Focus on Deepak, Aman as India’s wrestlers fight for last shot at Paris Olympic quota

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India’s wrestlers will have their final chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics when the World Olympic Games Qualifiers begin in Istanbul, Turkey on May 9.

The focus will firmly be on the Indian men’s freestyle contingent, none of whom have made the cut for the Paris Olympics yet. The likes of Worlds silver medallist Deepak Punia [86kg] and former world U-23 champ Aman Sehrawat [57kg] will hope to make this chance count, while Mansi Ahlawat and Nisha Dahiya will look to make it 6/6 quotas for the Indian women’s contingent.

So far, four of India’s women wrestlers have Olympic quotas – Vinesh Phogat [50kg], Antim Panghal [53kg], Anshu Malik [57kg] and Reetika Hooda [76kg].

With everything on the line for India’s wrestlers, here’s all you need to know about the World Olympic Games Qualifiers.

What do India’s wrestlers have to do to win an Olympic quota?

India’s wrestlers have their task cut out: they need to reach the semifinals at the very least to remain in contention for an Olympic quota.

At the World Olympic Games Qualifiers, three wrestlers in each Olympic weight category will be awarded quotas – the two finalists and the winner of a playoff bout between the losers of the two semifinal bouts.

Who are the big names going?

Deepak Punia is the biggest name among the Indians, having competed at the Tokyo Olympics and won a silver medal at the World Championships. Along with him is former World U23 champion Aman, who has displaced Olympic silver medallist Ravi Dahiya to compete at the Qualifiers. There will also be added interest in Sujeet’s [65kg] performance because if he wins a quota, it means Bajrang Punia’s chances of making it to the Olympics could be alive as well.

Didn’t Deepak compete at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers too?

He actually did not. Deepak and Sujeet were training in Dagestan, Russia before the Asian Qualifiers and were on their way to Kyrgyzstan via Dubai when they were stuck in the Arab nation owing to torrential rainfall. The duo camped at the Dubai airport for nearly two days before making it to Bishkek on the morning of the competition, but their entries were not accepted since they had not made it in time for the weigh-in ceremony.

Does winning a quota guarantee a ticket to Paris?

In wrestling, a quota won by an athlete does not belong to the wrestler but to the nation. So the quota won by Antim or Vinesh does not belong to them but belongs to India. Similarly, if Aman or Deepak were to bag a quota, they are not assured a trip to the Paris Olympics and might have to undergo a final selection trial, at the discretion of the Wrestling Federation of India.

What does the level of competition look like?

Considering the stakes are so high here, you can expect some top-quality bouts. For starters, the 57kg division will feature Aman, former U17 and U20 World champion Spencer Lee and Worlds silver medalist Alireza Sarlak. The three are most likely to clinch the quotas on offer.

Similarly, Deepak is also up against a stacked field. Two-time European champion Dauren Kurugliev, double Asian Championships bronze-winner Magomed Sharipov and Osman Gocen, who has two European championship bronzes, are some of the wrestlers who will also be vying for those three available quotas.

What is India’s full squad for the World Olympic Games Wrestling Qualifiers?

Men’s freestyle: Aman Sehrawat (57kg), Sujeet (65kg), Jaideep (74kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Deepak (97kg) and Sumit (125kg).

Women’s freestyle: Mansi Ahlawat (62kg) and Nisha Dahiya (68kg).

Greco-Roman: Sumit (60kg), Ashu (67kg), Vikas (77kg), Sunil (87kg), Nitesh (97kg) and Naveen (130kg).

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