Tokyo: Their remarkable performances in the build-up to the Tokyo Games creating high hopes of multiple medals at the Olympics, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat will have spotlight on them when India’s seven wrestlers, beginning with Sonam Malik, open their campaigns here from Tuesday.
Wrestling is one sport which promised at least three podium finishes and anything less than that will be a below par show, irrespective of the colour of the medal.
Apart from Bajrang (FS 65kg) and Vinesh (WW 53kg), Ravi Dahiya (FS 57kg) is expected to deliver at the biggest stage in the next few days.
The 19-year-old Sonam will be first to take mat in the 62kg category, pitted against Mongolia’s Asian Championship silver medallist Bolortuya Khurelkhuu.
Both Sonam and Anshu Malik, also 19, carry with themselves an unpredictability factor, being new to the senior circuit. They have the spunk, grit and gumption. Anshu has a complete game and is getting better by the day.
There is no pressure on them to deliver and if even they return without medals, they will be richer in experience.
But when it comes to their senior Vinesh, the Balali girl is going to the Games as top seed and save Mayu Mukaida from Japan, she is a capable of beating all contenders even as the competition will be very tight in her category.
Vinesh has got better on defence and unmatched when it comes to counter-attack skills and it showed in her Asian title winning show this season.
However the Asian championship and other events were without powerhouse Japan and strong China.
The men’s challenge will be led by Bajrang, who too is a much respected wrestler at the global level. In his last 10 international tournaments, he has won six gold medals, three silver and one bronze.
His superior stamina sets him apart but his leg defence will be tested in a very competitive category where at least 5-6 wrestlers are capable of winning gold.
Talk about Ravi and he too is a genuine medal contender but has not attracted much attention.
He possesses immense strength, stamina and is technically sound. Most of the times he has won his bouts on technical superiority.
However, he can’t afford to leave too much work for the second period as it happened at the Poland Open, where he conceded a 0-8 lead in the final and ran out of time to cover it.
Zavur Uguev (RUS) and Suleyman Atli (Turkey) will be threats in his category.
Finally, one wrestler who is going a bit under-prepared in terms of competition time is Deepak Punia (FS 86kg).
The 2019 World Championship silver medallist has not competed since the 2020 World Cup. He has been nursing a left elbow injury and withdrew from the Poland Open, which was the last event in run up to Olympics.
He has got results on the senior circuit but Olympics are a different beast.
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