Sandeep Singh Mann, the national champion in the 74kg freestyle category, failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games at the Asian Qualifiers in Almaty. His defeat meant an opportunity for Sushil Kumar who is still harbouring hopes to compete one last time at the Games. Other prominent wrestlers to miss the cut in the three-day competition that concluded on Sunday were Satywart Kadiyan (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg).
The wrestlers could attempt again at the World Olympic Qualifiers scheduled to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, from May 6-9. Sushil, who had given the national team trials a miss, could get one last chance to book a ticket for the Games provided he gets picked to represent the country in the last and final tournament before the Olympics starting on July 23. It is easier said and done though as the two-time Olympic champion -- out of form of late and struggling with injuries -- would have to contend with some young guns as well as rival Narsingh Yadav.
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Two wrestlers in the women’s freestyle segment booked their tickets for Tokyo -- Sonam Malik (62kg) and Anshu Malik (57kg). The two were the ones to qualify for the Games in Almaty, taking the country's quota in women's wrestling to three.
Sonam, however, injured herself and has pulled out of the Asian Wrestling Championships to be held in Almaty from April 13 to 18. She injured her knee during her semifinal win in the qualifiers over the weekend. The injury, which seems severe, forced her to withdraw from the final.
In men's freestyle, Bajrang Punia (65kg), Ravi Dahiya (57kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) had qualified for the Tokyo Games after finishing on the podium at the 2019 World Championship in Nur Sultan.
Sandeep began his campaign in Almaty beating Qatar's Abdullrahman Ibrahim in the qualification match. He then beat Tajikistan's Gulomdzhon Sharipov 6-2. However, in the all-important semifinal, Sandeep lost to Iran's Yones Aliakbar Emamichoghaaei by technical superiority.
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In the 97kg division, Kadiyan defeated Korea's Minwon Seo 6-2 and then lost his semifinal by technical superiority to Iran's Mohammadhossein Askari Mohammadian.
Sumit, on the other hand, defeated Makhsud Veysalov 7-0 but lost the semifinal 0-2 to local wrestler Yusup Batirmurzaev.
(With inputs from PTI)
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