All eyes on Sakshi, Pooja as women grapplers get down to business
After having witnessed some close action on the opening day of the national wrestling trials in New Delhi, the action will shift to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Lucknow, where the Indian women will fight it out to make the senior team for the season-opening competitions in January.
Like for the men, the selection rounds on Saturday will see the Indian squad for the season's first ranking series — the Matteo Pellicone Memorial (January 15-18), the Senior Asian Championships (January 17-23) and the continental Olympic qualifiers (March 27-30) — being decided.
India has, so far, sealed a quota place for the Olympics in the women’s category with established star Vinesh Phogat proving her worth at the World Championships last year. But given their pedigree, it won’t be a surprise if they go on to add a few more in the coming months with their journey to Tokyo 2020 beginning at the Saturday’s trials.
All eyes on Gursharanpreet Kaur
Making her return to competitive wrestling with a title-winning show at the Senior National Championships last year, veteran grappler Gursharanpreet Kaur has been the talk of the wrestling town. However, the 35-year-old mother knows that her wins so far will have been for nothing if she fails to get through the Saturday trials.
Kaur has looked in fine control of her bouts and will hope for a similar showing when she takes to mat in Lucknow.
Standing in her way is Kiran Bishnoi, the national champion in the 72kg category, who has decided to move up the rung to make herself available for Olympic selection. The 76kg category, however, is nothing new for Kiran, who was India’s representative in this division at the Worlds in Nur-Sultan. Though the Indian failed to go past the qualification round there, she will be confident of taking the fight to her much-experienced opponent at the trials.
A three-way battle
While the 76kg category looks certain to be a face-off between two of the most promising wrestlers, the 57kg division isn’t an easy one to call.
While the reigning national champion Sarita More has been a force to be reckoned with here, the likes of Pooja Dhanda, bronze medallist at the 2018 Worlds, and Lalita Sehrawat, make it an interesting fixture.
Though Pooja has struggled for form last season, it would be a mistake to rule her out, especially with the Olympics so close.
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All or nothing for Sakshi Malik
Another of the prominent names struggling for form has been the bronze medallist from the Rio Olympics, Sakshi Malik.
Having failed to win a title last season, her best performance came at the Asian Championships with a bronze-medal finish, Malik will be eager to get her campaign in the Olympic year off to a bright start at the trials on Saturday.
However, it will be anything but an easy task, with the likes of two-time world cadet champion Sonam Malik and Radhika standing in her way. And if the Friday’s bouts are anything to go by, it won’t be a surprise if we are handed a few surprises in Lucknow as well.