Vinesh, Reetika, Anshu secure Paris Olympics quotas for India

PTI, Apr 20, 2024, 7:46 PM IST

Wrestler Vinesh Phogat (Source: PTI / File)

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan): Making a strong comeback to international arena after leading a prolonged protest against former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, celebrated Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat locked Paris Olympics quota in women’s 50kg category with a strong show at the Asian Olympic Qualifier, here Saturday.

Also punching their tickets to the Paris Olympics were Anshu Malik (57kg) and U23 world champion Reetika (76kg), who also reached the final of the tournament with solid performances.

India now have secured four quota places for the Paris Games as Antim Panghal had earned a quota in the 53kg category with her bronze medal winning show at the World Championships last year.

It will be interesting to see if WFI lets the quota winners represent India or hold a final selection trial to pick the national wrestling team.

In the Tokyo Games, India had fielded a strong seven-wrestler team that had four women — Seema Bisla (50kg), Vinesh (53kg), Anshu (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg).

No male wrestler has yet earned a quota. The last chance to win the Paris Games quota will be at the World Qualifiers in Turkey from May 9.

The 29-year-old Vinesh has now secured her third straight Olympic quota, having featured in Rio Games (2016) and in Tokyo (2020) earlier.

Vinesh dished out a strong performance, demolishing her opponents one by one.

After losing several months of training due to the prolonged protest against Brij Bhushan and the ongoing legal battle, it was a challenge for Vinesh to secure a quota and she did that, making full use of an easy draw.

As is her wont, Vinesh looked for that one opportunity to subdue Miran Cheon in her opening bout and grabbed it after measuring her Korean rival for about 30 seconds.

Once she grabbed Cheon and pushed her down for a take down, the bout ended in a jiffy, in one minute and 39 seconds.

It was difficult to wriggle out of Vinesh’s strong hold. The Indian employed gut wrench move thrice and mixed that with one ‘expose’ to finish the bout.

The next bout lasted a mere 67 seconds. Cambodia’s Smanang Dit was an easy prey. Vinesh pinned her in no time to move to the women’s 50kg semifinal.

The celebrated Indian faced some resistance from 19-year-old Kazakh wrestler Laura Ganikyzy in the semifinals but she used all her experience to foil the attacks employed by her younger rival.

Twice Laura went for left-leg attacks but Vinesh scored on counter and led 4-0 by the end of the first period. This was the first time Vinesh was pushed to the second period in this tournament.

Once Vinesh got hold of Laura, she had no problem in employing consecutive gut wrench moves to finish the bout.

Vinesh was competing in the 50kg category after winning the selection trials.

The finalists at this competition are being awarded quota places for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The 2021 World Championship silver medallist Anshu had no problem while putting it across Kyrgyzstan’s Kalmira Bilimbekova in the quarterfinal, winning by technical superiority.

Anshu, who also featured in Tokyo Games, continued her impressive show, winning the semifinal against Uzbekistan’s Laylokhov Soboirova by technical superiority. It was a pacy bout dictated by the Indian.

The U23 world champion Reetika did not have to break much sweat in outclassing Eunju Hwang. She won the first round by technical superiority as the Korean had no answer to Reetika’s class and got a similar win under her belt against Mongolia’s Davaanasan Enkh Amar.

In the final group bout against China’s Juang Wang, Reetika raced to an 8-0 lead but the Chinese fought back and logged six straight points.
She effected another move at the dying moments but much to the relief of the Indian camp, that point was not awarded because it came at the end of the stipulated time.

In her semifinal, Reetikja recorded a comfortable 7-0 win against Chinese Taipei’s Hui Tsz Chang.

Mansi Ahlawat (62kg) also made it to last-four as she needed to win just one bout.

Up against Kazakhstan’s Irina Kuznetsova, she emerged a 6-4 winner but was outgunned by North Korea’s Hyon Gyong Mun, who was excellent in her defence, not giving any opportunity to attack to the Indian.

The only Indian wrestler who could not reach semifinals was Nisha Dahiya (68kg).

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