Young Indian wrestler Sonam Malik's Olympic debut ended with a first-round defeat on criteria against Mongolia's Bolortuya Khurelkhuu in the 62kg category after the former had adopted a defensive approach here on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old led the bout 2-0 but the reigning Asian silver medallist Khurelkhuu effected a take-down move with just 35 seconds left in the contest to level the score. The score remained 2-2 till the end but since it was the Mongolian who scored the last point with her move, she was declared the winner on criteria.
The Mongolian was later outplayed by Bulgaria's Tayeb Mustafa Yusein, the second seed and 2018 world champion, the result spelling the ouster of the Indian wrestler. Yusein finished her quarterfinal against Khurelkhuu in a jiffy, winning by technical superiority.
"Sonam was definitely a better wrestler than the Mongolian but she made a mistake by being over defensive. That was a mistake. Nevertheless, she has got big-stage experience," Sonam's coach Ajmer Malik told PTI.
There was hardly any action for a major part of the bout. No move was made till one and a half minutes with the two wrestlers only trying to get a measure of each other from standing position. The Mongolian was put on the activity clock but Sonam scored a push-out point to take a 1-0 lead and kept that till the end of the first three-minute period. Another push-out took her 2-0 in front.
Sonam did not let the Mongolian make any move for a major part but Khurelkhuu managed to get hold of the Indian's leg and got the decisive take-down.
Sonam, a two-time Cadet World Champion (2017, 2019), had qualified for the Tokyo Games by making the final at the Asian Qualifier in April in Almaty. Khurelkhuu being an experienced contender knew when to get the decisive move.
On Wednesday, Ravi Dahiya (FS 57kg), Deepak Punia (FS 86kg) and Anshu Malik (WW 57kg) will begin their respective campaigns.