By Shivani Bhasin
*UPDATE/May 12, 2016*
Wrestler Babita Kumari has qualified for the 2016 Olympics, making her third Indian woman to qualify this year and one of eight wrestlers on the Indian team. Babita, who qualified in the 53kg category, was an unlikely candidate as she was suspended along with her sister Geeta Phogat by the Wrestling Federation of India for forfeiting a bout at the Olympic qualifier held in Mongolia. It seemed certain that Babita had lost her chance to qualify for the Olympics, until she received confirmation that her opponent who had beat her to win an Olympic berth, Mongolia’s Sumiyaa Erdenechimegiin, had failed a drug test.
ORIGINAL STORY/ May 10,2016
For the first time ever, two Indian women wrestlers qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio! Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik won their qualifications in the 48kg and 58kg wrestling categories respectively at the World Olympic Qualifying tournament in Istanbul. The Indian wrestling team now has six members – that’s one member more for India than we saw at the 2012 Olympics.
Wrestlers had to be in the top two in their respective weight categories at the Istanbul event – the last qualifier for the Olympics – to win a final chance at Rio. Phogat won four games in a row, beating Nataliya Pulkovska of Ukraine, France’s Julie Martine Sabatie, Yumi Lee of Korea and Turkey’s Evin Demirhan. In the finals of the Istanbul qualifiers, Phogat won against Iowna Nina Matkowska of Poland. She was disqualified at a previous qualifying event in Mongolia by for gaining 400gm.
Phogat comes from a famous wrestling family in Haryana that has produced veteran wrestling sisters Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari. (Aamir Khan is to star as the sisters’ father in a new film called Dangal, to release at the end of year.)
Sakshi Malik secured her place in the Olympic squad as a last-minute replacement for Geeta Phogat, who took part in the 2012 Olympics but is temporarily suspended for forfeiting her last bout at a previous qualifying tournament. Malik beat China’s Lan Zhang in a nail-biting semi-final match to qualify for the Rio Games. Her coach, Ishwar Dahiya, calls her a “confident wrestler”, the “best in her category”.