Asian Wrestling Championship: Sakshi Malik, Pooja Dhanda Stunned in Trials

Olympic bronze medalist women’s wrestler Sakshi Malik and World Championship medalist Pooja Dhandha were left in a state of shock on Saturday after they lost their bouts at the ongoing trials for the Asian Championship in Lucknow. While other celebrated grapplers like Vinesh Phogat and Divya Kakran booked their spot in the Asian Championship by winning their respective bouts.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik was pitted against two-time world cadet champion Sonam Malik, while junior Anshu Malik was tasked to take on World Championship medalist Pooja Dhandha. Sonam and Anshu won their bouts against these heavyweights and while doing, so they confirmed there place in the Indian team for the Asian Championship.

Both Sonam Malik and Anshu had to meet experienced wrestlers in the first round but both gave courageous performances. In the final round, Sonam defeated Radhika 4-1 and made a place in the Indian team in the 62kg category.  Sakshi Malik has failed to perform effectively for a long time. She lost in the first round at the World Championship last year. After this, she could not do anything amazing in the repechage and returned without a medal. After this, the Wrestling Federation questioned her performance, to which she had no answer. On the other hand, Anshu defeated Mansi in the final of the 57 kg trial after defeating Pooja.

No surprising decisions were witnessed in the other weight categories as Vinesh (53 kg) and Divya Kakran won their matches in the 53 kg and 68 kg respectively, easily. Vinesh Phogat is considered to be one of the greatest medal hopes for India in the Olympics. Ever since this woman grappler has suffered an injury at the Rio Olympics, she has impressed everyone after comeback.

After winning the gold medal in the Asian and Commonwealth Games in 2018, she also won the silver medal in the World Championship last year. Nirmala Devi (50 kg) and Kiran Godara (76 kg) were the other wrestlers who won the trials.

The winning wrestlers will compete in the first ranking series in Rome from January 15 to 18, after which they will participate in the Asian Championship in New Delhi from January 18 to 23. If these wrestlers win medals in both these competitions, they will represent India in the Asian Olympic Qualifier to be held in Xian from 27 to 29 March.