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Posted at: Sep 17, 2019, 7:11 AM; last updated: Sep 17, 2019, 7:11 AM (IST)WRESTLING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Vinesh gets tough draw; nothing to fear, says personal coach

Vinesh gets tough draw; nothing to fear, says personal coach
Vinesh will have to get past Olympics bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson, reigning world champion Mayu Mukaida and last edition’s silver medallist Sarah Ann Hildebrandt to enter the semifinals. File photo

Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan), September 16

Tension was palpable in the Indian camp after the country’s biggest medal hope Vinesh Phogat was pitted against Olympics bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson in the “toughest possible” draw for the World Championships here today. Vinesh had recently beaten Sofia, a six-time World Championships medallist, on her way to the Poland Open title last month; but facing the formidable Swede in the very first round is a different proposition.

Sofia, 29, won the last of her four European Championships gold medals in 2016 and the seasoned campaigner will surely be a threat to India’s hopes. She is ranked No. 5 in the world in 55kg, which is a non-Olympics category. If Vinesh, who is ranked sixth in 53kg, manages to get past Sofia, she will likely have to lock horns with world No. 2 (in 55kg) and reigning world champion Mayu Mukaida.

If that hurdle is crossed, world No. 1 and last edition’s silver medallist Sarah Ann Hildebrandt will await the Indian in the quarterfinals.

That she is a bit worried could be felt as Vinesh walked into the training area grim-faced. The coaches around her did their best to keep her cheerful.

“If you want to be world champion, you will have to beat the best in the business. Why fear,” said Vinesh’s personal coach Woller Akos.

India’s national coach Kuldeep Malik, too, looked a bit tense but remained hopeful. “Whenever she has got a tough draw, she has ended up winning a medal. Let’s see,” Malik said.

India’s foreign coach Andrew Cook was of the view that facing tough opponents early would enhance Vinesh’s prospects to reach the medal round. “One of those girls will surely be in the final,” said the American.

In the other Olympics category, world No. 3 Seema Bisla will wrestle straight in the 50kg pre-quarterfinals. She will face the winner of the qualification match between Nigeria’s Miesinnei Mercy Genesis and Azerbaijan’s Mariya Stadnik. In the two non-Olympics categories, Lalita will open her campaign against Monglia’s Bolortuya in the 55kg pre-quarterfinals. In the 72kg, Komal Bhagwan faces Turkey’s Beste Altug in her qualification round. 

Gurpreet shows fight in loss, Naveen in contention

The Indians in the Greco-Roman category finally showed some stomach for fight as Gurpreet Singh impressed in defeat to former world champion Viktor Nemes, while Naveen stayed in medal contention, albeit with a bit of luck, here today. Naveen was the first to lose, to 2018 Pan-American champion Oscar Pino Hinds by technical superiority, but the Cuban reached the final to help the Indian stay alive in the 130kg category. Naveen now has to first win against Heiki Nabi from Estonia and then defeat Kyrgyzstan’s Murat Ramonov to reach the bronze-medal round.

Gupreet (77kg) and Manish (60kg) brought some cheers to the dejected Indian camp by winning their respective first round bouts convincingly. In a sensational start, Gurpreet pinned Austria’s Michael Wagner after wriggling out of a difficult head-lock position, while Manish won his 1/16 round against Finland’s Lauri Johannes Maekhonen by technical superiority. 

Gurpreet later fought his heart out against world No. 2 Nemes of Serbian before losing 1-3. “I have learnt my lessons. Mere power and stamina won’t do. And it has to be a combination of two techniques to win against these wrestlers,” Gurpreet said.

The wrestler from Mohali said he had genuinely thought of winning a medal and qualifying for the Olympics. “I did not come here to just participate. But I have learnt that I need to have more strength in my arms. Now I will try to win Olympics qualification at the Asian event next year,” he said.

Manish trailed Maekhonen 0-3 before turning it around by logging 11 points in a row to win by technical superiority. However, in his next bout against Moldova’s world No. 3 Victor Ciobanu, Manish lost by technical superiority. — PTI

If you want to be world champion, you will have to beat the best in the business. Why fear Woller Akos, Vinesh’s personal coach 

Whenever she has got a tough draw, she has ended up winning a medal. Lets see Kuldeep Malik, National coach 

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