CHENNAI: Wrestler Vinesh Phogat (53kg), the country's brightest medal prospect at the Tokyo Olympics, was handed a tough draw on Wednesday. The No. 1 seed in 53kg weight category will open her campaign against Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Magdalena Mattsson of Sweden on Thursday morning. Mattsson was world champion in 2009 apart from being a four-time silver medallist at the event and four-time European champion.
If the 26-year-old Indian grappler wins the first round, she will meet either Belarusian Vanesa Kaladzinskaya, a two-time world champion, or Olympic debutant Andreea Beatrice Ana from Romania in the quarterfinals.
The probable opponents in the semifinals will be Russian Olga Khoroshavtseva/Jacarra Gwenisha Winchester from USA/Laura Herin Avila from Cuba/Chinese Pang Qianyu. The first wrestler is 2019 Worlds bronze medallist while Winchester is reigning world champion in 55kg. Chinese wrestler Pang won her second straight bronze in 2019 Worlds. She too has beaten Vinesh in the past.
Deepak, Anshu remains in medal contention
As was expected, Deepak Punia (86kg) capitalised on a good draw handed to him and made it to the semifinals. He, however, lost the last-4 bout against American David Morris Taylor, the 2018 world champion and reigning Pan-American champion.
Nicknamed 'the Magic Man', Taylor won the semifinal 10-0 in the first period on technical superiority. It is learnt that a knee injury recurred ahead of the semifinal bout restricting Deepak's movement.
Earlier, the 22-year-old Deepak had defeated Nigeria's Ekerekeme Agiomor, the African championship bronze medallist 12-1 on technical superiority and got past China's Zushen Lin 6-3 in the quarterfinal. He will now fight for bronze on Thursday against the winner of the repechage round between Ali Shabanau and Myles Nazem Amine.
Meanwhile, Iryna Kurachkina from Belarus, who defeated India's Anshu Malik in her first bout, reached the 57kg final giving the Indian grappler a chance to compete for bronze via repechage round. She will face Valeria Koblova from Russian Olympic Committee in the repechage round and if she wins, she will meet Evelina Georgieva Nikolova from Bulgaria in the bronze medal bout.