Big test for Vinesh Phogat at Asian Wrestling Championships

Vinesh has moved up to a higher category from her pet 48-50 kg, after rejig of weight classes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
File image of Vinesh Phogat.(PTI)
File image of Vinesh Phogat.(PTI)
Updated on Apr 23, 2019 01:07 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By

Vinesh Phogat will face her first big test in a new weight category (53kg) at the Asian Wrestling Championships, starting in Xian, China, from Tuesday.

Vinesh has moved up to a higher category from her pet 48-50 kg, after rejig of weight classes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She competed in 53kg at the UWW Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov tourney in Bulgaria last month and won a silver medal. However, the continental championships will provide Vinesh quality competition and an opportunity to assess herself in her new weight class, considering that she will be looking to qualify for the Olympics in 53kg.

Besides Vinesh, Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, who will go back to 62kg category, Navjot Kaur (65kg), Asian Games bronze medallist Divya Kakran (68kg) will be India’s biggest hopes.

In 2018, women wrestlers bagged an impressive haul of one gold, one silver and two bronze medals from the Asian meet. The biggest of all was Navjot Kaur, who became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal in the senior continental championships. Vinesh took home a silver in the 50kg category, whereas Sakshi (62kg) and Sangeeta Phogat (59 kg) won a bronze medal each.

India’s foreign coach Andrew Cook is upbeat about the team’s chances. “The Indian girls know what it takes to win. They have been consistently performing and are always open to learn and evolve,” said Cook.

Cook, who started his journey with India under-23 team in Mongolia in February, took the senior Indian team to Los Angeles for the 5th annual Beat the Streets Los Angeles Benefit and International Competition last month. India lost 2-8 to hosts USA. It was followed by a 10-day camp at the in Colorado Springs, and Cook’s area of main focus was leg-attacks. “Sometimes, the Indians give up on leg attacks and allow opponents to take advantage. Hopefully, they will be show improvement at the Asian Championship,” he said.

Cook said he has fine-tuned the techniques to make the girls stronger and more effective. “I am more of a technician in sport. I want all my 10 girls to win medals this time and break previous records at the Asian Championship. This is the best opportunity for them as they have to face he same rivals in 2020 Tokyo Games qualifying,” Cook said.

“Indian wrestlers have a good, solid understanding. Our top six wrestlers are good enough to make a podium finish at the Olympics,” he said.

SQUAD: Women’s: Seema (50kg), Vinesh (53kg), Lalita Sehrawat (55kg), Pooja Dhanda (57kg), Manju (59kg), Sakshi Malik (62kg), Navjot Kaur (65kg), Divya Kakran (68kg), Kiran (72kg) and Pooja (76kg).


    Sharad Deep is a principal correspondent based at Lucknow. He has spent 26 years in journalism and covers sports.

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