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Manisha upstages Sakshi Malik in Asian wrestling trials

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She dashed the Olympic bronze medallist’s hopes of qualifying to the Asian meet in Mongolia next month with a convincing win in the final round in 62kg division at the trials in Lucknow.



Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (right) in action against Manisha during the women's wrestling trials in Lucknow on Friday.(SAI Lucknow)


Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik again lost in the final round as she failed to make it to the Indian team for the Asian Wrestling Championships from the qualifying trials here on Friday. The tournament is scheduled in Mongolia from April 19 to 24.

Despite a depleted field in 62kg with main rival and Tokyo Olympics participant Sonam Malik absent, Sakshi found the going tough against another young wrestler Manisha, also from her state Haryana, losing 1-5 in the final round of the trials at the Sports Authority of India Lucknow Centre.

All eyes were fixed on Sakshi and the seasoned wrestler was expected to make the grade. It didn’t happen though she had to fight just one final bout after Manisha defeated Kusum, the other wrestler in the category, with ease.

It was 1-1 in the first round, but after the break in between the rounds, Manisha changed tactics against Sakshi. The two-time Commonwealth Games medallist was unable to match the speed and power of Manisha.

The bout was almost a repeat of the recent senior nationals in Gonda where Manisha notched up a convincing 6-1 win over Sakshi in the quarterfinal, displaying dominant form. Before the nationals, Manisha had her first win against Sakshi at the selection trials for the world championships last September.

In 2016, Manisha won gold at the cadet world championships in Tbilisi, Georgia when the spotlight was on Sakshi after her bronze at Rio, becoming the first Indian women wrestler to win an Olympic medal. Competing in the 16-17 age-group then, Manisha had excelled in the 38kg category, beating Bulgaria’s Petya Zarkova Delcheva 5-4 in the final.

After Friday’s win, Manisha said: “It (bout) was according to my game plan, I was more focused on it. After taking a 2-1 lead, I was sure of winning as I opted for a more attacking technique. “I wanted to give my best and stuck to my game plan.”

A SAF Games and Commonwealth championship medallist, Manisha is aiming big in Mongolia, where she will be making her debut in the Asian meet. “I want to finish on the podium as it is a big opportunity for me to test my skills before the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games,” said Manisha, who didn’t stop training even during the lockdown due to Covid.

“At the Rohtak centre, I continued my training under Mandeep Sir even during the lockdown and for that I hired a rented accommodation there,” said Manisha, who hails from Jind district in Haryana.

Sarita Mor (59kg), who has won two gold and a silver in the Asian championships, and 2021 world championships silver medalist Anshu Malik (57 kg) made it to the 10-member squad.

In all, 57 wrestlers took part in the daylong trials. 2018 Asian Games winner Vinesh Phogat didn’t enter as she is nursing an injury.

The squad:

50 kg: Manisha (Haryana); 53kg: Swati (Maharashtra), 55kg: Sushma Shooken (Delhi), 57 kg: Anshu Malik (Haryana); 59 kg: Sarita Mor (Rlys); 62 kg: Manisha (Haryana); 65 kg: Radhika (Haryana); 68 kg: Sonika Hooda (Haryana); 72 kg: Nikki (Rlys); 76 kg: Sudesh (Haryana).

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