Vinesh Phogat qualifies for Tokyo Olympics, up for bronze in Worlds

Vinesh Phogat. (Source: File Photo)

Vinesh Phogat, competing in the 53 kg category, qualified for the 2020 Olympics after defeating World No. 1 Sarah Hildebrandt in the World Wrestling Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old triumphed over her American opponent with a 8-2 win in the second repechage round to secure her place at the Tokyo Games, which is going to start from July 24, 2020. Vinesh will go up against Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki in the bronze-medal bout later on Wednesday.

Earlier, she had stormed to a 5-0 win over Ukraine’s Yuliya Khalvadzhy in the first round of repechage in the 53kg category to remain in contention for an Olympic quota and a bronze medal.

While it has been a spectacular career for Vinesh with gold medals at the CWG and the Asian Games, none of her three attempts at the World Championship resulted in a podium finish. Now, she is just one win away from a maiden medal.

"I am happy and relieved that I am going to Tokyo but it’s not over yet. I have a medal bout and I don’t want to miss that," Vinesh said as she walked into the training area.

Navjot Kaur gave her a hug and the Indian camp, which has endured tough initial days, was gleaming.
There were handshakes but coach Woller Akos was still not smiling. He was still seriously discussing something with Vinesh, probably what she needs to do in her next bout.

"Her motion was not at best but the defence was. We had asked Vinesh to move right and block Sarah’s right hand.

"What it did was that it put Vinesh further away from Sarah, not letting her attack. It also meant that Vinesh could go for her attacks," explained Akos about they plotted the fall of the American world number one.

Also on her way for a bronze medal in the 50 kg category, Seema Bisla was knocked out by Russia’s Ekaterina Poleshchuk after a 11-3 defeat. Seema had defeated Nigeria s Miesinnei Mercy Genesis in the first repechage round, but failed to win the second.

Meanwhile, in the quarter-finals of the 59 kg non-Olympic category, Pooja Dhanda advanced to the semi-final after defeating Japan’s Yuzuka Inagaki by 8-7.

Pooja, who won a bronze at the 2018 Worlds in Budapest, beat Belarus’ Katsiaryna Hanchar by technical superiority in her pre-quarterfinal and now faces Russian Liubov Ovcharova, the 2017 European champion.

Pooja had become only the fourth Indian to win a Worlds medal at Budapest last year and now can become the first female wrestler to win two. Only Bajrang Punia has two medals to show at Worlds.