Wrestler Jitender Kumar on Friday (December 3) earned a chance to shut the door on celebrated Sushil Kumar’s hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic by winning the 74kg trials for the season-opener in Italy and the Asian Championships.
However, to compete at the Tokyo Olympic qualification event, Jitender will have to impress the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with medal-winning performances in Rome and New Delhi.
World Championship stars Deepak Punia (86kg) and Ravi Dahiya (57kg) did not have to break much sweat as they were given direct entries in the final which they won easily. They had earned their Olympic quotas at the World Championship in Nur-Sultan.
Sumit Malik (125kg) and Satyawart Kadian (97kg) also locked their places with smart victories over their opponents in the men’s freestyle trials.
Competing in the most competitive category of the day, Jitender prevailed 5-2 in the final against Amit Dhankar while Sushil pulled out of the trails due to a hand injury.
The WFI had earlier announced that winner of the Friday’s trials will compete at the ranking series event in Italy (January 15-18), Asian Championships in New Delhi (February 18-23) and also the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Xian (March 27-29) but its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said they can hold fresh trials ahead of the Xian event.
“If we find that performance of our wrestlers is not satisfying at the first two events, we can have fresh trials to select wrestlers for the Asian Olympic qualifier. We want to send our best wrestlers, so that India can have maximum number of quotas for the Olympics,” Sharan told PTI.
Sushil had beaten Jitender in a bitterly-fought trial bout for the World Championships in September 2019. The WFI has made it clear that if Jitender does well in the upcoming two events, Sushil won’t be considered.
“If we are happy with performance of our wrestlers in Olympic categories, where we have not got the quota, we will not have trials. As for Sushil, no one will be allowed to go for Olympic qualifiers, without having to compete in trials. He said he is injured, so we have to believe in him,” he added.
Amit Dhankar impressed till the final. His moves from the headlock position and counter-attack was very impressive but the seasoned grappler lacked stamina.
Jitender, who had the habit of conceding early lead, was aggressive from the beginning. His defence too looked much better.
“I have worked on my attacking game in the last few months. Mentally too, I am better after working with Shako Bentinidis (Bajrang Punia’s coach). I have curbed this habit of wiping out the leads later on in the second period,” said Jitender.
His coach Jaiveer said Jitender had a mental block, going against wrestlers, to whom he has lost but has improved on this count.
“We prepared him to be aggressive from the beginning. He was asked to practice short sprint (20m, 10m) for increased speed. He was also asked to make ‘holds’ carefully and strong. The defeat against Sushil in the World trials had hurt us all.
“But he needs to improve more to stand a chance to get Olympic qualification slot. He can do it, we are confident,” the coach added.
In the other bouts, Deepak quelled the challenge of Pawan Saroha 6-2 while Ravi Dahiya ended his final against Rahul in the first period itself with a flurry of rolls.
Satyawart beat Mausam Khatri by technical superiority while Sumit defeated Satender 9-0.
Trials were not held in 65kg with WFI exempting Olympic medal hope Bajrang Punia from trials.
From among the Greco Roman style wrestlers, Gurpreet Singh (77kg) expectedly won, beating Sajan Bhanwal.
Gyanender (60kg), Ashu (67kg), Sunil (87kg), Hardeep (97kg) and Naveen (130kg) also booked their places in the Indian squad.
The women’s trials will be held on Saturday in Lucknow.
(With inputs from agencies)