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India's Gurpreet eyes Greco Roman Olympic berth

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New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Star Indian Greco Roman wrestler Gurpreet Singh is geared up for the World Olympic qualifiers, starting on Thursday in Sofia.

The World qualification tournament, to be held from May 6 to 9, offers two Olympics berths in each of the 18 weight categories.

India has won six Olympic quota places in freestyle so far, but is yet to make the cut in the Greco Roman event.

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Gurpreet, a 26-year-old wrestler from Punjab, couldn’t win a ticket to the Tokyo Olympic Games during last month’s Asian Olympic qualifiers in Almaty.

Chief coach Hargobind Singh is, however, confident of Gurpreet achieving good results in Sofia.

“We hope he stays calm and doesn’t make silly mistakes. He could have won an Olympic quota place in Almaty, but lost a crucial bout to bow out of the Asian tournament. The World qualification is tough but let’s hope for the best,” chief coach told IANS from Sofia.

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In the Asian Olympic qualification tournament, Gurpreet had defeated Korea’s 2016 Olympic medallist Kyeonwoo Kim in the preliminary round by a huge margin of 12-1. “But he lost the next round which was not so tough. We hope Gurpreet will be more alert in Sofia,” said the chief coach.

Six Indians are competing in the Greco Roman event.

The 77kg Greco Roman event in Sofia is supposed to be tough as world bronze medallists Fatih Cengiz of Turkey and Aik Mnatsakanian of Bulgaria are other top contenders aiming to win Olympic berths.

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“Several new wrestlers have made the cut for Tokyo Olympics while Olympic medallists like Kim are yet to qualify,” said the Indian coach.

Asian champion Sunil Kumar (87kg) is another prominent Greco Roman wrestler who is aiming for the Olympics. “It would depend on the fixtures. A tough first round could spoil the chances to advance into the quarters,” said the chief coach.

In freestyle, all eyes will be on Amit Dhankar who is competing in the men’s 74 kg event. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) selected him for the World qualifiers after Sandeep Singh Mann failed to perform up to expectations in the April 9-11 Asian Olympic qualification in Almaty.

Twelve Indians are among the 400-plus wrestlers from across the globe competing in the World Olympic qualifier in Sofia.

–IANS

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