Haryana wrestlers rock as Anshu, Sonam book Tokyo berths

File picture of Sonam Malik (left) and Anshu Malik (right)

Haryana again stamped its authority as the country’s wrestling hub with Anshu Malik and Sonam Malik on Friday securing quota places for the Tokyo Olympics, having reached the final in their respective weight categories. Unlike in shooting, where the quota place is for the country and not necessarily the shooter who bags it, the 19-year-old girls can be certain of turning out for the Olympics in July barring injury.

It was easier said than done as the two 19-year-old girls had to beat fatigue following a hectic travel schedule to Kazakhstan. Arriving hours before their bouts at the Asian Olympic qualification tournament in Almaty, Anshu and Sonam completed the task on hand. With this, Haryana can boast of six grapplers making the Olympic cut.

During the 2019 qualification cycle, Vinesh Phogat had earned a quota place in women’s 53kg while a quota place in men’s 65kg was secured through World Championship bronze medallist Bajrang Punia.

Ravi Dahiya (57kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) are the other two to have got Olympic quota places in that cycle.

Finalists in each of the weight categories are eligible to win berths for the Olympics, starting July 23, and the outcome of Anshu and Sonam’s final bouts on Saturday is now about deciding the gold and silver medallist.

For the record, Anshu, who hails from Nidani in Haryana, will take on Mongolia’s Khongorzul Boldsaikhan in the 57kg final. Father, Dharamvir, who has been a bedrock of support, said sound planning enabled his daughter to achieve the goal. “Before she left for Almaty, I told her to give her best and not let the pressure of winning a quota place bother her. I’m happy she was strong enough to stay calm and gave her best,” the proud father told the Sportinghub from Nidani.

Sonam was equally impressive in 62kg. In the final, she will face China’s Jia Long. It was a vindication of faith for the teenager from Sonipat as she had suffered a head injury during training last month and her participation in the Kazakh capital was doubtful. “We are thankful to God that she recovered well in time. It’s a big day for us,” said coach Ajmer Singh.

Later in the day, Anshu lost to her Mongolian opponent 4-7 while Sonam conceded a walkover to the Chinese due to an injury to settle for silver.