Astana, Kazakhstan: Star grappler Yogeshwar Dutt would seek to grab an Olympic quota place in his first opportunity when he spearheads a 17-member Indian campaign at the Asian Olympic Qualification wrestling championship, starting in Astana on Friday.
It will be a tough three-day competition from 18-20 March , considering that only the top two finishers in each weight category here will secure an Olympic berth for a country.
This is the second qualifying event for the Rio Games.
The first was held last year at the World Championship in Las Vegas, where just one Indian in Narsingh Yadav bagged a quota place for the country in Men's 74kg freestyle.
With India's entry at Rio de Janeiro ensured in 74kg category, no one will be competing in this category. Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar also fights in the same weight division as Narsingh.
Thus, the squad consists of five grapplers in men's freestyle, six in Greco-Roman and six in female wrestling.
London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar, who pulled out of the 2015 World Championship due to an injury, has the best chance of grabbing an Olympic berth for India as well as a medal.
Yogeshwar had won bronze at the last Olympics in Men's 60kg Freestyle but since then moved up to 65kg after the international governing body FILA re-jigged the weight classes at the end of 2013.
However, the 33-year-old grappler faced little trouble while competing in the higher bracket as he has so far managed to win nothing less than a gold medal at whichever tournament he has participated in since climbing up the weight division.
While Yogeshwar remains India's best bet here, men's freestyle team also comprises the likes of Rahul Aware (57kg) and Satyawart Kadiyan (97kg), both of whom according to chief national Freestyle coach Jagminder Singh have good chance of earning Olympic berths too.
"Not just Yogeshwar, other wrestlers also have a good chance. I have high hopes from Rahul Aware and Satyawart," Jagminder told PTI.
"We are hoping to bag at least 2-3 quota places during this competition. We are well prepared and are pretty confident of doing well," he added.
Updated Date: Mar 17, 2016 17:21 PM