This time the colour of the medals in wrestling will change in Tokyo: Wrestling coach Kuldeep Malik
Women's wrestling chief coach Kuldeep Malik is confident that the Indian wrestling contingents will do well at Tokyo Olympics
Women's wrestling chief coach Kuldeep Malik confident of a stellar show by Indian women wrestlers in Tokyo
A total of seven wrestlers in the freestyle category from India will compete in Tokyo Olympics starting July 23. Out of these seven wrestlers, there are four women wrestlers who are carrying the expectations of the nation on their shoulders.
A medal from Sakshi Malik in Rio Olympics 2016, gold medal in Commonwealth Games 2018 and Asian Games 2018 by Vinesh Phogat have raised the expectations of the nation for the Tokyo Olympics. The man who played a pivotal role in the success of these women grapplers is Indian women's Chief Wrestling Coach Kuldeep Malik.
The chief coach is once again confident of Indian women wrestlers' putting up a stellar show as their preparation is in full swing.
"The preparation for the Olympics is going really well and we all are dedicated. We are preparing as per the strategy." said Indian women's chief wrestling coach Kuldeep Malik in a conversation with The Bridge.
Indian wrestlers are going to face some stern tests in Tokyo as Japan is a powerhouse in wrestling winning 7 medals in Rio Olympics 2016 including 4 gold medals and as a host nation, they will have more participation this time around making things more challenging.
"We will face tough challenges from Japanese wrestlers but we too have a very strong team of our wrestlers." believes Kuldeep Malik.
The four-woman freestyle grapplers who will compete for India in Tokyo Olympics are Vinesh Phogat (53 Kg), Seema Bisla (50 Kg), Anshu Malik (57 Kg) and Sonam Malik (62 Kg) and all of them are capable of winning a medal after training hard in Poland and Estonia recently.
Their performances in Asian Wrestling Championship and Asian Wrestling Qualifiers 2021 have put their chief coach in dilemma to pick the stronger contender of the four but the chief coach is confident of a better performance than Rio 2016.
"I cannot predict which wrestler will win because all of them are strong contenders. So, I can't say one or two medals but one thing I guarantee is that the colour of the medal is certainly going to change," said Kuldeep Malik.
Even though the Chief coach is not picking any favourite contender out of the four women grapplers but there is no denying the fact that all eyes will be on Vinesh Phogat. The reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion was the first Indian wrestler to book her place for the Tokyo Olympics beating world no.1 Sarah Ann Hildebrandt of USA 8-2.
"Vinesh Phogat is not at all feeling any pressure and she is very serious towards her practice and preparation for the Olympics." said chief coach Kuldeep Malik.
The men's team is fielding only three freestyle wrestlers in Tokyo one less than the women's team but the expectation from them is the same if not more. The men's team has the experience of Bajrang Punia who won a gold medal in Commonwealth Games 2018 and Asian Games 2018 as well as youngsters like Deepak Punia and Ravi Dahiya.
"In men's wrestling too we have a very good team. All three wrestlers are good. We have Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya who is a youngster. Deepak Punia is also a talented youngster." told women's team chief coach Kuldeep Malik.
The Wrestling Federation of India's President Brijbhushan Sharan Singh recently predicted 4 medals in wrestling in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics a feat which has never been achieved by an Indian wrestler till date in the prestigious quadrennial event.
"Our WFI President Brijbhushan Sharan Singh has worked very hard to take wrestling to this level. He himself was a wrestler and we are grateful to him. Under his leadership our wrestlers have won medals in the Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games, etc." told Kuldeep Yadav.
Life while training for Indian grapplers was tougher than it used to be a few years ago as they lived in a bio-bubble while training abroad and were not allowed to roam around other than the training center.
"We were not able to roam around anywhere because of the bio-bubble but nobody was interested in going outside and we were all focused on our training," said Kuldeep Yadav.
After training hard in Poland and Estonia the Indian wrestlers have now returned back to India and are now going to train at SAI center in Sonepat, Haryana before leaving for Tokyo on July 26 as the wrestling matches are scheduled to start from August 1. With London Olympics 2012 being India's best medal haul in wrestling by winning two medals taking India's tally to a total of six medals. The Indian grapplers this time are expected to do even better than what they achieved 9 years ago.