravinder Khatri takes the stage in the men’s 85kg category and will be followed tomorrow by Hardeep Singh in the 98 Kg category. Khatri who has received a bye in the first round of the draw will be facing an Armenian/Hungarian opponent in the round of 16.
While Greco-Roman is a relatively newer technique for Indian wrestlers, it’s in Freestyle where we have delivered all our Olympic medals so far. We will kick things off with women’ freestyle where the Phogat sisters, Vinesh and Babita will be in action along with Sakshi Malik, India’s largest women’s wrestling contingent ever. Expectations are high of Vinesh who eased past her opponents in the second Olympic qualifiers in Istanbul,Turkey earlier this year while the likes of Babita cannot be written off of a medal either. Sakshi is an outsider but Rio will certainly be a great experience for her.
India’s Freestyle men are going to be the biggest medal contenders, though. Former bronze medalist Yogeshwar Dutt will be looking to put injury woes behind him as he looks to improve on his London 2012 bronze medal in what is expected to be his final Olympics at Rio 2016. The controversial Narsingh Yadav is probably the biggest medal contender in wrestling. The world champion bronze medalist from 2014, Narsingh overcame numerous odds to get to the Olympic stage and will no doubt be looking to prove his doubters wrong by clinching an Olympic medal for India at Rio. Sandeep Tomar is not going to be a pushover either as he looks to seal his place in India’s wrestling legacy.
Overall , we should be looking forward to see how India’s wrestling contingent does at Rio. Expectations are high off the Indian wrestlers who will try to ensure India does not fire a blank in the medal’s tally for the first time since 1992.
Ravinder Khatri – Men’s Greco-Roman 85Kg – 15th August
Hardeep Singh – Men’s Greco-Roman 98Kg – 16th August
Vinesh Phogat – Women’s Freestyle 48Kg – 17th August
Sakshi Malik – Women’s Freestyle 58Kg – 17th August
Babita Kumari – Women’s Freestyle 53Kg – 18th August
Sandeep Tomar – Men’s Freestyle 57Kg – 19th August
Narsingh Pancham Yadav – Men’s Freestyle 74Kg – 19th August
Yogeshwar Dutt – Men’s Freestyle 65Kg – 21st August
Where To Catch The Action : Star Sports Network and Hotstar 6:30 PM onwards on days on competition
Predictions : 1 Gold from Narsingh Yadav, 1 Silver from Yogeshwar Dutt and 1 Bronze from Vinesh Phogat