Aman, Deepak eye Paris ticket as World Qualifier to kick-off on Thursday

Only four women wrestlers have earned Olympic quotas so far with Istanbul scheduled to host the last qualifying tournament
Deepak Punia
Deepak Punia

CHENNAI: A total of 14 Indian wrestlers (six each in men's freestyle and Greco-Roman) and two in women's wrestling will be in action when the World Olympic Games Qualifier, the last chance to earn Paris ticket, begins in Istanbul on Thursday.

As many as four women wrestlers (Vinesh Phogat 50kg, Antim Panghal 53kg, Anshu Malik 57kg and Reetika Hooda 76kg) have earned an Olympic quota each but for the first time in almost two decades, none of the male grapplers have managed a place for the country in the 2024 Games so far. Hopes were high when the men wrestlers competed at the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, last month but none of them could manage to reach the final, which could have secured the country Olympic quotas.

Sujeet Kalkal (65kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg), who got stranded at the Dubai International Airport and could reach the venue only after the weigh-in, did not compete. The Indian team comprising 13 wrestlers, eight coaches and three physiotherapists along with the Wrestling Federation of India president Sanjay Kumar Singh flew for Istanbul on Tuesday morning. Deepak (86kg) is learnt to have flown for the venue on Sunday. The competition will begin with bouts in Greco-Roman followed by women's wrestling on Friday. The men freestyle wrestlers' competition will begin on Saturday. As per the criteria, the finalists apart from the winner of the play-off between two bronze medallists in each weight category will earn the quota.

Challenges in freestyle

All eyes will be on Aman Sehrawat (57kg), Sujeet (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg) in the men's freestyle. Aman might have failed to reach the final in the Asian Qualifier but he could be India's brightest prospect in Istanbul. The 2023 Asian Games bronze medallist, however, will have to face tough challenges from Tokyo Olympian Georgi Vangelov of Bulgaria, world silver medallist Alireza Sarlak of Iran and Muhammet Karavus, the local favourite.

If that was not enough, Spencer Lee of the USA, former U-17 and U-20 world champion, will be in Istanbul, making his comeback to international tournament eight years after world title in U-20. Aman, the 2022 U-23 world champion, will also have to go past world bronze medallists Zanabazar Zandabud of Mongolia and German Horst Lehr. Han Chong Song, the 2023 Asian Games silver medallist is also in the fray.

Sujeet, who missed the Asian Qualifier, will be raring to go this time. Like, Aman he too will face stiff competitions from Zain Allen Retherford of the USA, the 2022 world silver medallist and other wrestlers from China, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Local favourite Soner Demirtas, the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medallist and two-time world bronze medallist, will be one of the big threats for India's Jaideep in 74kg. Tokyo Olympian Deepak too has to overcome challenges from quite a few wrestlers including Magomed Eldarovitch Ramazanov of Bulgaria, who won gold in the first Ranking Series in Zagreb and Magomed Sharipov of Bahrain. The latter had recently lost to Deepak in the 2023 Asian Games.

Punia's namesake, Deepak, who will compete in 97kg, will have to counter challenge from Nishan Preet Singh Randhawa of Canada. The Canadian defeated Deepak in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Sumit Malik, who qualified for the Tokyo Games but had to sit out as he was tested positive for banned substances, will again try his luck in the 125kg. His biggest rival will be Zhiwei Deng of China. The veteran Chinese wrestler already has two world medals (silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019) apart from the 2018 Asian Games silver in his kitty.

The rivalry of Sumit with Aiaal Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan can go to next level as the latter will be one of the contenders in 125kg. He defeated Sumit in the 2023 Asian Games by technical superiority. Earlier, the Indian had beaten him in the qualification round in the 2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier. Lazarev finished third in the qualifier but earned the ticket for the Tokyo Games as Sumit failed the dope test.

Chinese threat to women wrestlers
Mansi (62kg) and Nisha Dahiya (68kg) will try to leave behind their respective losses at the Asian qualifying event and make it six out of six for the country in women's wrestling for the Paris Games. Once again, the duo will have to face strong fight from their rivals especially the Chinese wrestlers.

For Mansi, Jia Long from China can be one of the toughest rivals. The Chinese had won silver in the 2022 Worlds apart from winning Asian Championships gold in the next year. Veranika Ivanova competing as individual neutral athlete, Lais Nunes from Brazil and Mariana Cherdivara of Moldova could be other challengers.

Similarly, Chinese Feng Zhou could be Nisha's biggest competitor. Zhou, the three-time Asian Games gold medallist and two-time world medallist (2018 bronze and 2015 silver), will be geared up to win the elusive Olympic medal. Wrestlers from other countries like Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Canada would be other challengers for Nisha.

Besides, Indian Greco-Roman wrestlers including Sumit (60kg) and Sunil (87kg) will also be hoping for a good show in the qualifier.

India squad

Freestyle – Aman (57kg), Sujeet (65kg), Jaideep (74kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Deepak (97kg), Sumit (125kg)

Women – Mansi (62kg), Nisha (68kg)

Greco-Roman – Sumit (60kg), Ashu (67kg), Vikas (77kg), Sunil (87kg), Nitesh (97kg), Naveen (130kg)

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express