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Tokyo Olympics, wrestling | Hopes pinned on star attractions Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia

Bajrang Punia..ready to grapple. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Nineteen-year-old Sonam Malik will begin India’s campaign in wrestling, which is expected to produce some medals, at the Olympics on Tuesday.

Sonam, the youngest in the seven-member squad, will meet Asian championships silver medallist Bolortuya Khurelkhuu in a first round 62kg clash.

For India, the star attraction will be top-seeded Vinesh Phogat (53kg) and triple Worlds medallist Bajrang Punia (65kg).

An in-form Vinesh, the only Indian woman wrestler to compete in two Olympics, stands a chance to erase her sad memories of Rio. Her biggest threat is Japanese Worlds silver medallist Mayu Mukaida, who has beaten the Indian multiple times.

Other big names

Twice Worlds medallist Chinese Pang Qianyu, 55kg American World champion Jacarra Winchester, Swedish World and Olympic medallist Sofia Mattsson, double World champion Vanesa Kaladzinshaya from Belarus are the other big names.

Second-ranked superstar Bajrang, who has consistently got medals in elite events in the last few years, is another strong medal contender. Russian top seed and World champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov, former World champions Japanese Takuto Otoguro and Azerbaijani Haji Aliyev will also be there in one of the most-competitive fields.

Rated highly

Fourth-seeded Ravi Dahiya (57kg), a Worlds bronze medallist who is rated highly, is keen to prove his worth.

His field comprises World champion Yuki Takahashi of Japan, Worlds medallists Suleyman Atli of Turkey and American Thomas Gilman among others.

Second-ranked Worlds silver medallist Deepak Punia (86kg) also faces a star-studded field, including World and Olympic champion Iranian Hassan Yazdani, Worlds bronze medalists Stefan Reichmuth of Switzerland and Artur Naifonov of Russia and former American World champion David Taylor.

Anshu Malik (57kg) and Seema Bisla (50kg) are also eager to make their mark.

For Anshu, World and Olympic champion Japanese Risako Kawai, former World champion Rong Ningning of China, twice Worlds bronze medallist Belarusian Iryna Kurachkina and double World champion American Helen Maroulis are there in an extremely challenging field.

Top rivals

Triple Olympic medallist and multiple Worlds medallist Azerbaijani Maria Stadnik, double Worlds medallist Ana Vuc of Romania and Individual World Cup winner Russian Ekaterina Poleshchuk are some top rivals in Seema’s category.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 8:31:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/hopes-pinned-on-star-attractions-vinesh-phogat-and-bajrang-punia/article35691753.ece

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