This is the first of three opportunities for Indian wrestlers to book berths for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After the disappointment of the 2016 Rio Olympics where wrestling came back with only one bronze, the World Championships—starting on Saturday in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan—will be a chance to set up India’s challenge. This is the first of three opportunities for Indian wrestlers to book berths for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ravi Dahiya (57kg)
He won silver in the U-23 World Championships last year. At the selection trials, Dahiya came through the most competitive field that included the experienced Sandeep Tomar, who represented India at the Rio Olympics, Utkarsh Kale and Worlds junior silver medallist Naveen Sihag. This is Dahiya’s senior meet debut.
Bajrang Punia (65kg)
The world No. 1 and top seed here, Punia is not only expected to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but also favourite to win gold. He needs to erase memories of the defeat to defending champion Japanese Takuto Otoguro in a thrilling fast-paced final (16-9) last time. Punia finished with silver in Budapest, his second medal at the worlds. Last year he won gold at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and rose to become world No. 1. He has worked on his leg defence, an area that was repeatedly attacked by Otoguro. This year Punia has been on a roll too, winning gold medals at Dan Kolov, Asian Championship, Ali Aliev and Yasar Dogu meets.
Sushil Kumar (74kg)
The double Olympic medallist would be looking to qualify for his fourth Olympics at 36. Sushil exited in the first round at the Asian Games. He has been training in Georgia and Dagestan, Russia, with a personal entourage that includes new coach Malikov Kamal. He has played only one tournament before the world championships, besides the selection trials at home where he faced a stiff opposition from Jitender Kumar.
Deepak Punia (86kg)
He recently won gold at the Junior World Championships in Talinn, Estonia, becoming the first Indian junior world champion in 18 years. He won the Cadet world championship in 2016 and a silver at the junior worlds in 2018. He also won a bronze at the Asian Championships this year. Seeded fourth, Deepak had injured his left leg while training just before the world championships. Though he has recovered, he needs to prove he can give it everything.
Mausam Khatri (97kg)
The 29-year-old has been holding on to the weight class unchallenged for a long time now. He returned after a two-year doping ban in 2014. Khatri had an inspiring start to his career, making his international debut at the 2006 Asian Cadets Championship, where he won a silver. Last year he won silver at the Commonwealth Games. In the national championships and the selection trials he defeated Satyawart Kadian.
Sumit Malik (125kg)
If he is able to put up a performance like the previous edition in Budapest, where he lost the bronze medal bout to world No. 3 Nick Gwiazdowski of USA but finished in top six, Sumit should be able to book an Olympics quota. Ranked 7th, he has won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the Asian Championships last year. In 2017, Sumit won silver at both the Asian Championships and the Commonwealth Championship.
Seema Bisla (50kg)
The 26-year-old is suddenly being talked up as the one to watch out for after winning her first gold in 50kg at the Yasar Dogu ranking series in July and a silver at the Grand Prix of Spain. It has propelled her to No.3 in the world rankings. She is seeded number two in the tournament, the only Indian women to get a seeding.
Vinesh Phogat (53kg)
She will be favourite to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and also win her maiden medal at the World Championships. She had to pull out of the previous edition with an elbow injury. However, it will not be a cakewalk as Vinesh is competing in higher 53kg category. She has won three gold medals in the 53kg this season—Yasar Dogu, Grand Prix of Spain and Poland Open.
Sarita Mor (57kg)
She surprised at the selection trials, beating the fancied Pooja Dhanda, the current world No. 6 who had won bronze at the previous World Championships. Sarita has competed in three World Championships before but has not made any impact.
The wrestler from Hisar, Haryana defeated Gursharanpreet Kaur 6-4 in the selection trials to seal her place in the team. Having come out of a career-threatenening knee injury, she won Commonwealth Championships gold in 2017 and a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Divya Kakran (68kg)
The 21-year old from Delhi is one of the rising stars, having won back to back Asian Games bronze medals. She continued her good run at the continental level by winning bronze at the 2019 Asian Championship in China. Her consistent performance has given rise to hopes of a good result in this category.
Sakshi Malik (62kg)
The 27-year old from Rohtak is expected to stay focused on earning a place among the top six to win Olympic quota in her first attempt at the World Championships. With personal coach Fanel Carp on her side, the Rio Olympic bronze medallist hasn’t shown the form she enjoyed in 2016, and missed bronze medal at the Jakarta Asian Games. She however won bronze at the Asian Championship in April through repechage where she defeated North Korean Hyon Gyong Mun 9-6.
Among the six Indians in Greco Roman, Gurpreet Singh (77kg) and Sunil Kumar (87kg), who won silver at the Asian Wrestling Championships in Xi’an, China, will be the ones to watch out for. Others are Manish Kundu (70kg), Manish (67kg), Ravi (97kg) and Naveen (130kg)