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By Anukul Chauhan
New Delhi [India], July 18 (ANI): With five days to go for the Tokyo Olympics to get underway, athletes across the globe are looking to give the finishing touch to their preparations and head for the showpiece event. The Indian contingent is no different as 127 athletes will look to give it their all and bring glory to the country. The wrestlers in the contingent are undoubtedly in contention for medals at the Games.
Indian wrestling contingent will field seven wrestlers, headlined by a very strong Bajrang Punia and determined Vinesh Phogat. The other five Indian wrestlers who have qualified for the showpiece event are Ravi Kumar Dahiya (Men 57kg), Deepak Punia (Men 86kg), Anshu Malik (Women 57kg), Sonam Malik (Women 62kg), and Seema Bisla (Women 50kg). Sumit Malik was another Indian wrestler who had won an Olympic quota in the 125kg category but was suspended by world body UWW for failing a dope test.
With five medals at the Olympics, wrestling is India's second-most successful sport at the summer Olympics after Hockey. After a below-par performance in Rio 2016, which saw Sakshi Malik grabbing a bronze in the women's 58 kg, the Indian wrestling contingent would be hoping to turn the table around this time with Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia leading the pack for the team.
World No. 1 Vinesh Phogat has been in quite a sublime form in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 as the star Indian wrestler has won gold in March by winning the Matteo Pellicone event. After conquering Rome, Vinesh then clinched the gold in the Poland Open on June 11 by beating Ukraine's Ekaterina Poleshchuk 8-0 in the finals. It was after these wins, Phogat jumped 14 points to become the No. 1 wrestler in the world and was then also seeded number 1 in the Women 53kg category.
For Vinesh, the upcoming Olympics will also be the chance of redemption after the disappointing outing at the 2016 Olympics when she got injured and disqualified from the showpiece. Notably, the 26-years-old was the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics when she grabbed a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships.
In men's the three-time World medallist and seven-time Asian medallist, Bajrang Punia will be the flag bearer for India in arguably one of the most competitive weight categories in wrestling which is the freestyle 65kg category. India's top hope for the Olympic medal in Tokyo, Bajrang Punia, is seeded second in the 65kg weight category by UWW behind the top-seeded Russian Gadzhimurad Rashidov.
Since earning his qualification at World Championship in Kazakhstan in 2019, where he had won a bronze, Bajrang has won gold medals at the Rome Ranking Series in 2020 and 2021 and silver medals at the two successive Asian Championships. The 27-years-old is the only Indian to win three medals at wrestling world championships and is definitely roaring to mark his stamp on World's biggest sporting stage.
In the 86kg category Deepak Punia who is second-seeded second behind Iranian Hassan Yazdani is also a major hope for the medal. Deepak Punia won a silver medal at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in the freestyle 86 kg category and secured a place in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The other Indian men's wrestler, Ravi Kumar Dahiya is seeded fourth in the 57kg category for the upcoming marquee event, Ravi also won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships to book his place for Japan.
Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, and Seema Bisla are other Indian women wrestlers who are eager to dominate the mat at the biggest stage. Anshu and Sonam who are both only 19-years-old have already exceeded the set targets by qualifying for the Olympics and will go to Tokyo with nothing to lose attitude. Not to mention, Anshu has recently grabbed a gold medal at the 2021 Asian Championships that holds her in a very good state for Tokyo.
For Sonam, she has already surprised quite a lot of people when in 2020, she defeated the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik for getting selected to the Asian Olympic qualifiers tournament. She also has two gold medals under her belt at the World Cadet Wrestling Championship.
With all the star wrestlers fired up with their recent performances, the Indian contingent might record a number of podium finishes in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. But to begin with, they need to focus on the basics and not let the pressure of expectations get to them. (ANI)