Vinesh Phogat clinches maiden World Championships medal, seals Tokyo 2020 spot

The Indian wrestler confirms her Olympics spot as she beats Maria Prevolaraki of Greece for the bronze.

By Naveen Peter ·

Tokyo 2020 beckons for Vinesh Phogat !

The Indian wrestler won her first-ever World Championships medal with a remarkable performance at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

A 4-1 win over two-time Olympian Maria Prevolaraki of Greece gave Vinesh a famous bronze medal and also confirmed her place at the Olympic Games next year.

What a day for India!

Calculated moves

Coming into the tie on the back of a dominating show in the 53kg freestyle repechage rounds, Phogat looked eager to take the fight to her opponent, but Prevolaraki once again proved why she has one of the best defences in the game.

Though the Greek wrestler started bleeding in the opening minutes while caught in a headlock and received medical attention, it did not appear to distract her as she kept her composure to avoid being caught in a difficult situation.

In what was a cagey opening three minutes, Phogat was penalised for passivity as the Greek went into the break with a 1-0 lead.

Returning to the mat, though the Indian started on the attacking front, none of her attempts seemed to bear fruit as Prevolaraki did well to avoid a fall.

With time ticking away, Phogat was under pressure and the Indian delivered when it mattered as she created an opening to inflict a takedown and then expose Prevolaraki to win the tie 4-1 and with that, a bronze medal just 10 months after moving into the weight category.

Tokyo-bound

Earlier, turning out for her repechage bouts in the morning session, Phogat began her day by blanking Ukraine’s Yuliya Khalvadzhy 5-0 and then brought her best to the fore against the top-ranked wrestler in the weight category, Sarah Hildebrandt of the USA.

Phogat ensured that she gave nothing away against the American as she registered an 8-2 win to secure a quota place for Tokyo 2020.

The Indian started with a double leg attack on Hildebrandt and inflicted a takedown in the opening minutes to take a 2-0 lead. While the American did her best to get back and went for Phogat’s leg, the 25-year-old found ways to wriggle out without conceding and then managed another takedown to lead 4-0 at the break.

Though the second round followed a similar pattern, this time Hildebrandt did manage to get Phogat down. But the points from that takedown were soon negated as the Indian ensured that her opponent exposed her back in the process, giving her two more points.

Mixed emotions

While Phogat stole the limelight on the day, the other Indians in action had a mixed day at the World Championships.

Seema Bisla (50kg) was outplayed in her repechage round by Russia’s Ekaterina Poleshchuk 3-11, while Pooja Dhanda bowed out of the 59kg category after a semifinal loss to another Russian, Liubov Ovcharova. Dhanda will fight it out in the bronze medal tie on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Sarita (57kg), Navjot Kaur (65kg) and Kiran (76 kg) failed to make it past the initial rounds, losing their respective bouts.