Halakurki showing his best moves as he wins 2-4 pointers against Ali Nourbakhsh of Iran
On the first day of the Asian Championships in Ulan Baatar, Greco-Roman wrestlers provided a timely reminder of their ability to shine on the International stage. Arjun Halakurki (55kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), and Neeraj (63kg) received bronze medals and gave the Indian Wrestlers a huge boost with competition in 5 more Greco categories, freestyle, and women's wrestling to follow. The Greco-Roman category was a poor link in Indian wrestling and the occasional International success proved a false sunrise. Men's freestyle is a priority in India, and women's wrestling had seven appearances at the Tokyo Olympics. Ravi Dahiya and Bajrang Punia won silver and bronze respectively. No Greco-Roman wrestlers were qualified for Tokyo. This is also a reason why the field is often definitive when it comes to facilities and opportunities.
This Championships is a brand new start to the next Olympic cycle and winning three medals on day one is completely appreciated. We have good new talents coming nowadays. Wrestlers who win medals in non-Olympics categories will move up here to the Olympic categories for the Asian Games Trials,” Singh said.
Halakurki showed his best moves as he scored two four-point picks against Iran's Ali Nourbakhsh after losing 3-0, eventually winning his opener 10-5. He lost 10-1 to leading Amangali Bekbolatov (Kaz) but fought hard for bronze against Davaabandi Munkh Erdene of Mongolia (10-7).
Sunil Kumar also found himself struggling in his first bout (zone finals) against Japan's Mataso Sumi before rallying to win five to three. He was transferred to Jalgasbay Berdimuratov (Uzb) in the semi-finals before beating Batbayar Lutbayar of Mongolia 9-1 for bronze.
Neeraj went leading 4-0 against Tynar Sharshenbekov but the Kyrgyz wrestler beat him to win 10-4. Sharshenbekov ended up winning gold with 63 kg. Neeraj scored an outstanding 7-4 victory over Islomjon Bakhramov of Uzbekistan for bronze.
Kumar showed promise at the Internationals with gold at the 2018 and 2019 Asian Under-23 Championships. He became India's first gold medalist in Greco Roman at the Asian Championships and was considered the favorite to qualify for the Olympics.
“Covid hit our preparation badly, there was no camp for a long time and Greco-Roman wrestlers are better trained in the camps only. The camp was held later for a shorter period,” National Coach Hargobind Singh said.