Tokyo Olympics qualifiers: National wrestling trials in March

Indian wrestlers will get their final opportunity to win a ticket to Tokyo at the qualifiers in April and May.

By Utathya Nag ·

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is planning to hold selection trials in March to select the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers in April and May.

So far, four Indian freestyle wrestlers - Bajrang Punia (men’s 65Kg), Deepak Punia (men’s 74Kg), Ravi Kumar Dahiya (men’s 57Kg) and Vinesh Phogat (women’s 53Kg) - have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics courtesy their performances at the 2019 world wrestling championships.

However, 14 berths in different categories are still up for grabs. The Asian Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan from April 9 to 11 and the world Olympic qualifiers in Bulgaria from May 6 to 9 will decide who makes it to the Summer Games in July-August. The national trials thus assume huge significance this time.

“We have not yet decided the exact dates for the qualifiers but in all likelihood the trials will be held in March,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told wrestling.tv.

“It will give us time to prepare the selected wrestlers for the qualifiers in April,” Tomar added.

The Rio 2016 bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and the country’s only two-time individual Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar are yet to qualify for Tokyo and are expected to be seen at the trials.

Both Sakshi and Sushil, however, will face tough challenges to earn the right to get to the Olympics qualifiers.

Sakshi Malik, who will be eying to stake her claim on the women’s 62Kg spot, may have to deal with upcoming sensation Sonam Malik. The 18-year-old Sonam has had the better of veteran Sakshi in the recent past.

The women’s 57kg category, too, will be closely contested with three strong contenders – up and coming Anshu Malik, 2018 world championships bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda, and former Asian champion Sarita Mor – in fray.

The biggest draw, however, will be the men’s 74kg category. With Narsingh Yadav’s return to the mat, his rivalry with Sushil Kumar will take centre-stage again. But this time, a third challenger Sandeep Singh Mann will be a dark horse.

Sandeep recently won the gold medal at the senior national wrestling championships, upsetting Jitender Kumar.