CHENNAI: The Asian Championships will begin in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on Tuesday with qualification, repechage and finals in five Greco-Roman weight categories (55kg, 63kg, 77kg, 87kg and 130kg). The five Indian grapplers in the above weight categories had left the country on Saturday while the women contingent and remaining five Greco-Roman wrestlers left on Monday.
The freestyle contingent comprising Olympic medallist — Ravi Dahiya (57kg) and Bajrang Punia (65kg) — are scheduled to depart on Wednesday. Bouts in the women’s freestyle wrestling will be held on Thursday and Friday while men will be in action on Saturday and Sunday.
The continental event will present a good opportunity for Indian wrestlers to get international exposure ahead of big-ticket competitions like the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Asian Games. It will hold even greater importance for Bajrang, who will be making his international comeback since the bronze medal haul at the Tokyo Olympics last year. He was scheduled to return to the mat earlier but was forced to skip Ranking Series in Istanbul, Turkey due to injury.
He has won seven Asian medals (2 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze) so far. The Haryana wrestler had won the Asian title twice (2017 and 2019) but had to contend with silver in the previous two editions where his nemesis Takuto Otoguro from Japan won the gold. Otoguro’s absence means it will be a big opportunity for Bajrang to reclaim the Asian title.
Apart from him, Tokyo Games silver medallist Ravi and Deepak Punia (86kg) will also be expected to finish on the podium. Ravi is the defending champion and would be aiming for his third straight gold.