Grapplers hold much promise

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat headline a strong squad

Studded with world-beaters, the Indian wrestling contingent will be a force to reckon with in Tokyo.

Three-time World Championships medallist Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Worlds medallists Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg), Deepak Punia (86kg) and Vinesh Phogat (women’s 53kg) instil confidence in the Indian camp.

The competent trio of Seema Bisla (50kg), Anshu Malik (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg) complete a squad that has the potential to produce the best-ever performance in the Olympics.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bajrang, ranked No. 2 in the toughest weight class which has 12-13 medal contenders, will try to achieve his long-cherished dream in his Olympic debut.

Tough challenge

Bajrang may face tough challenge from the likes of World champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov, two-time Worlds medallist Daulet Niyazbekov, former World champion Takuto Otoguro, double Worlds bronze medallist Alejandro Valdes and Individual World Cup winner Vazgen Tevanyan.

The fourth-placed Ravi and Deepak, ranked second, are young but have shown their class.

Two-time World champion Zaur Uguev, double Worlds medallists Suleyman Atli and Nurislam Sanayev, former Worlds silver medallist Arsen Harutyunyan and ex-World and Asian champion Yuki Takahashi will be some top names in Ravi’s category.

Deepak’s weight division has leading wrestlers including World and Olympic champion Hassan Yazdani, Worlds bronze medallist Artur Naifonov, former World champion David Taylor, four-time Worlds medallist Ali Shabanau and ex-Worlds silver medallist Sosuke Takatani.

Proving her worth

Among the women, Vinesh, 26, is ranked number one and has proved her worth time and again.

Vinesh, who exited the Rio Olympics after injuring her leg midway through a contest, fought back to win gold medals in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and a bronze in 2019 World championships.

The determined Vinesh, who was infected with Covid last year, has collected four gold medals this year to exhibit her current form.

In a world class field — including two-time World champion Mayu Mukaida, twice Worlds medallist Pang Qianyu, Individual World Cup gold medallist Maria Prevolaraki, World champion in 55kg Jacarra Winchester and World and Olympic medallist Sofia Mattsson — Vinesh will have to give her best to live her dream.

The young Anshu and Sonam, who graduated to the elite level in a fast-forward manner, have underlined their potential by grabbing quota places in the Olympics. Late bloomer Seema has also hurdled over several obstacles to qualify.

With no fear and nothing to lose, these lesser-known wrestlers will leave no stone unturned to achieve glory.

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