Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after she won her second repechage round on Wednesday. Pooja Dhanda has also qualified for the semi-finals, which gives her a chance to become country’s only female wrestler to win two World Championships medals.
Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after she took down World no. 1 Sarah Ann Hilderbrandt. Vinesh held off Hildebrandt with some superlative defence in her second repechage round, with the American getting hold of Phigat's right leg at least five times. But with her immense upper-body strength, the Indian did not let her rival take advantage, thereby winning it 8-2.
After being placed in an extremely tough 53kg draw, Vinesh had got off to a flier defeating Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sofia Mattsson of Sweden 13-0. In the second round, champion Mayu Mukaida proved too strong for Vinesh as the Indian went down 0-7. Vinesh qualified for the repechage round after Mayu reached the finals.
In her first repechage round, she had easily dispatched Ukraine’s Yuliia Khavaldzhy Blahinya 5-0. Competing in her fourth Worlds, she is one win away from her maiden medal and standing in her way is Greek wrestler, Maria Prevolaraki, who faced defeat against Mayu in the semi-finals.
“I am happy and relieved that I am going to Tokyo but it’s not over yet. I have a medal bout and I don’t want to miss that,” Vinesh said to the PTI as she walked into the training area.
Pooja Dhanda added to the elation of the Indian camp by reaching the semifinals in 59kg, which is a non-Olympic category. Pooja, who won a bronze at the 2018 Worlds in Budapest, turned it around remarkably against Japan’s Yuzuka Inagaki after trailing 0-5 to make it 11-8 with her sheer determination to get the win.