The absence of Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt in the Asian wrestling championship, beginning at the K.D. Jadhav Stadium here on Thursday, may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the younger wrestlers in the country.
It will be a huge challenge for Amit Dhankar (66kg) and Bajrang (60kg), who have replaced Sushil and Yogeshwar respectively, to fill in the shoes of the two big stars.
While Dhankar and Bajrang get the opportunity to prove their worth, several other promising wrestlers will seek to get the attention they deserve.
The event begins with four Greco-Roman weight categories (55kg, 60kg, 66kg and 120kg) on the opening day and the host has already received a setback due to the absence of Commonwealth Games champion Rajender Kumar.
Rajender, who picked up a shoulder injury two weeks ago, has made way for greenhorn Gaurav Sharma.
“We were expecting a gold medal from Rajender. His absence will hurt us,” said Greco-Roman coach Hargobind Singh on Wednesday.
Harpreet Singh has taken the place of an injured Manoj Kumar, the first-choice wrestler in 84kg.
“Harpreet is also very good and had narrowly lost in the trials,” said Hargobind.
Another Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ravinder Singh (60kg) and Sunil Rana (66kg) are the other medal hopes for the country in Greco-Roman.
Last year’s Asian silver medallist in 55kg Elmura Tasmuradov and Iranian Babajanzadeh Basher in 120kg are among the prominent foreign wrestlers to be seen in action.
In freestyle, India will pin its hopes on Commonwealth Games winner Narsingh Yadav (84kg) and Asian championship bronze medallist Amit Kumar (55kg).
Former Asian champion Rashid Kurbanov of Uzbekistan in 74kg and Asian silver medallist Elmura Tasmuradov of Uzbekistan in 55kg may provide some entertainment.
Meanwhile it will be a family affair for cousins Geeta Phogat (59kg), Babita Kumari (55kg) and Vinesh (51kg) in the women’s competition.
Geeta, the first woman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, and Babita had grabbed headlines last year after bagging World championship bronze medals.
Before the home crowd, Geeta will try to improve upon her 2012 bronze winning performance.
Seasoned wrestler Geetika Jakhar (63kg), an Asian Games silver medallist, and former Asian bronze medal winner Navjot Kaur (67kg) will be keen to prove their class again on the elite stage.
London Olympics bronze medallist Daulet Niyazbekovof Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Olympian Aisuluu Tynybekova will be the other star attractions in the women’s events.