2019 World Wrestling Championships: Indian wrestlers would hope for a rich harvest of medals!
Indian wrestling buffs have reasons to anticipate a rich harvest of medals from our grapplers.
The Indian wrestling contingent left in batches for the upcoming United World Wrestling-organised 2019 World Wrestling Championship that gets underway at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan from September 14-22. The Indian grapplers will attend a preparatory camp in Kazakhstan ahead of the marquee event. The country’s women grapplers were the first to depart for the marquee event on Thursday, while the men’s Greco-Roman wrestling team departed for the big-ticket event on Friday. The men’s freestyle team left for the high-profile event on Saturday.
The women’s wrestling squad left without star grapplers Vinesh Phogat and Pooja Dhanda – Vinesh will be staying in India to train with her Indian coach, while Pooja stayed back to receive her Arjuna Award. Two other women grapplers - Lalita (55kg) and Komal Bhagwan Gole (72kg) – could not travel owing to visa issues and are expected to leave on Monday.
The men’s wrestling squad also departed for Kazakhstan without the likes of Bajrang Punia and Jitender Kumar, who are already training in Russia for the big-ticket event. Sushil Kumar is also not travelling with the men’s squad and is expected to join Bajrang and Jitender in Russia for a training stint before joining the national squad in Kazakhstan. Two men freestyle grapplers – Karan (70-kg) and Parveen (92-kg) – are grappling with visa issues and will join the side later.
This time around, Indian wrestling medal hopes will hinge a lot on 65-kg freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia, who is perhaps enjoying the best form of his life, raising a new level of ‘consistency’ after picking up a silver medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championship in Budapest, Hungary, where he had lost to Japan’s Takuto Otoguro 9-16 in the final bout. The Haryana grappler, who will be making his sixth world championship appearance, has literally won medals at most major events – bagging gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games, 2018 Commonwealth Games, and 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship.
There is little doubt that Bajrang has taken the limelight away from two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who will be making his World Championship appearance for the first time since the 2011 edition, where he crashed out early. The 36-year-old grappler is staging a comeback of sorts to major events after being out of the competitive mat for around a year after losing tamely at the 2018 Asian Games.
It may be worth recalling that Sushil had won the gold at the 2010 World Wrestling Championship pipping home favourite Alan Gogayev in the final in Moscow. The iconic wrestler may have proved in the world championship trials that he is the country’s best bet in the 74-kg category, but it will not be easy for him on his fifth world championship appearance at Nur-Sultan given the fact that competition has indeed cranked up in the 74-kg category.
Indian wrestling fans would have high expectations from super heavyweight grappler Sumit Malik, who had nearly won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championship – the 26-year-old Haryana had lost in the semi-finals and subsequently featured in the repechage round, where he won his bout only to go down to Nick Gwiazdowski of USA in the bronze medal play-off bout 2-7. Sumit Malik has gained substantial international stage experience having featured in this championship four times before and one hopes that he would cap off a podium finish. Sumit has been in good form, having won the bronze medal at the 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship after bagging the gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Deepak Punia is another exciting youngster, the 18-year-old fresh from his recent world junior wrestling crown – will look to make a splash on his third appearance in the world championship in 86-kg and improve on his first-round exits in the 2017 and 2018 editions. The same applies to Mausam Khatri, who will compete in the 97-kg category after having endured first-round defeats in the 2015 and 2017 editions. The 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist stunned 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship bronze medallist Satyawart Kadian in the trials. Rahul Aware is marking a return to the world championship mat after five years in the 57-kg category and will be keen to make his presence felt – 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist had lost in the second round in the 2014 edition.
If Bajrang has had a towering presence in the men’s freestyle squad, it won’t be wrong to suggest that Vinesh Phogat has hit a purple patch as far as women grapplers are concerned – the 25-year-old – a cousin sister of the famous Phogat sisters – has won three gold medals on the trot this year in Poland, Spain and Turkey after having gold medals at the 2018 Asiad and 2018 Commonwealth Games besides her bronze at the 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship – she will hope to come out with a blockbuster performance in new weight category – 53-kg on her fourth world championship appearance after losing in the early rounds in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 editions respectively.
India wrestling buffs won’t be wrong if they think of Pooja Dhanda as a potential medal prospect – the Haryana lass is coming off a nagging shoulder injury and is getting close to peak form that saw her lap up a bronze medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championship. She carries rich experience featuring in her fifth world championship and one hopes she would make a stellar effort in Kazakhstan.
Sakshi Malik hasn’t done anything of note since winning the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and will be keyed up to make a big impression ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just to affirm all and sundry that she is a strong Olympic medal prospect – this is her fourth world championship appearance – her best effort has been a quarterfinal finish in the 2018 edition. The women wrestling hopes will also rest on 21-year-old Uttar Pradesh girl Divya Kakran, who had managed bronze medal finishes in three major events - 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2018 Asian Games, and 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship. Among the Greco-Roman grapplers, the Indian contingent will be bullish about the triumvirate of Gurpreet Singh (77-kg), Harpreet Singh (82-kg), Sunil Kumar (87-kg), who had sewed up silver medals at the 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship.
Indian wrestling coach Jagmander Singh oozes confidence about the wrestlers’ prospects in the World Championships. “Our grapplers are trained very hard for the World Championship. With the likes of Bajrang and Sushil in our ranks and talented youngsters like Deepak Punia and Ravi Kumar among other good wrestlers, we hope to come out with a solid performance.” All in all, Indian wrestling buffs have reasons to anticipate a rich harvest of medals from our grapplers.
(Men's Freestyle): Ravi Kumar (57-kg), Rahul Aware (61-kg), Bajrang Punia (65-kg), Karan (70-kg), Sushil Kumar (74-kg), Jitender (79-kg) category, Deepak Punia (86-kg), Parveen (92-kg), Mausam Khatri (97-kg) and Sumit Malik (125-kg).
(Men's Greco-Roman): Manjeet (55-kg), Manish (60-kg), Sagar (63-kg), Manish (67-kg), Yogesh (72-kg), Gurpreet Singh (77-kg), Harpreet Singh (82-kg), Sunil Kumar (87-kg), Ravi (97-kg) and Naveen (130-kg).
(Women’s Freestyle): Seema (50-kg), Vinesh Phogat (53-kg), Lalita (55-kg), Sarita (57-kg), Pooja Dhanda (59-kg), Sakshi Malik (62-kg), Navjot Kaur (65-kg), Divya Kakran (68-kg), Komal Bhagwan Gole (72-kg) and Kiran (76-kg).