From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.44 :: Oct. 31, 2009
Gursharanpreet Kaur (in blue) celebrates her victory over Sonika Kaliraman.
With the 2010 Commonwealth Games roughly a year away, every participant in the National Wrestling Championship in Bhopal tried to make a mark in the run-up to the mega event.
Some wrestlers tried to fit into new weight categories they had switched to, while others aimed at retaining their supremacy. There were a few unexpected upsets that spiced up the meet.
Two sisters from Haryana, who had made the quarterfinals of the World Championships in Denmark last month, struck gold in their new weight categories. Babita, who had won the 55kg gold last year, emerged as the winner in the 51 kg class. Her elder sibling, Geeta, who had bagged the 63 kg silver in 2008, claimed gold in 55 kg this year.
Both Geeta and Babita were delighted that their dedication and practice had paid off. “Our coach said we would do better in lower weights. So we switched to new categories and the results have been positive at the World Championships and here,” said Geeta.
When one talks about the sisters’ dedication, then it is worth mentioning that all five sisters in the family are into the sport and to give the children the best of facilities their parents have moved from Chandigarh to Patiala.
Anita, last year’s silver medallist in 59 kg, gained out of her weight gain as she upset Doha Asian Games silver winner and overwhelming favourite Geetika Jakhar to be crowned as the new champion in the women’s 63 kg class. Geetika, who was nursing a knee strain, had aggravated her injury in the semi-finals and it was not too difficult for Anita to tame the last year’s champion even though the title contest went into the third round.
Anita was over the moon while Geetika was satisfied that despite the injury she had managed to get a medal and stay in the thick of things for the Commonwealth Games. “I needed to fight even though the injury was there. Unfortunately, it got aggravated and now it will take two months to heal,” she said.
Veteran grappler Kripa Shankar Patel’s was another interesting story. He had shifted from 55 kg to 60 in 2008 and had lost. This time, being denied a chance to represent his employer Railways, he went back to his old weight and ended up in the medal bracket. His effort was remarkable because the 32-year-old defeated junior Asian silver medallist and previous year’s champion Rahul Aware on his way to the bronze medal.
“I made a mistake by changing the weight last time. I am very happy to be among the medals again. At least, my presence in the India camp will help the youngsters as I can share my experience with them,” Kripa Shankar said.
The meet saw a few first time gold medallists in Balraj Singh (55 kg), Rajneesh (60 kg) and Mukesh Kumar (66 kg).
Wrestlers like Rajeev Tomar (120 kg) in freestyle, Rajender (55 kg), Ravinder (60 kg), Manoj Kumar (84 kg) and Dharmender Dalal (120 kg) in Greco Roman and Nirmal Devi (48 kg), Alka Tomar (59 kg) and Suman Kundu (67 kg) among the women retained their titles.
Famed grappler Anil Mann regaining his lost glory was also noteworthy. The 96 kg wrestler had lost his title to youngster Mausam Khatri in the final in 2008. However, this time he bagged the gold as Khatri could not even make the title clash.
Veteran Kripa Shankar Patel made a grand comeback to the arena.
A women’s heavyweight duel received much attention. Sonika Kaliraman, who had defeated Gursharanpreet Kaur for the 72 kg gold in 2008, was there to defend her title. The challenge was again there from Gursharan, who turned the tables on her old nemesis to be crowned the new champion.
As Sonika, who had attracted media glare because of her participation in the television reality show ‘Khatron ke Khiladi,’ ended up as the second best, Gursharan hogged the limelight. “Last year, I was making a comeback. This time, I was well-prepared and confident,” said Gursharan, flashing a victory sign.
The Championship had disappointment in store for the fans who had expected to watch Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar and World Championship bronze medallist Ramesh Kumar in action. The Wrestling Federation of India had asked both the elite wrestlers to skip the Nationals in order to give others a chance and preserve themselves for the upcoming international meets at home.
A major rule change was another important feature of the Nationals. As per the change, a coach, after seeking the opinion of his wrestler, was able to challenge any decision of the referee. If the claim was found to be wrong from television replays then a point was awarded to the rival grappler.
