Here’s an interesting fact:
India’s first individual medal at the Olympics came in wrestling, with KD Jadhav winning bronze at Helsinki in 1952.
This time Seven Indian wrestlers have qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with six grapplers set to make their maiden appearance at the Games, and all of them will compete in the freestyle category.
Here’s a look at the Indian wrestling contingent for the Tokyo Games that are under the spotlight for Team India.
Let’s understand how they qualified and the weight categories they will represent;
*Ravi Kumar Dahiya – men’s 57kg freestyle*
Ravi Kumar Dahiya is a two-time Asian champion who qualified for the Olympics at the 2019 world wrestling championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. He made the squad for the worlds after beating favourite Rahul Aware in the trials earlier in the year.
At the world meet, Ravi Kumar Dahiya cruised to the quarter-finals, where he beat former world champion Yuki Takahashi of Japan 6-1 to seal a quota for Tokyo.
Ravi will represent India in the men’s 57kg freestyle category.
*Bajrang Punia – men’s 65kg freestyle*
Bajrang Punia is a man of many firsts. He is the first Indian wrestler to be ranked world No. 1 in any category, the first Indian to win two world championship medals, and the first Indian to play in the renowned German League.
Bajrang Punia was also awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award – India’s highest sporting honour – in 2019.
Like Ravi Kumar Dahiya, the 27-year-old Bajrang Punia too booked his place for the Tokyo Olympics at the 2019 world championships.
*Vinesh Phogat – women’s 53kg*
Regarded as one of the finest wrestlers to emerge from India in recent years, Vinesh Phogat also has a strong wrestling heritage behind her on the mat.
After her Olympic debut at Rio 2016 ended in heartbreak, Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat is strongly heading into Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Vinesh Phogat sealed her place at the Tokyo Games in the 53kg category with a bronze medal at the 2019 world championships.
The Olympic year has seen Vinesh win four straight gold medals at international meets with the latest coming at the Poland Open Ranking Series event in June.
*Deepak Punia – men’s 86kg freestyle*
The former world junior champion, Deepak Punia too booked his slot for the Tokyo Olympics at the 2019 world championships in Nur-Sultan. He was bestowed with the ‘Junior Freestyler of the Year’ award by the United World Wrestling Organisation in 2019.
Punia will compete in the 85kg freestyle category at Tokyo Games.
*Seema Bisla – women’s 50kg*
Seema Bisla was the fourth Indian woman wrestler, eighth overall, to qualify for the Tokyo Games early this year.. after booking a place in the final of the 50kg World Olympic Qualifier in Bulgaria in May.
One of the most experienced campaigners, Seema is a bronze medalist at the Asian Wrestling Championships — will be setting ultimate glory at the Tokyo Games.
*Anshu Malik – Women’s 57kg*
19-year-old Anshu Malik, made her senior debut at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series in Rome last year and won a silver medal. She then won a bronze at the Asian championships in New Delhi and a silver at the Individual World Cup in Belgrade.
And thus in April 2021, she became the fifth Indian wrestler and second woman to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics following her qualification for the finale of the Asian Wrestling Qualifiers. She will be seen competing in the 57kg weight division.
*Sonam Malik – women’s 62kg*
Another 19-year-old sensation, Sonam will have nothing to lose and everything to gain as one of the medal prospects for Team India in wrestling. Coming from a small village Madina, Sonam will compete in the 62kg category.
Sonam Malik booked her spot in Tokyo 2020 after replacing the Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik with a silver meal at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Almaty in April.
A sporting discipline that’s always delivered for India in recent history, wrestling has always been a highly-anticipated event at the Olympic Games. All eyes will be trained on India’s Wrestling contingent, with hopes of excellent performances.
Cheer for India!