Divya Kakran’s gold medal bout came so quick, and so sudden, that many did not even realize it until she pinned her Japanese opponent, sprinted to the corner of the mat and hugged her coach. The schedule of the Asian Championship is such that all medal bouts are held in the evening, with qualification rounds conducted in the day session. Since Kakran’s weight category, 68kg, had just five competitors, the United World Wrestling decided to conduct the matches in a round-robin format and podium finishes were to be determined by the number of bouts a wrestler won.
To her credit, Kakran was in top form, winning each of her four matches by fall. Her decisive win – the one that assured her of the gold –in the fourth round over reigning junior world champion Naruha Matsuyuki of Japan. She was losing the bout on criteria but from a difficult position, Kakran executed her signature move, kalajang or fireman carry — locking up her opponent’s arms from the bottom and flipping her backwards — to seal the win with 1 minute and 40 seconds left in the bout.
Kakran, thus, opened the floodgates for the home country on the first day of women’s wrestling. Heading into the Asian Championship, India had just one gold medal in women’s wrestling. On Thursday, they won three, with Pinki and Sarita Mor too finishing on top of the podium in the 55 and 59kg categories respectively.
Both, however, are non-Olympic categories. As was the case in Kakran’s category, the number of entries in the 55kg class, which Pinki won, was just six while there were only seven competitors in the 59kg category. The absence of Chinese, North Korean and Turkmenistani wrestlers – who did not make the trip in the aftermath of the coronavirus – is believed to be the reason for low turnout in the women’s events.
Pinki and Mor defeated Mongolian wrestlers to win gold, with Japan too fielding inexperienced wrestlers in Thursday’s events. That could change on Friday, though, with several top stars in contention. The day will begin with blockbuster bout between home favourite Vinesh Phogat and Japanese sensation Mayu Mukaida in the 53kg while Indian youngster Anshu and Sonam could meet Japanese legends Risako Kawai and Yukako Kawai, respectively, in the quarterfinals.