Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Vinesh Phogat was pushed out of the title race by reigning champion Mayu Mukaida of Japan but one of India's biggest hopes remained in bronze medal hunt in the 53kg category at the World Wrestling Championships yesterday.
Mukaida later reached the final to help Vinesh stay in the medal hunt as well as Tokyo Olympics qualification. Two victories will ensure her place in Tokyo Olympics. She will now have to beat three wrestlers in the repechage — Yuliia Khavaldzhy Blahinya from Ukraine, World No. 1 Sarah Ann Hildebrandt and then Maria Prevolaraki from Greece to win her first Worlds medal. It was second consecutive defeat for Vinesh against the Japanese this season after losing to the two-time world champion at the Asian Championship in China. Vinesh has CWG and Asian Games titles but is yet to win a medal at the Worlds.
"Japan is a wrestling powerhouse. It takes some time to attack these girls. It's about one technique, one move one point that changes the bout. I tried, it did not happen and she succeeded," said Vinesh after her bout. Vinesh said Mukaida was no different from the Asian Championship though she and her coach Woller Akos had plotted the fall of the formidable Japanese. "Mukaida is not the only target for me. We focus on all wrestlers. Everyone is tough in 53kg. It's not over yet," Vinesh added. In another Olympic category, Seema Bisla (50kg) lost her pre-quarterfinal 2-9 to three-time Olympic medallist Mariya Stadnik. Like Vinesh, she too remained in hunt for bronze and Olympic qualification.
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