India wrestling coach Kuldeep Malik insisted that it is not going to be a cakewalk for the big guns in the women’s team when they compete in the trials for the upcoming World Championships. The younger crop of wrestlers will go up against the likes of Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat.
The men’s trials in New Delhi lacked competition, as Bajrang Punia and Deepak Punia were faced with just one opponent each in their respective categories. The only real matchup came in the 57kg category where Ravi Dahiya emerged winner, ahead of Sandeep Tomar and Utkarsh Kale.
However, Malik reckons this will not be the case in the girls' competitions. Along with foreign coach Andrew Cook, Malik oversees the national camp where the girls have trained. He insists that they are ready to give a tough fight to the high-profile names.
“It’s going to be tough for everyone. The girls have trained well. They are motivated to do well. There are going to be tough bouts on Sunday,” Malik was quoted as saying PTI.
While it remains to be seen how the young wrestlers will fare against the likes of Vinesh Phogat — the Commonwealth and Asian Games champion — Malik remains confident.
“Pinki is in good shape. She is expected to do well in 53kg, despite the presence of Vinesh,” he said.
Phogat has switched to 53kg from 50kg and already has gold medals at Grand Prix of Spain and Yasar Dogu International. Given her consistency and the level at which she performs, it is hard to see how her compatriots will rise to offer a challenge against her.
On the other hand, in the 62kg category, Malik reckons Deepika Jakhar could spring a surprise against Sakshi Malik. Malik, who has failed to repeat her Rio Olympics bronze medal heroics ever since, may be faced with a stiff task.
“Deepika Jakhar could be a threat for Sakshi in the 62kg,” Malik said.
In the 59 kg category, young Sarita Mor, Manju and junior wrestler Anshu will try to prove their mettle against World Championship bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda.
“Sarita Mor, Manju and junior wrestler Anshu are all in 59kg. It will be interesting fight in this category. Pooja is in good form but all these wrestlers are also working very hard to prove their mettle,” said Kuldeep Malik.
Similar to the men, the trials for women will also be held only for six Olympic weight categories – 50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg and 76kg. The World Championships, slated to be held in Kazakhstan from September 14-22, is the first qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Games.