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Posted at: Mar 21, 2016, 2:01 AM; last updated: Mar 21, 2016, 2:01 AM (IST)

Hardeep books Oly quota in greco-roman

New Delhi, march 20

Hardeep (98kg) today sprung a surprise by booking an Olympic quota place for India in the greco-roman wrestling after winning the silver medal on the last day of the Asian Olympic Qualification Championship.

In the final bout, Hardeep lost on the account of injury default to his opponent Di Xiao of China and had to be satisfied with a second-place finish. This is the first time that an Indian wrestler in greco-roman event has secured an Olympics berth after the 2004 Athens Games when Ashok Khatri had made the cut. In fact, in a heavyweight category, this is the first time that an Indian greco-roman grappler has ensured a place in the Games. On his way to the final, Hardeep first thrashed Arslan Saparmammedov of Turkmenistan 11-0 during his quarterfinal bout before outplaying Margulan Assembekov of Kazakhstan 11-2 in the semis to advance to the gold-medal round.

Meanwhile, other Indians in the fray today — Vinesh Phogat (48kg), Anita (63kg), Somveer (86kg), Hitender (125kg) and Ravinder (66kg) — failed to book an Olympic berth. Hardeep, son of Dilbagh Singh, hails from Dohla villlage in Jind district. Hardeep started wrestling in his school days where Ramesh Kumar, his mentor, identified his talent. Kumar took Hardeep to Sports School, Nidani, where he learned the basics of the sport. He had also practiced at the SAI Centre in Zirakpur for three years under coach Ranbir Kundu. — PTI/TNS

Son of soil makes a mark

Karam Prakash

Chandigarh, March 20

Hardeep Singh, son of Dilbagh Singh, a farmer, from Dohla villlage in Jind district is only the third Greco-Roman wrestler from India to have made it to the Olympics. 

Singh took to wrestling in his school days. Coach Ramesh Kumar was the first one to identify his talent. Kumar got Singh admitted to Sports School, Nidani, where he learned the basics of wrestling. Singh later shifted to SAI Centre, Zirakpur, under coach Ranbir Kundu, where he spent three years. After showing great promise there, the 25-year-old wrestler was sent to Chattarsaal stadium. He spent four years there and during that time got employed in Railways. Later, he was selected for the national camp in Sonepat.

Chief coach (Greco-Roman) Kuldeep Singh said, "After a long time a Greco-Roman wrestler from India has qualified for the Olympics. It shows we are improving fast. It is a huge achievement for Indian wrestlers." 

Recently, Singh won a silver medal in the Asian Wrestling Championship, Bangkok (Feb 12 to 16). Last year, Singh had clinched the gold medal in senior Nationals in New Delhi. His mentor Kumar said, "I am feeling very happy and proud that Hardeep has qualified for the Rio Olympics." 

Greco-Roman coaches are hopeful that more wrestlers will qualify for this event in the coming days. There are two more phases of World Qualifying Tournaments — April 22-24 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and May 6-8 in Istanbul, Turkey.

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