Rio-bound wrestler Vinesh Phogat elated to achieve dream

Istanbul: After booking the Rio Olympic berth in women's 48kg category, wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Saturday admitted that it was not easy to get over the overweight fiasco, but was glad to put it behind to realise her dream.

Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh Phogat

The Haryana grappler, who was disqualified from the World Olympic Qualifying event for being overweight by 400 gms, became the first woman to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, scheduled from August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro.

"Going to the Olympics has been my dream right from the day I started wrestling. I am glad that I could achieve that today. It wasn't an easy journey. I had to quickly cast aside whatever happened in Mongolia and concentrate on the task at hand.

"I knew this was my last chance and I think I just put everything I had into making sure that I sealed that quota and proved myself. I had faith in my training and the support that my coaches has given me." the reigning Commonwealth Games champion said in a statement.

The 21-year-old defeated Turkey's Evin Demirhan by Technical Fall (TF) with a final score of 12-2.

She began her campaign in aggressive fashion, brushing aside Ukraine's Nataliya Pulkovska 10-0 in the preliminaries of the 48 kg before dismantling Julie Martine Sabatie of France 11-0 in the round-of-16.

She later scalped South Korea's Yumi Lee 11-1 in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final date with home favourite Evin Demirhan. Having won all her earlier encounters by Technical Fall (TF), Vinesh added another, demolishing the Turk 12-2 to set up a final with Poland's Iwona Matkowska.

On the other hand, Sakshi Malik, who endured a tough semi-final outing in the 58 kg category to get past China's Lan Zhang with a 10-10 tie, said she was confident of an Olympic berth.

"We had been training quite intensively in Bulgaria and I was making sure that I was mentally prepared for the pressure that this competition brought.

"I was in good rhythm after my opening bout and I just continued to do what I was doing. It was a matter of keeping my composure in the last minute of my semi-final bout against the Chinese wrestler. I am happy that I managed to hold on," the 23-year-old said.

The Rohtak-born started the tournament beating Irene Garrido of Spain 10-0 in the round-of-16. In the next round, up against Romania's Kateryna Zhydachevska, Sakshi was all over her opponent, winning the bout by Technical Fall (12-2) to move into the semi-finals.

In the all-important bout and with the Rio quota at stake, Sakshi took a 6-3 lead at the end of the first period against 2012 World Champion Lan Zhang.

The Chinese wrestler fought back in the second period but a crucial take-down by Sakshi saw her gain four points and even though the tie ended with the score level at 10-10. But the bout was awarded to the Indian wrestler on the basis of her having picked up four points in one single move.

Sakshi will now compete for the gold medal against Russia's Valeria Zholobova.

With Vinesh and Sakshi's qualification, the total number of Indians to qualify has risen to six -- four men and two women -- eclipsing the previous tally of five for the London Olympics in 2012.

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