World Wrestling Championship 2017: Indian Greco-Roman grapplers go out without a medal on Day 2
If Day 1 of the World Wrestling Championship was disappointing, Tuesday really broke the heart of Indian fans who were expecting their Greco-Roman wrestlers to deliver a miracle or two. Sadly, all the four players—Gyanendra, Ravinder, Harpreet Singh, and Naveen—lost their respective matches to bow out of Paris without a medal.
Gyanendra Dahiya was the only one who won a bout and came close to winning a medal after the grappler played the repechage rounds. Competing in the 59 kg category, he first defeated Libin Ding of China to enter the round-of-16. However, he was pummeled by a technically powerful Kazakhstan's Mirambek Ainagulov to a 29-second shock defeat in his second match.
As luck would have it, Ainagulov reached the final, which propelled Dahiya to a repechage match against Egypt’s Mostafa Mohamed. The 23-year-old Indian took the opportunity with both hands and beat Mohamed 3-1. However, his glory was short-lived after he went down in a closely-fought contest against Ukraine's Dmytro Tsymbaliuk.
In the 66 kg category, Ravinder fought an uphill battle but eventually, he was ousted by Sweden's Hussam Saad Ali Omar by a 2-1 scoreline. Harpreet Singh lost to Kazakh Askhat Dilmukhamedov 1-3 in the 80 kg category.
Meanwhile, India's Commonwealth Games gold medalist Naveen failed to catch on to the early lead and could only garner one point to lose 1-2 to Germany's Eduard Popp on the Olympic mat.
The ‘poor cousin’ of the freestyle
Graeco-Roman—the wrestling style in which holding an opponent below the waist is prohibited—hasn’t had much fame than their freestyle counterparts. It’s so much unpopular that when Hardeep Singh and Ravinder Khatri qualified for Rio Olympics, they’d ended the 12-years long wait since an Indian Greco-Roman wrestler—Mausam Khatri—stepped onto an Olympic mat.
Hardeep, who lost 5-2 to Lithuania's Vilnius Laurinaitis in the 98kg category on the opening day of the Wrestling Championship, had last year said that the sport needed support from the people, which will only be possible if the wrestlers of Graeco-Roman format win a medal.
The unpopularity of this sport is often accredited to her ‘rich cousin’, freestyle wrestling. The latter dominates the akharas (training grounds) heavily, with the former being restricted to a few schools Sports Authority India (SAI) centres and some schools and universities.
There’s a dearth of quality heavyweight sparring partners, and several Indian players enter the sport after switching over from the freestyle category.