New Delhi: India's charge at the women's freestyle events of the ongoing Asian Wrestling Championships got off to a flying start with the hosts bagging four medals — three golds and one silver — of the possible five on Thursday.
Divya Kakran (68kg) set the tone with a brilliant display of attacking wrestling en route her maiden Asian Championships gold before Pinki (55kg) and Sarita Mor (59kg) completed a golden hat-trick. Nirmala Devi (50kg) lost the summit clash to Japan's Miho Igarashi to claim the lone silver.
Nirmala, 32, had defeated Mongolia's Munkhnar Byambasuren 6-4 and Uzbekistan's Dauletbike Yakhshimuratova by technical superiority in the earlier rounds. Igarashi, the 2018 U-23 world champion, took an early 3-0 lead at the end of the first period that saw Nirmala struggling for rhythm.
"I was focussed from the start, but the Japanese opponent was very quick. That is the reason I appeared slow at the beginning as I was trying to come to terms with her speed," Nirmala said later.
Upon resumption, the Indian tried a variety of attacks, but none of her moves materialised into points. Igarashi was clearly the better grappler and thwarted a series of attacks, including a potentially match-turning charge in the final 10 seconds from the three-time Commonwealth Championship gold medallist.
"I tried my best, but my opponent was just too strong. She was very quick and her leg defence was very strong, something that I need to work on," Nirmala said.
In the 55kg category, the presence of only six contenders meant the wrestlers had to fight in a round-robin format. Pinki began her campaign by defeating Uzbekistan's Shokhida Akhmedova by fall, but lost to Japan's Kana Higashikawa. She then defeated Kazakhstan's Marina Zuyeva to set up the summit clash against Mongolia's Dulguun Bolormaa.
In the final, Pinki led 1-0 at the end of the first period, though she was far more aggressive than what that scoreline suggests. The Mongolian, a 2019 bronze medallist, equalised in the second period, but a last-dash two-point move in the final ten seconds put the result beyond doubt for the Indian.
The Mongolian corner won a late challenge, but that did nothing to change the result — a 2-1 scoreline in Pinki's favour meant India had won their second gold of the day.
This was Pinki's first senior Asian medal to go with her twin gold medals at Commonwealth Championships in 2016 and 2017.
"It was a tough bout. I am happy that I won, but I need to work on certain areas in my game," she said.
The 23-year-old from Rohtak's Ritoli village was nursing an elbow niggle that she aggravated in the initial rounds earlier in the day. That discomfort, Pinki said, prevented her from going on all-out attack in the final.
Sarita Mor's win over Mongolia's Battsetseg Altantsetseg in the 59kg final was a lot closer affair.
The 23-year-old, competing in her first Asian event since winning a silver in 2017 in 58kg, led 2-1 at the end of the first period. The Mongolian drew level with just 20 seconds left, but Sarita managed a push-out to clinch gold with a 3-2 scoreline.
"I was not nervous. I was focussed on creating an opportunity. If I had thought that I'd lose, I'd have definitely lost," she said of the final tense moments.
Sarita won her first two bouts by technical superiority against Madina Bakbergenova (Kazakhstan) and Nazira MarsbekKyzy (Kyrgyzstan) before winning 10-3 against Japan's Yuumi Kon to advance to the final.
"It is an Olympic year, so it is important to win as much as possible. I am working on my attack to improve my chances," Sarita said.
Coach Andrew Cook was impressed with the results, and said the women wrestlers have started believing in their abilities.
“The wrestlers have started believing in themselves. After the 2019 World Championships, we changed the training pattern keeping in mind the Asian Championships. We made them train during the day and evening time to set their body clock," he said.
Day 4 of the event will see women competing in 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 65kg, and 72kg events with the likes of Vinesh Phogat, Anshu Malik, and Sonam Malik, and Sakshi Malik in action.
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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2020 09:02:03 IST