The first national women’s wrestling trials of the Olympic year saw two-time World Cadet champion Sonam Malik stunning Rio 2016 bronze medallist Sakshi Malik in a thrilling bout to seal a place in the nation’s wrestling contingent for the Asian Championship.
Apart from her, favourite Pooja Dhanda also saw a similar fate as they would now have to wait for the other possible trials ahead of the Asian Olympic qualifiers.
Sonepat’s Sonam triumphs Sakshi
Sakshi had started passively before showing good presence of mind to lead 6-4 early on. However, Sonam showed tremendous grit and determination to come up with a four-point throw with just three seconds left on the clock. The score was 10-10 and Sonam won it owing to the criteria of scoring the last point.
The win was surely a massive boost of confidence for the Haryana wrestler, who hails from Sonipat’s Madina and trains under Ajmer Malik in Gohana. She extended her form and rode the momentum to defeat Radhika 4-1 in the final and cement her spot in the 62kg category.
Pooja Dhanda stunned by Anshu Malik
The 57kg weight category was definitely going to see some upsets for India, given the sheer quality of competitors it had. With reigning national champion Sarita More and 2018 Worlds bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda amongst others in the fray, it was going to be a close affair.
However, contrary to popular expectations, Haryana’s Anshu Malik stopped Pooja Dhanda 3-1 in the round of 16 bout, before she got the better of Mansi Ahalawat in the final to book her place in the 57 kg.
No surprises there
While the 57kg and 62kg categories threw some surprises, the others pretty much went as expected. 53kg star Vinesh Phogat, who has already sealed her Olympic berth last year by winning a bronze medal at the World Championships, saw off Nandani in the final with a one-sided 10-0 scoreline.
Divya Kakran, in the 68kg, was a huge favourite to land a place in the Asian Championship playing team, and she did so with aplomb and coolness, as she overcame Haryana’s Nisha 5-2 in the round of 16 bout and Anita Sheoran 4-0 in the final.
While Nirmala Devi had a comprehensive 10-0 win over Pinki in the final of the 50kg category, Kiran Godara (76kg) got the better of veteran grappler Gursharanpreet Kaur, who was the senior national champion last year, in the final.
The qualification process
The winners from the trials in Lucknow will be competing next in the Matteo Pellicone Memorial in Rome, which has been scheduled from January 15-18, and the Asian Championships in New Delhi from February 18-23.
The winners from those two events will get to play the all-important Asian Olympic qualifiers, which are scheduled to be held in Xian from March 27-29. Those not winning medals will have to see another trial in order to enter the Asian Olympic qualifiers.