Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Indian wrestling had a lot to celebrate Wednesday as Vinesh Phogat secured her Tokyo Olympics qualification and won a bronze, while Pooja Dhanda put herself one win away from her second medal at the World Championships here.
Having endured a medal-less run in three World Championships before, Vinesh Phogat finally ended the drought by pinning wrestler Maria Prevolaraki by fall in the bronze-medal bout.
The 25-year-old Indian lost a point for passivity after Maria, a two-time medallist, suffered a cut on her face in the beginning of the bout. Vinesh made two moves but Maria defended well to keep the narrow lead at the break.
Moments after Maria received treatment on her wound for a second time, Vinesh pulled off a four-point throw and kept her on ground to complete the win by fall.
Vinesh is only the fifth Indian woman wrestler to win a Worlds medal after Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta Phogat (2012), Babita Phogat (2012) and Pooja Dhanda (2018).
Earlier in the day, Vinesh Phogat she had held off World No.1 Sarah Ann Hildebrandt with some superlative defense in her second repechage round to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
Vinesh is now one of India’s most successful wrestlers with gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, already in her cupboard.
Adding to the elation of the Indian camp was a gritty show by Pooja in the 59kg, a non-Olympic category. Pooja reached the semifinals with a remarkable come-from-behind 11-8 win over Japan’s Yuzuka Inagaki before losing the semifinal by technical superiority to Russia’s Liubov Ovcharova, the 2017 European champion.
Pooja can now become the first female wrestler and only second Indian to win two World medals. Only Bajrang Punia has achieved the feat. He won a bronze in 2013 and a silver in 2018.
In her bout for the Olympic qualification, at least five times, Hildebrandt had got hold of Vinesh’s right leg but with her immense upper-body strength, the Indian did not let her rival take advantage and won 8-2.