After getting halted last year, Tokyo Olympics is finally commencing from 23rd July. After a very disappointing outing in Rio, the Indian contingent will look to deliver a better performance in Tokyo. In India’s pursue of medals, wrestling has been very generous since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Indian wrestlers have delivered 4 medals in the last 3 Olympics and are expected to produce better results this time. They have done well in recent tournaments and most of them are in red hot form. In this article, we will take a look at the full wrestling contingent, which will take part in the Tokyo Olympics.
After securing two medals at London, the wrestling contingent suffered a setback in Rio. India managed to bring only one medal, courtesy of Sakshi Malik’s bronze in the 58 kg freestyle event. This time around, 7 Indian wrestlers have qualified for the showpiece event. Unfortunately, Sumit Malik who qualified for the men’s 125 kg freestyle event has been banned for doping and will not take part in the upcoming Olympics.
Here we take a look at wrestlers who will be representing India at Tokyo Olympics 2020:
Vinesh Phogat (women’s 53 kg freestyle): Asian Games Champion and star Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat will be one of the biggest hope for India in Tokyo. Vinesh, who reached the quarters in Rio, unfortunately, had to bow out owing to a knee injury. This time around, the 25-year-old wrestler will look to turn her misfortune around and aim for at least a podium finish in Tokyo. Hailing from Haryana’s famous Phogat family, Vinesh will enter the Tokyo Olympics as a top seed in the 53 kg category. Vinesh has won 4 gold medals in the 2021 season and is on track for a podium finish at the Summer Olympics.
Bajrang Punia (men’s 65 kg freestyle): India’s most decorated wrestler in World Championship, Bajrang Punia is all set to make his Olympics debut in Tokyo. Bajrang has won 3 medals in World Champions while no Indian wrestler has managed to get more than one. Bajrang, who himself is a fine wrestler will take part in one of the toughest categories of wrestling. Bajrang will head into the Olympics as the second seed behind Russian wrestler Gadzhimurad Rashidov and is a leading contender for winning a medal. Throughout the years, Bajrang has been very consistent and will look to deliver at the biggest stages of all. Before the Olympics, Bajrang bagged silver in the Asian Championship and gold in the Rome Ranking Series.
Ravi Kumar Dahiya (men’s 57kg freestyle): Ravi Dahiya, the former silver medalist at Junior World Championship and U23 World Championship, emerged into the senior level after snatching bronze in his debut World Championship. Since then, he has also won consecutive gold medals at the Asian Championships and has beaten superior wrestlers. 23-year-old Ravi has been seeded 4th in the 57kg event and is a contender for a medal in Tokyo.
Deepak Punia (men’s 86kg freestyle): Deepak Punia, India’s best wrestler in the higher weight categories, is one for the future. Punia, a mentally and physically very strong wrestler fought through a shoulder injury to secure a gold medal in the Junior Championship finals in 2019. A few months later, Deepak clinched a silver at the Senior World Championships. 22-year-old is seeded second for the Olympics. Punia will take part in one of the toughest categories where he will challenge the likes of David Taylor and Hassan Yazdani but with his fine skills and a little bit of luck in his favour, he can bring a medal home.
Anshu Malik (women’s 57 kg freestyle): 19-year-old young prodigy Anshu Malik secured her place in the Indian team by beating wrestlers like World Championship medalist Pooja Dhanda. Hailing from the Jind district of Haryana, Anshu won gold at the 2017 World Cadet Championship and silver at the 2018 World Junior Championship. She qualified for Tokyo after making it to the final of Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan in April this year. A week later, she also won a gold at the Asian Championships.
Sonam Malik (women’s 62 kg freestyle): Just like Anshu, Sonam is also regarded as the future of Indian Wrestling. And identically, she also qualified for Tokyo after making it to the final of Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 19-year-old wonder, Sonam Malik is a former two-time Cadet World Champion and in recent times, she has dominated her weight category at the national level. She defeated the Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sakshi Malik 4 times to book her place in the Indian team.
Seema Bisla (women’s 50kg freestyle): 29-year-old Seema Bisla belongs to a family of wrestlers. She became the 4th Indian women wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo when she won back to back three bouts at the World Wrestling Olympics Qualifiers in Sofia, Bulgaria. Seema won a bronze medal at the 2021 Asian Championships.
Expectations: Once again, grapplers are going to be one of the biggest of hope for India at the Olympics. Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat are favourites to secure a medal. Ravi Dahiya is also a serious contender for a podium while Deepak Punia can also bring home a medal if he gets a favourable draw.