The World Wrestling Championships is set to commence on September 14th in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. The nation’s best wrestlers will be heading to Kazakhstan with the sole view of returning with a medal around their neck. While India will be sending a big contingent to the Championships, we take a look at the wrestlers who’ll be key to India’s quest for silverware in Kazakhstan:
1) Sushil Kumar
Two-time Olympic medallist and perhaps the nation’s most decorated wrestler, Sushil Kumar, will be making his return to World Wrestling Championships in the 74 kg category after an eight-year absence from the event. He humbled Jintendar Kumar 4-2 in the trials to book his seat on the flight to Nur-Sultan, however, his return to the mat hasn’t been as merry. In his first bout since the Asian Games in 2018 at the Medved tournament in Minsk, Belarus, he suffered a crunching loss against World no.5 Bekzod Abdurakhmov. Sushil blamed the loss on rust, but nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if the 36-year-old still has it in him to compete at the highest level.
2) Sakshi Malik
With a CV that already boasts of a Commonwealth gold medal and an Olympic bronze medal, Sakshi Malik will be India’s bright hope in the women’s category. She is yet to make an impact in the World Wrestling Championships, but this could be the year she makes her mark on the tournament. The 26-year-old has already won bronze this year at the Asian Championships and the Haryana-native will be aiming to repeat, if not better, that performance in Kazakhstan.
3) Vinesh Phogat
Coming from a lineage of talented wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat has made a big mark already and established her candidacy as one of the favourites to add to India’s 13 medals at the World Wrestling Championships. Phogat won gold in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in the 50 kg category and won another one at the same event in 2018 in the 52 kg category. She also won gold in the Asian Games in 2018 in the 50 kg category and thereby became the only woman in Indian wrestling history to claim the top prize in both events. With Olympics right around the corner, Phogat will be aiming for a strong showing in Kazakhstan and maybe even add to her already impressive medal tally.
4) Bajrang Punia
After having to settle for a silver at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest in the 65 kg category, Bajrang Punia will be aiming to go one better and capture gold in this year’s edition. The 25-year-old is already one of the nation’s most accomplished wrestlers ever. In addition to his silver, Punia has won a bronze at the World Wrestling Championships in the 60 kg category, two gold at the 2016 and 2017 Commonwealth Championships, a gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a gold at the 2018 Asian Games and another gold at the 2019 Asian Championship, all of which have come in the 65 kg category. Punia is a legit superstar in the world of amateur wrestling and just 25, he is still in the prime years of his career. Gold at the World Championships would not only be the perfect redemption story, but also a great prep for Tokyo, 2020.
Written by: Sportz Interactive