Vinesh Phogat started the calendar year on a golden note,as she got the better of Ecuador's Luisa Elizabeth Valverde Melendres in a matter of minutes in the final of the 53kg category at the Matteo Pellicone Memorial in Rome.
The other major result of the day came at the hands of Gurpreet Singh, who made history by becoming the first Indian to win a Ranking Series level gold in the Greco-Roman category.
Aggressive Vinesh Phogat remains indomitable
Vinesh Phogat was the clear favourite to win the season’s first Ranking Series event in Rome and the summit clash remained a lopsided affair against Luisa Elizabeth Valverde Melendres, who was unable to make an impact throughout the match.
The 4-0 win in the final means India has won two gold medals in the ongoing championships so far, taking their medal tally to five with two gold, two silver and a bronze in Rome.
The ace wrestler started in dominating fashion with none of her opponents standing a chance on the mat. She started her campaign with a bout against Ukraine’s Khrystyna Bereza, who was befuddled by Vinesh Phogat’s spectacular double leg attacks and lost 0-12.
Vinesh Phogat displayed her ruthlessness in the quarter-finals as well, where she faced Lannuan Luo of China.
The bout was expected to be tricky for Vinesh Phogat and the early minutes saw the Indian trailing 2-5 before she turned the tables to throw Luo twice and eventually win 15-5.
The 25-year-old Vinesh Phogat was up against yet another Chinese challenge in Qianyu Pang at the semi-final where she took down her opponent twice in each period to earn a 4-0 lead before Pang tried to salvage some late points but only to lose 2-4.
Gurpreet Singh shifts weight to win gold
India’s underwhelming run at the Greco-Roman is well-documented and Gurpreet Singh, who shifted from the 77-kg to the 82-kg category, wasn’t the favourite at the event.
However, after he reached the final of the new category with a dominant 5-0 win over USA’s John Walter Stefanowicz, India’s first-ever gold seemed within grasp.
In the final, Gurpreet Singh had a tough task against Turkey’s Burhan Akbudak and he emerged victorious 8-5, his easy wins in the previous bouts fuelling his confidence.
Nirmala Devi misses out on bronze
Nirmala Devi was at her aggressive best on Friday as she breezed past her opponents. The 35-year-old wrestler from Haryana advanced into the quarter-final after her opponent Valentina Islamova of Kazakhstan got injured during the bout before Nirmala Devi defeated Russia’s Veronika Gurskaya 9-6 to seal a semi-final berth.
The veteran couldn’t carry her momentum against USA’s Sarah Ann Hildebrandt, who defeated her 8-2 in the last-four bout and thereby limiting her progress to a bronze medal.
Nirmala Devi, however, failed to secure a bronze after she was beaten 1-4 by another American wrestler Victoria Lacey Anthony.
Nirmala Devi will next try her luck next at the Asian Championships, which is scheduled to be held in New Delhi next month.
In the men’s bouts, India saw two exits in Satyawart Kadian and Sumit Malik, both losing in the quarter-finals of the tournament. While Satyawart Kadian lost to Murazi Mchedlidze of Ukraine in the 97kg category, Sumit Malik went down 0-5 to Amarveer Dhesi of Canada in the 125kg category.