New Delhi : Three Indian women wrestlers, including Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, settled for a silver medal each in their respective weight categories at the Asian Wrestling Championship here on Friday.
All the three Indians lost to their respective Japanese opponents, who proved to be too strong for them.
Ritu Phogat, meanwhile, bagged a bronze medal in women’s 48kg category without even fighting the bout as her opponent Sun Yanan of China opted out of the third-place play off after sustaining an injury.
While Sakshi (60kg) and Divya Kakran (69kg) failed to last the entire six minutes during their gold-medal bouts, Vinesh (55kg) put a good fight before going down.
Making a comeback to the international circuit after the Rio Olympics, Sakshi looked a little rusty when she faced Japan’s Risako Kawai in the women’s 60kg category gold medal bout as she went down to the Rio Games 63kg gold medallist 0-10 in just 2 minutes and 44 seconds.
Sakshi, who created history by becoming the first Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal last year, could not counter the challenge from the strong Japanese grappler.
Sakshi simply failed to match the agility and speed of her rival.
Competing for the first time in women’s 60kg category after jumping up the weight division from 58kg, Sakshi though hardly had to break a sweat en route to the final.
It was a cake walk for the 24-year-old, who got the better of Nabira Esenbaeva of Uzbekistan 6-2 in the quarterfinal and then defeated Kazakhstan’s Ayaulym Kassymova 15-3 in her semifinal bout to cruise into the gold medal round.
“Kawai is a very experienced wrestler and an Olympic gold medallist. It was a really good learning experience for me. I am happy to have bagged a silver after returning to action after Rio Games and marriage. Though I feel I could have done better,” said Sakshi after the medal ceremony.
Vinesh, who also made a comeback after a long injury lay-off, was lagging behind from the very beginning against a strong Japanese competitor Sae Nanjo and ultimately went down 4-8 to settle for the second position in women’s 55kg category.
The Japanese girl took very little time to prove her mettle, bagging four quick points by taking down Vinesh twice before earning another two to make it 6-0 at the break.
In the second half, Vinesh came back strongly and quickly took down the Japanese wrestler to win two points and narrow the gap to 2-6. But the Japanese extended her lead by making it 8-2.
Although Vinesh, who is returning to the mat after the last year’s Rio Games where she had suffered an injury, managed to get two more points but it was not enough in the end.
The 22-year-old, earlier in the day, had posted comfortable victories during her quarterfinal and semifinal bouts.
She defeated Sevara Eshmuratova of Uzbekistan 10-0 in the quarterfinal before thrashing China’s Qi Zhang 4-0 in the semifinal to storm into the gold medal round.
Vinesh, who generally fights in 48kg or 53kg but chose to climb to 55kg for the Asian Championship, said that she was happy to have finished with a silver in a higher weight category.
“Competing in 55kg and winning a silver is satisfying. I am happy to be back on the mat,” said Vinesh, adding that she would go back to her 48kg category.
Divya was the third Indian girl who lost to another Japanese gold medallist of Rio Games Sara Dosho.
A new girl on the block, Divya put up a fine show but she was pinned down by her rival in 4 minutes and 55 seconds. The Indian lost the gold medal bout 0-8 in a one-sided contest.
Divya, during the morning session, had beaten Chen-Chi Huang of Taipei 2-0 by fall verdict and then outplayed Hyeonyeong Park of Korea 12-4 in the semifinal.
Earlier, Ritu had defeated Narangerel Erdenesukh of Mongolia in the qualification round 11-4 before defeating Yeo-Jin Kim of Korea in her quarterfinal bout. However, she went down in the semifinal to Yui Susaki of Japan 0-9 to lose out on a place in the final.
Pinki, meanwhile, was the lone Indian to have lost in the quarterfinal round of women’s 53kg to bow out of the tournament early.