Rio 2016: Indian wrestlers seek fresh start in Istanbul qualifiers for Olympic quotas

Istanbul: Amid the recent controversies including the banning of some big names, Indian wrestlers will seek a fresh start when they take to the mat at the second World Qualifying tournament, starting in Istanbul on Friday, with an aim to secure as many Olympic quotas in their last attempt.

The 14-member India team, sans the likes of famous Phogat sisters — Geeta and Babita Kumari, will be keen to secure Olympic berths for the country during the three-day event from 6 to 8 May. It will be a tough competition, considering that only the top two finishers in each weight category will ensure a quota place at the Rio Games.

Representational image. Getty

Representational image. Getty

Last week, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) issued show cause notices to four wrestlers — Geeta (women's 58 kg), Babita (women's 53 kg), Sumit (men's 125 kg freestyle) and Rahul Aware (men's 57 kg freestyle) — before handing them temporary suspension for showing indiscipline, bringing their dream of qualifying for Rio Olympics to an abrupt end.

At the previous qualifying event, the 1st World Qualification tournament held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia last month, Babita had forfeited her repechage bout in women's 53 kg, while Geeta had pulled out of her 58 kg repechage round, citing injury.

Sumit, who had a chance to book an Olympic berth had he won his repechage round followed by two more bouts, also did not turn up for his repechage bout in the 125 kg freestyle, stating injury.

While Aware, who was also shortlisted by WFI to train in Tbilisi along with his colleagues, had earlier refused to board the flight to Georgia, returning home from the airport. To add to all this, Vinesh Phogat (women's 48 kg) was disqualified from the event for being 400 gm overweight.

However, Vinesh was let off with a warning and now all eyes would be on her, as she is not only India's best bet in women's category but also because she has assured WFI of ensuring an Olympic berth at the competition in Istanbul.

No Indian woman wrestler has so far won a quota place and with Geeta and Babita out now, the onus will be on Vinesh. With WFI deciding to come down heavily on the offenders and world body also having debarred them from this tournament, the last Olympic qualifying event will not have some of the best Indian wrestlers.

Lalita has replaced Babita and Sakshi Malik comes in place of Geeta. Others in the fray are Shilpi Sheron (63kg), Geetika Jhakar (69kg) and Kiran (75kg). The three have come in for Anita, Navjot Kaur and Jyoti.

But the chances look bleak as both Sakshi and Kiran had failed to qualify during the Asian Olympic Qualification wrestling championship at Astana in March.

The men's freestyle category will be spearheaded by experienced Mausam Khatri (97 kg) as Satywart Kadian failed to bag a quota in this category at the last tournament. Gopal Yadav (86 kg) and Hitender (125 kg) will be the others fighting in Istanbul, replacing Somveer and Sumit.

Greco-Roman, which is not India's forte, saw Hardeep create history at the Asian Olympic Qualification event by becoming the first Indian Greco-Roman wrestler to secure an Olympic berth after 2004 Athens Games, when Khatri had made the cut.

The other Greco-Roman grapplers, who failed to bag a berth at the last championship, would like to take inspiration from Hardeep and look to put their best foot forward. So far four Indians -- three in men's freestyle division and one in Greco-Roman category -- have qualified for the quadrennial extravaganza, to be held in August.

The first qualifying event was held last year at the World Championship in Las Vegas where only one Indian, Narsingh Yadav, bagged a quota place in men's 74kg freestyle. While at the second event — Asian Olympic Qualification wrestling championship — Yogeshwar Dutt (men's 65kg freestyle), London Games bronze medallist, and Hardeep (Greco-Roman 98kg) did the job in their respective categories.

At the World Qualifying tournament, the lone Indian in Sandeep Tomar (men's 57kg freestyle) ensured a place at Rio.

Squad:

Men's Freestyle: Gopal Yadav (86kg), Mausam Khatri (97kg), Hitender (125kg).

Female Wrestling: Vinesh (48kg), Lalita (53kg), Sakshi Malik (58kg), Shilpi Sheron (63kg), Geetika Jhakar (69kg), Kiran (75kg).

Greco-Roman: Ravinder Singh (59kg), Suresh Yadav (66kg), Gurpreet Singh (75kg), Ravinder Khatri (85kg), Naveen (130kg).


Published Date: May 05, 2016 08:47 pm | Updated Date: May 05, 2016 08:47 pm


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