Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik secured Rio Olympics quota places for India in their respective weight divisions at the second World Olympic Qualifying tournament in Istanbul on Saturday.
Vinesh and Sakshi qualified for the Rio Games by reaching the finals of the women’s 48 kg and 58 kg respectively on the second day of the competition.
The Istanbul event is the last qualifier for Rio and only the top two finishers in each weight category are ensured of an Olympic quota place.
With Saturday’s two quota places, India has now secured six Olympic berths in wrestling, eclipsing the previous highest tally of five at the London Olympics in 2012. Vinesh and Sakshi’s qualification makes it the first time that two female wrestlers from India have qualified for the Olympic Games.
Vinesh made amends for the disappointment of getting disqualified at the previous qualifying event in Mongolia for being 400 gm overweight.
Let off with a warning after she had assured the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) of acquiring an Olympic berth in this tournament, Vinesh fulfilled her promise. She not only succeeded in bringing her weight under control but also came up with an impressive show en route to the final.
It was a cakewalk for Vinesh in the early rounds as she thrashed Nataliya Pulkovska of Ukraine 10-0 in her qualification bout before defeating France’s Julie Martine Sabatie 11-0 in the pre-quarterfinal fight.
The 21-year-old Indian continued her dominating show, beating Yumi Lee of Korea 11-1 in the quarterfinal and Evin Demirhan of Turkey 12-2 in the semifinals to comfortably reach the gold-medal round. She will take on Poland’s Iowna Nina Matkowska in the final.
Sakshi, who replaced Geeta Phogat in the 58 kg division after the veteran wrestler was handed a temporary suspension for forfeiting her bout in the previous qualifying tournament, also justified her inclusion.
Sakshi got the better of Irene Garcia Garrido of Spain 10-0, followed by Zhydachevska Kateryna of Romania 12-2 in the quarterfinals and then beat China’s Lan Zhang in a closely-fought semifinal to make the final and book an Olympic berth.