Sushil Kumar fails to make Indian team for final Tokyo Olympics qualifiers

Amit Dhankar will be sent to the World Olympic Qualifying tournament in Sofia to compete in the 74kg freestyle category. He replaces Sandeep Singh Mann.

By Utathya Nag

Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar’s chances of making it to Tokyo 2020 seem all but over after Amit Dhankar was named in the Indian team in the 74kg category for the upcoming World Olympic Qualifying tournament in Bulgaria.

The tournament, which will be held in Sofia from May 6 to 9, will be the final qualifier for the Tokyo Games in July.

Amit Dhankar has replaced Sandeep Singh Mann, who won the national selection trials to clinch the 74kg freestyle slot in the Indian team for the Asian wrestling Olympic qualifiers held in Almaty, Kazakhstan earlier this month.

However, the reigning national champion failed to win a Tokyo quota after losing 11-0 in the semi-finals at the Asian qualifiers. Later at the Asian championships, Mann's campaign ended in the quarters.

It wasn’t a “satisfactory performance” according to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and thus decided to field Amit Dhankar, who had secured second place in the selection trials in March, in place of Sandeep Singh Mann.

Satyavrat Kadian (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg) were, however, retained from the Almaty freestyle contingent.

The men’s 74kg is one of the most competitive categories in India. Sandeep Mann’s exclusion briefly opened the window for some big names like former world championships bronze medallist Narsingh Yadav, Asian silver medallist Jitender Kumar and most notably Sushil Kumar.

A bronze-medallist at Beijing 2008 and a silver-medallist at London 2012, Sushil Kumar is India’s only two-time individual Olympic medallist.

But the announcement of Amit Dhankar, a former Asian champion, effectively shut the door for the 37-year-old Sushil Kumar and the others.

There were changes in the Greco Roman squad as well, with Sachin Rana (60kg) and Deepanshu (97kg) replacing Gyanendra and Ravi, respectively.

With Anshu Malik and Sonam Malik clinching Tokyo spots at the Asian qualifiers, the three remaining women wrestlers from the Asian qualifiers team will be in the contingent to Sofia.

So far, India has secured six wrestling spots for Tokyo. Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg) Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) have qualified in men’s freestyle categories while Vinesh Phogat (53kg), Anshu Malik (57kg) and Sonam Malik (62kg) have booked their spots in women’s events.

Indian wrestling squad for World Olympic Qualifiers

Men’s Freestyle: Amit Dhankar (74kg), Satyawart Kadian (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg)

Greco-Roman: Sachin Rana (60kg), Aashu (67kg), Gurpreet Singh (77kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Deepanshu (97kg) and Naveen (130kg).

Women: Seema Bisla (50kg), Nisha Dahiya (68kg), Pooja Sihag (76kg)