It’s rare that even when all the host athletes are out of contention for gold or silver, the atmosphere is still electrifying.
This rarity came to the fore on Day Three of the Asian Wrestling Championship at the refurbished Indira Gandhi Stadium on Friday. It wasn’t because the largely Indian crowd was rooting for grapplers of other countries, but because as many as six Indian women had a chance of bagging bronze.
Things didn’t begin too well though, Nirmala Devi and Babita Kumari lost in the 48 and 51kg respectively.
That was when 2006 Doha Asian Games and 2009 Asian Championship bronze-medallist Alka Tomar (59kg) took to the mat against Kazakhstan’s Miruert Dynbayeva. Tomar had earlier lost a closely contested semifinal to the eventual gold-medallist, Liu Fengming of China, and she looked unwilling to take any chances. Both wrestlers took their time, sizing each other up, before attempting to score any points. In the end, Alka came up trumps without difficulty, but she was visibly disappointed.
“I made a tactical mistake against the Chinese girl. I tried to apply a hold, but ended up putting myself in a difficult position. I had worked towards gold and am disappointed. I know I can do better than bronze.”
Her coach Mohinder Singh added that there was a need to toughen up the girls before the Commonwealth Games. “Many girls representing other countries are really tough. Our girls are technically gifted, but we need to work on their strength and toughness. This is what we are going to do between now and the Games,” he said.
Soon after Tomar’s win, there was more reason to cheer for the Indian camp as Suman Kundu (63kg) comfortably bagged the bronze beating Kazakhstan’s Olga Kalinina.
Geetika Jakhar, the 2006 Asain Games silver-medallist was up next against China’s Chen Ying. It proved to be a tough bout for both the wrestlers as they could only earn a point each in the first round. In the deciding round though, Chen scored, and despite Geetika’s attempts to get back, Chen’s defence proved too strong.
Anmol was the final Indian in the fray in the 72kg category, but she went down 12-0 to her Japanese opponent.
All in all, it was a mixed day for the hosts. There was plenty of potential on display, but the dominance of the Chinese women, whose national anthem was easily the most heard tune on the PA system, also showed that there is a lot of work to be done by the Indians.