World Wrestling Championships: what India needs to know
The Indian team will be aiming to make their impact felt when the 2019 World Wrestling Championships takes place in the Kazakhstan capital Nur-Sultan from 14-22 September.
Travelling to the tournament from India will be a current world number one a two-time Olympic medallist and the first female wrestler to claim an Olympic medal for India.
Road to Tokyo
The World Championships will also be the first opportunity for the Indians to seal a quota place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
As many as six quota places will be up for grabs at the Worlds, thus ensuring every wrestler making it to the medal round of a quota.
However, if the Indian grapplers fail to seal a quota place at the Worlds, they will have to bank upon the Asian Qualification or the World Qualification tournaments later in the season to see themselves through to Tokyo 2020.
So let's take an in-depth look at India's squad and find out when they are in action:
Who is in the Indian team?
He might be a two-time Olympic medallist, but Sushil Kumar’s return to the mat after a long layoff hasn’t gone as per plan so far.
Turning up at the Medved tournament in Belarus in August, the Indian grappler looked out of sorts as he suffered a crushing defeat after being pinned by the World No. 5 Bekzod Abdurakhmonov in the 74kg quarterfinals.
It’s on the back of this that Sushil heads into the Worlds. Though the Indian has put in considerable time and energy into keeping himself fit to compete at the international level, lack of mat time could hamper his hopes.
In the 74kg category, all eyes will be on the likes of Jordan Burroughs of the USA, the gold medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, top seed and the reigning European champion Frank Chamizo of Italy and the technically gifted Georgian wrestler Avtandil Kentchadze.
If Sushil is to have a strike at the title, he will have to wade through some tough competition before he stands on the podium in Kazakhstan.
Tricky test for Bajrang Punia
The route to glory might not be as tough as it is in Sushil’s case, but the top seed in the 65kg men’s freestyle, Bajrang Punia, too is in for a tricky ride at the Worlds.
The Indian has been in fine form this season, managing a podium finish at every competition he has turned up. But in Nur-Sultan, the Haryana grappler will have to be on his toes constantly to avoid any surprises.
While he can be all but assured of no rematch against the defending champion Takuto Otoguro of Japan - a man who beat him 16-9 in the gold-medal bout last time - till the final given his top seed status, Punia will have to be very careful against the likes of the European champion Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Georgia’s Vladimer Khinchegashvili and local hope Sayatbek Okassov.
Eyes on Vinesh Phogat
In the women’s half it’ll be Vinesh Phogat on whom the nation will be banking upon to deliver.
Ever since moving into the 53kg category at the turn of the year, the 25-year-old has seemed like a wrestler reborn. With her never-dying hunger for success and superior technical skills, Vinesh can prove to be a tough nut to crack at the Worlds.
However, it would be interesting to see how she performs against quality wrestlers like Japan’s Haruna Okuno- a reigning world champion, Sarah Hildebrandt of the USA and China’s Pang Qianyu, someone who’s got the better of her in the recent past.
Can Sakshi Malik succeed?
While Vinesh promises to be an exciting prospect, the same can’t be said about the first Indian woman to win a wrestling medal at the Olympics - Sakshi Malik. The bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games will go into the World Championships on the back of some mediocre performances.
Of the five competitions that the 26-year-old has participated in this year in the 62kg category, she’s barely managed to provide any satisfaction to her well-wishers. She finished 12th at the Sassari City Matteo Pellicone Memorial in Italy while was seventh at the 2019 Yasar Dogu Memorial in Istanbul, Turkey.
Though she did well in Belarus and at the Asian Championships, it still remains to be seen how Malik reacts against some of the top grapplers in the world. Japan’s Yukako Kawai and the European champion Taybe Yusein of Bulgaria will be the ones to beat in this weight category.
Apart from the established names, the 2019 World Wrestling Championships will also see a handful of youngsters trying to make their mark at the biggest stage.
With the likes of the newly crowned Junior World Champion Deepak Punia, Divya Kakran and Seema making it to Kazakhstan, it would be interesting to see how they go about their business at the Worlds.
