Jakarta: Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar will be tested to the hilt on Sunday when the freestyle wrestlers take to the mat on the Day 1 of competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang.
Sushil was handed a tough draw after his name was drawn against Bahrain’s Adam Batirov in the Men’s 74-kg category. His run-up to Asian Games has not been very inspiring after he lost his first bout in four years-in Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia in July.
Sushil, who trains with Satpal, however, remained confident about his chances in a competition that is as tough as Olympics given that most wrestlers in the fray in his category are Olympic material.
Freestyle coach Jagminder Singh was cautious when he said: “You have to make a decision about your move and attack in split second. It will be very tough. But our boys and girls have prepared well. They have trained hard in the last one year.”
“It’s never easy at the Asian Games. It’s of the same level as in Olympics,” Jagminder added.
Coming into Jakarta on the back of three gold medals, Bajrang will be India’s best bet in men’s freestyle wrestling.
Hopes from Bajrang
Five of the six Indian men’s freestyle wrestlers will be in action on Sunday with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games gold medallist Bajrang opening his campaign in the 65kg category against Uzbekistan’s Sirojiddin Khasanov.
Bajrang, who won silver medal four years ago in Incheon, has landed here after winning three consecutive gold medals-Commonwealth Games, Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia and Yasar Dogu International in Istanbul.
“Japan and Iran have strong wrestlers but they are in the other half. Bajrang has defeated the Iranians before but he will not clash with them before semifinals. It will all depend on his defending skills in the later stages,” explained Jagminder.
India had returned with five medals from Korea with Yogeshwar Dutt being the lone gold medallist.
Freestyle: Sandeep Tomar (57 kg), Bajrang Punia (65 kg), Sushil Kumar (74 kg), Pawan Kumar (86 kg), Mausam Khatri (97 kg) and Sumit Malik (125 kg).
Greco-Roman: Gyanender (59 kg), Manish (67 kg), Gurpreet Singh (77 kg), Harpreet Singh (87 kg), Hardeep Singh (97 kg) and Naveen (130 kg).
Women: Sakshi Malik (62 kg), Vinesh Phogat (50 kg), Pinki (53 kg), Pooja Dhanda (57 kg), Divya Kakran (68 kg) and Kiran (72 kg).