Stiff competition for Tokyo 2020 ticket in 74kg category as six Indian wrestlers jostle for one spot

Narsingh Yadav, Sandeep Singh are amongst the six fighting for the spot

By Samrat Chakraborty

India is spoilt for choices in wrestling as far as the 74kg category is concerned with six grapplers fighting for the lone berth available for Tokyo 2020.

The list includes Narsingh Yadav, who was selected for Rio but could not represent India due to a doping controversy, Sandeep Singh, who got the better of Yadav in the nationals in January, and others like Jitender Singh, Amit Dhankar, Vijay Kumar, and Gaurav Baliyan.

The six of them are set to fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan, to take part in the Asian Championships, an Olympic qualifying event, set to be held in April.

If they fail to make that opportunity count, they will have a second bite at the cherry in the World Olympic qualifiers from May 6-9 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Currently, the wrestlers are in the Olympic preparatory camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) training centre in Sonepat, Haryana.

“We expect someone to earn quota place in 74kg, too, in the next qualification event,” said Vinod Tomar, assistant secretary of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), to IANS.

Four wrestlers have already booked their spot for the mega event - Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Bajrang Punia (65kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), and Vinesh Phogat (53kg).

Yadav who is making a comeback in the domestic arena after four years following a doping sanction in 2016, bowed out in the second round in the nationals that were held in Noida recently.

“Generally, there is a big difference between the top and second athlete, but this time all six are closely bunched. It was difficult to predict who would win gold in the nationals," stated Sujit Mann, Olympian and former 74kg national champion, to IANS.

"You have to be strong as well as quick. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible to earn points in big tournaments. A strong bench augurs well for the future. Good sparring partners in the camp will build up an excellent team for the 2022 Asian Games,” he added.

It must be noted that ace wrestler and two-time Olympic medal-winner, Sushil Kumar, had opted out of the nationals citing fitness issues. However, he could be considered for the trials citing past performance, if he chooses to join in.