Sonam overpowers Sakshi Malik again, clinches Asian Olympic wrestling qualifiers berth

This was the 18-year-old Sonam’s fourth win over the Rio 2016 bronze medallist in as many matches in the 62kg .

By Utathya Nag
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Indian women wrestlers Sonam Malik, Anshu Malik, Seema, Nisha Dahiya and Pooja Sihag secured their spots for the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Monday.

The five grapplers confirmed their spots by winning their respective weight categories at the selection trials held at SAI Training Centre, Lucknow. The qualifiers, to be held from April 9 to 11, will provide Indian wrestlers with an opportunity to secure a place for the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Additionally, the five will also feature for India in the 2021 Asian Wrestling Championships, which will also be held in Kazakhstan from April 12 to 18.

All eyes were on the 62kg event at the selection trials with national champion Sonam Malik and Rio 2016 bronze medallist Sakshi Malik in the fray. Commonwealth Games gold medallist Geeta Phogat, who was also preparing to compete in the same division, skipped the trials.

Sonam Malik, who had to pull out of the Matteo Pellicone Memorial meet in Rome due to a head injury that needed four stitches earlier this month, beat Sakshi Malik 8-7 in a thrilling final to confirm her spot.

This was the 18-year-old Sonam’s fourth win over veteran Sakshi Malik in as many meetings. The youngster beat Sakshi at the Asian championships selection trial last year and most recently, got the better of her senior colleague at the finals of the nationals.

Another promising youngster Anshu Malik impressed to win the 57kg category while Nisha Dahiya upset Asian champion Divya Kakran to progress from the 68kg category. Seema won in the 50kg while Pooja Sihag triumphed in the 76kg.

Spots were up for grabs in all but the 53kg category during the women’s selection trials. Vinesh Phogat has already qualified for Tokyo in the 53kg women’s division.

India have already secured three men’s quota places for the Tokyo Games. Bajrang Punia (freestyle 65kg), Ravi Kumar Dahiya (freestyle 57kg) and Deepak Punia (freestyle 86kg) are certain to travel to Japan.

Nine wrestlers – both freestyle and Greco Roman - were chosen for the Asian qualifiers during the men’s selection trials held earlier this month.

The selection trials in the remaining four weight categories for Asian Championships 2021 will be held on March 27. The Asian Championships have more weight class events compared to Olympic wrestling.