Vinesh Phogat becomes world No. 1 after Roman conquest

Vinesh Phogat, who won the Matteo Pellicone event in back-to-back years, didn’t drop a single point on her way to the gold medal this year in Rome.

3 min By Ubaid Parkar

India’s star wrestler Vinesh Phogat won the gold medal in the 53kg category and defended her title at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event in Rome on Saturday.

This was Vinesh’s second straight gold in as many weeks after her triumph at the Ukraine Memorial meet and India’s second in Rome in the women’s division after Sarita Mor’s (57kg) silver on Friday.

The latest result allowed 26-year-old Vinesh to climb to the No. 1 rank in her category, according to the latest United World Wrestling rankings. She had entered the meet in the world No. 3 position.

The Tokyo-bound Vinesh Phogat’s campaign started with pinning reigning 53kg national champion Nandini Bajirao Salokhe in the opening round.

Her next two matches were a walkover. Kazakh Tatyana Akhmetova Amanzhol and Ecuador’s Luisa Valverde, last year’s finalist, forfeited their matches due to injuries. In the semi-final, Vinesh Phogat pinned down Samantha Stewart of Canada.

In the final, Vinesh Phogat defeated Canadian Diana Weicker, a Commonwealth Games champion and a World Championships bronze medallist, 4-0 to clinch the crown. Diana Weicker is now the new world No. 2.

En route, the Indian wrestler didn’t drop a single point.

Nandini Salokhe, meanwhile, also benefited from the walkovers but stumbled at the end. The 23-year-old, who was making her international debut, lost in the semi-final to Diana Weicker by technical superiority. Nandini was then pinned by Samantha Stewart in the bronze medal match.

India went unrepresented in the 62kg after Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik withdrew at the last moment. The reason has not been revealed. Her 62kg rival Sonam Malik had pulled out earlier after an injury she had suffered during training.

In the 50kg, Meenakshi started her campaign with a loss by technical superiority at the hands of the reigning European champion Miglena Selishka of Bulgaria in the opening round.

Meenakshi then defeated Brazil’s Kamila Barbosa Vito da Silva 4-3 in the second round. But her run ended after she was beaten by Rio 2016 Olympian and two-time world championship silver medallist Emilia Alina Vuc of Romania in her last round by technical superiority.

In the men’s freestyle, Satyawart Kadian (97kg), a Commonwealth Games silver medallist, went down 8-1 to Turkey’s Ibrahim Ciftci in the quarter-finals.

In the 125kg, Sumit lost to American Anthony Robert Nelson in the first round, then went down to Canadian Amarveer Dhesi by technical superiority in the next. Sumit managed to beat Kazakh Oleg Boltin 3-1 in the third round but was outdone by Yusup Batirmurzaev of Kazakhstan by technical superiority in his final round.

Earlier this week at Matteo Pellicone, Indian wrestlers had bagged five medals -- four in Greco-Roman and one in the women’s discipline.

The Rome wrestling event concludes on Sunday with the men’s freestyle rounds.

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