Indians eye Oly berths

Beijing bronze-medallist Sushil to lead challenge at Astana

A confident 14-member Indian men's wrestling squad will leave on Monday to compete at the Asian qualification event in Astana, Kazakhstan, aiming to book their berths for the London Olympics.

With only three qualification events remaining, the Asian event which kicks off on March 30 offers the best chance for the Indian grapplers to make the cut for the Olympics as the top wrestlers from the region will not be participating, having already qualified for the Games.

The other two Olympic qualifying tournaments are at Taiyuan, China (April 25) and Helsinki, Finland (May 5) and the field there will be stronger.

The Indian wrestlers have been training hard in the recent months, roughing it out during their month-long camp at Colorado Springs, United States in January and then training at SAI's cente at Bahalgarh. 

Seven wrestlers will be participating in the free-style event. Olympic bronze medalllist Sushil Kumar (66kg) is at the top of the list, followed by Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg), Amit Kumar (55kg), Narsingh Yadav (74kg), Pawan Kumar (84kg), Mausam Khatri (96kg) and Joginder Kumar (120).  

In Greco-Roman too, seven Indian wrestlers will participate -- Rajinder Kumar (55kg), Anil Kumar (60kg), Sunil Rana (66kg), Ravinder Khatri (74kg), Manoj Kumar (84kg), Ashok Kumar (96kg) and Rishi Pal (120 kg).

Chief coach Vinod Kumar expressed satisfaction at the way his boys have peaked ahead of the crucial qualification round and said they will be looking to book as many berths possible for the Games.

“We have prepared well. In the US, the boys got a chance to practice with wrestlers from all over the world. We worked on the tactics and stamina. We had experts there and we worked on areas where we were lacking,” Kumar told Deccan Herald.

“I am confident we will be able to win 3-4 places in free-style and a minimum of 1-2 places in Greco-Roman. This is our best chance as the top Asian wrestlers will not be participating and we will be looking to make the most of it.”

Kumar said the recent performance of the team in US has given them confidence.
Sushil won gold in invitational Dave Schultz Memorial International while Amit won a bronze in his weight category. Yogeshwar, who competed in Beijing Olympics, won gold in the Asian Championship in South Korea last month. 

“In the free-style, I am confident that Sushil, Yogeshwar and Amit will win us berths. They are in good form.”

“In Greco Roman, Rajinder Kumar and Anil Kumar have good chances to qualify,” Kumar said.

A four-member women's squad -- Geeta (55kg),  Anita (63kg), Neha Rathi (48 kg) and Gurusharan Preet Kaur (72kg) -- will also compete in the tournament.

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