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New Delhi, February 20, 2020
It turned out out to be a golden day for Indian women grapplers as they clinched three yellow medals besides a silver at the Senior Asian Championships here on Thursday.
Before today's windfall India had only one female gold medallist in the history of the Asian Championships. The absence of Chinese and North Korean wrestler and Japan not fielding a full-fledged squad – barring former world champion Mayu Mukaida -- made the things easier for the hosts but still credit has to be given to them for coming up with such tremendous showing.
Divya Kakran led the gold rush, winning the round-robin 68kg title and she was followed by Sarita Mor (59kg) and Pinki (55kg) at the top of the podium. Nirmala Devi settled for silver in the 50kg final.
The field, barring in the 50kg, had seven or fewer competitors, and the organisers had to conduct bouts in Nordic (round-robin) format.
Asian Games bronze medalist Divya Kakran remained unbeaten in her weight category, winning all four bouts by fall. She first thrashed Kazakhstan's Albina Kairgelinova and then accounted for Mongolian Delgermaa Enkksaikhan.
She overwhelmed Uzbekistan's Azoda Esbergenova with a pin in a bout that lasted all of 27 seconds. In the title round, the Indian led 4-0 at the end of the first period against junior world champion Naruha Matsuyuki of Japan. Matsuyuki made a strong start to the second period and managed to level the score. However, Divya managed to extract a victory by fall.
The Indian was candid enough to admit that the absence of China made a difference. “Yes, it did benefit but if you have just five wrestlers, it becomes tough because you have to fight everyone and win big,” she added.
"I knew I had to secure as many wins by fall as possible. In the gold medal match, I knew I had to win either by a big margin, or through fall, because the Japanse wrestler was dominating all her bouts," she told media persons after her victory..
"I thought I could execute a throw, that's the reason I went for the attack. But a lot of times things change drastically from the winning position, and the same happened with me. I was leading 4-0, but was really badly stuck there. I just thought I had to come out of this mess somehow. I don't know how I managed it, but I applied my opponent's move on herself," Divya said.
In the evening session, Pinki (55kg) and Sarita (59kg) added to the gold tally but not before being pushed by their Mongolian opponents. While Pinki won 2-1 in a largely defensive bout that saw all three points being scored through the opponent’s passivity, Sarita had to dig deep in the final 15 seconds for a 3-2 victory.
“I already had a slight elbow injury and it got aggravated a bit in the morning so I wanted to be cautious. Also, I am simply happy to win my first medal, that too gold, in the competition,” Pinki said.
Sarita said she was confident even when Mongolian Battsetseg Altantsetseg took a crucial point with 21 seconds left to level 2-2, lifting her out for the winner.
Nirmala Devi won silver after going down 2-3 to Japan’s Miho Igarashi in the 50kg. “I tried my best but she was very strong and also had very good defence. I need to work on my leg defence a lot more now ahead of the Olympic qualifiers,” she admitted.
Kiran was the only disappointment for the host on the day, crashing out of the medal rounds in the 76kg after losing two of her three bouts in the morning session.