“The rule change was for the good of the sport and it helped the officials. It also made the fights more interesting,” said Competition Director Ashok Kumar. The Nationals brought cheers for the Railways side that notched up both the freestyle and the Greco Roman championships. Haryana remained the undisputed leader in women’s wrestling.
Men: Freestyle: 55kg: Gold: Balraj Singh (RSPB-A); Silver: Vinod Kumar (RSPB-B); Bronze: Kripa Shankar Patel (MP), Anil Kumar (Del-A); 60kg: Gold: Rajneesh (Del-A); Silver: Surender (MP); Bronze: Rahul Mann (RSPB-A), Laxman (RSPB-B); 66kg: Gold: Mukesh Kumar (MP); Silver: Naresh (WB); Bronze: Mohinder Singh (SSCB-A), Pradeep (Del-A); 74kg: Gold: Narsingh Yadav (RSPB-A); Silver: Paramjeet (RSPB-B); Bronze: Sachin Fadtare (SSCB-A), Sunil (Del-A); 84kg: Gold: Rambir Singh (Pun); Silver: Naresh Kumar (Del-B); Bronze: Rakesh Kumar (Har-B), Rajeev Sharma (RSPB-A); 96kg: Gold: Anil Mann (RSPB-A); Silver: Parveen (Del-A); Bronze: Mausam Khatri (Har-A), Varun Kumar (UP-A); 120kg: Gold: Rajeev Tomar (RSPB-A); Silver: Joginder Kumar (Del-A); Bronze: Gurudev Singh (RSPB-B), Hitesh (Har-A).
Greco Roman: 55kg: Gold: Rajender Kumar (RSPB-A); Silver: Manjit (Del-A); Bronze: Hari Krishan (Pun), Gaurav Sharma (Chd); 60 kg: Gold: Ravinder Singh (RSPB-A); 66kg: Gold: Sunil Kumar (SSCB-A); Silver: Sudhir (Chd); Bronze: Ajay (Del-A), Gurbinder Singh (Pun), Silver: Anil Kumar (Har-A); Bronze: Ajay Kumar (Del-A), Suresh Kumar (SSCB-B); 74 kg: Gold: Sanjay Singh (RSPB-A); Silver: Naresh Kumar (SSCB-A); Bronze: Gurpreet Singh (JK), Rajbir Singh (RSPB-B); 84kg: Gold: Manoj Kumar (SSCB-A); Silver: Harinder Singh (UP-A); Bronze: Rajesh Kumar (RSPB-A), Rajesh Kumar (SSCB-B); 96kg: Gold: Ashok Kumar (SSCB-B); Silver: Birzu (Del-A); Bronze: Santosh Shinde (Mah), Jogender (Har-A); 120kg: Gold: Dharmender Dalal (RSPB-A); Silver: Virender (RSPB-B); Bronze: Rakesh (Har-A), Yudhvir Singh (Chd).
Women: 48kg: Gold: Nirmal Devi (India camp); Silver: Indu (UP); Bronze: Sweta (Delhi), Neha Rathi (Har-A); 51kg: Gold: Babita (Har-A); Silver: Rachna (Har-B); Bronze: Sonu (Del-B), Anju Chaudhary (UP-A); 55kg: Gold: Geeta (Har-A); Silver: Shilpi (Har-B); Bronze: Gargi Yadav (UP), Uma Devi (Mani); 59kg: Gold: Alka Tomar (UP-A); Silver: Promila (MP); Bronze: Nirmala Devi (Har-B), Sakshi Malik (Har-A); 63kg: Gold: Anita (Har-B); Silver: Geetika Jakhar (Har-A); Bronze: N. Tombi Devi (Mani), Navjot Kaur (Pun); 67kg: Gold: Suman Kundu (Har-A); Silver: Kamini (Del-B); Bronze: Jyoti (Del-A), Meena (Har-B); 72kg: Gold: Gursharanpreet Kaur (Pun); Silver: Sonika Kaliraman (Har-B); Bronze: Babita (UP-A), Anmol (Har-A)
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