Where can I watch it?
You can watch the preliminary rounds on SonyLIV, with the semi-finals and finals being broadcast on Sony TEN 3 (HD & SD) and ESPN HD & SD channels as well as the SonyLIV livestream.
All the matches will be shown live in India between 4pm and 8pm IST.
When are Indian wrestlers in action?
The first Indian grapplers to take to the ring will be the Greco-Roman wrestlers.
India will have four representatives on the opening day as Manjeet (55kg), Sagar (63kg). Yogesh (72kg) and Harpreet Singh (82kg) all attempt to progress from the qualification rounds.
Then on Sunday September 15th, it will be the turn of Manish (57kg) Sunil Kumar (87kg) and Ravi (97kg) to compete before Naveen (130kg), Manish (60kg) and Gurpreet Singh (77kg) make their entry on the Monday.
The women will enter the fray on September 17th, as Seema (50kg), Vinesh Phogat (53kg), Lalita (55kg) and Komal Bhagwan Gole (72kg) are in action.
Wednesday 18th will see more of the women's categories be contested - with Sarita (57kg), Pooja Dhanda (59kg), Navjot Kaur (65kg) and Kiran (76kg) involved in the qualification round.
Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (62kg) and Divya Kakran (68kg) have their first bouts scheduled for Thursday September 19th.
That day also sees the men's freestyle competition get started, with Ravi Kumar and Bajran Punia taking part in the 57kg and 65kg categories respectively.
Karan (70kg), Sushil Kumar (74kg), Parveen (92kg) and Sumit (125kg) should be in the ring on Friday September 20th, before the remainder of the qualification rounds on Saturday September 21st.
It's then that we will see the final batch of male freestylers for the first time; Rahul Aware (61kg), Veer Dev Gulia and Jitender (both 79kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Mausam Khatri (97kg).
The full schedule of the World Championships can be seen here:
(GR = Greco-Roman, WW = Women's Wrestling, FS = Men's Wrestling, Time = IST)
Saturday, September 14
10:30 am - 3:30 pm : Qualification Rounds (GR 55-63-72-82kg)
5:30 pm - 7:00 om: Semifinals (GR 55-63-72-82kg)
Sunday, September 15
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (GR 67-87-97kg)
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Repechage (GR 55-63-72-82kg)
5:30 pm - 6:45 pm: Semifinals (GR 67-87-97kg)
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm: Finals (GR 55-63-72-82kg)
Monday, September 16
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (GR 60-77-130kg)
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Repechage (GR 67-87-97kg)
4:30 pm-5:15 pm: Semifinals (GR 60-77-130kg)
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm: Finals (GR 67-87-97kg)
Tuesday, September 17
10:30 am - 2:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (WW 50-53-55-72kg)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm: Repechage (GR 60-77-130kg)
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm: Semifinals (WW 50-53-55-72kg)
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Finals (GR 60-77-130kg)
Wednesday, September 18
10:30 am - 2:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (WW 57-59-65-76kg)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm: Repechage (WW 50-53-55-72kg)
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm: Semifinals (WW 57-59-65-76kg)
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Finals (WW 50-53-55-72kg)
Thursday, September 19
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (WW 62-68kg // FS 57-65kg)
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Repechage (WW 57-59-65-76kg)
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm: Semifinals (WW 62-68kg // FS 57-65kg)
5:30pm - 8:30 pm: Finals (WW 57-59-65-76kg)
Friday, September 20
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (FS 70-74-92-125kg)
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Repechage (WW 62-68kg // FS 57-65kg)
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm: Semifinals (FS 70-74-92-125kg)
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Finals (WW 62-68kg // FS 57-65kg)
Saturday, September 21
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Qualification Rounds (FS 61-79-86-97kg)
10:30 am - 3:30 pm: Repechage (FS 70-74-92-125kg)
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm: Semifinals (FS 61-79-86-97kg)
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Finals (FS 70-74-92-125kg)
Sunday, September 22
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Repechage (FS 61-79-86-97kg)
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm: Finals (FS 61-79-86-97kg)