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Pro Wrestling League: Delhi Sultan's Sakshi Malik shines but Jaipur Ninjas continues brilliant run with 4-3 win

New Delhi: Pro Wrestling League’s new entrant Jaipur Ninjas continued their brilliant run in the ongoing second edition of the tournament with a 4-3 win over Delhi Sultans, led by star Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik, here on Friday.

Jaipur had it easy against Delhi as they rode on the brilliant performance by the Georgian duo of Elizbar Odikadze and Jakob Makarashvili, Olympic medallist Jenny Fransson and emerging Indian wrestler Vinod Kumar Omprakash to take an unassailable 4-1 lead after five bouts out of a total seven, but all eyes were set on Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik to restore pride for Delhi Sultans.

Having already lost the match to Jaipur, the onus was on Delhi Sultans’ captain Sakshi, India’s first ever woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal, to give her team something to cheer about and she did not disappoint.

It was the tie that the noisy full house crowd at the KD Jadav wrestling Stadium was waiting for and Sakshi showed her mettle with an 8-0 lead over another Indian Pooja Dhanda after the first round itself in women’s 58kg weight division.

Starting off with a point, she studied her rival carefully before pinning her down and flipping her over to take a huge opening round lead.

Having taken the mat for the first time after the Rio Games, Sakshi never looked as if she was away from the arena for so long, as the 24-year-old kept increasing the points in the second round as well and won it 16-0 via technical superiority in 5 minutes and 32 seconds. The 2014 senior Asian bronze medallist Pooja proved to be a cropper against her much superior Indian colleague.

Earlier, Sakshi’s fiance Satyawart Kadian, who is also representing Delhi Sultans, could hardly pose a threat to Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia in the men’s 97kg weight division in the first bout of the evening.

Satyawart, who had gone down to Elizbar in season one, faced the same fate this time around as well, getting thrashed 0-8 at the hands of the Georgian grappler. With Elizbar’s win, Jaipur took an early 1-0 lead.

The next bout was a much anticipated one with two-time Olympic silver medallist Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan facing 2016 Commonwealth champion Ritu Phogat, the youngest of Mahavir Singh Phogat’s daughters.

Post the success of Aamir Khan starrer Bollywood movie Dangal, a story on Geeta and Babita Phogat and their hard taskmaster father Mahavir Singh, Phogat sisters are under the spotlight.

Ritu, with her limited international exposure, tried hard but failed to match up to the three-time Olympic medallist and went down 0-16 in just 3 minutes and 20 seconds in women’s 48kg.

Delhi’s trump card Mariya posted the victory via technical superiority just 20 seconds into the second round to level the scores 1-1. In the first round, Mariya had acquired six points, even as Ritu showed some resistance, but in round two, the Azerbaijani took just 20 seconds to gain 10 points at a stretch to wrap up the contest in style.

Another Georgian Jakob Makarashvili handed back Jaipur the lead again by getting the better of Delhi’s Praveen Rana 10-7 in a closely fought encounter.

Rana opened the account with a point in the opening round of men’s 74kg before Jakob earned two to lead 2-1 at the break.

Second round was a neck-and-neck battle with fortunes swinging from one end to another. It was the Indian wrestler who earned four points to lead 5-2 at one stage before the Georgian made it four on the trot to make it 6-5. Rana’s continued to fight and gained two more points to take a lead once again 7-6. With just a minute to go, Jakob came back strongly to overpower the Indian, winning three points to eke out a victory.

Rio Olympics bronze medallist Jenny Fransson of Jaipur Ninjas proved too strong for Alina Makhynia of Delhi in women’s 75kg. Leading 3-0 after round one, Jenny finished it off with a comfortable 5-0 win over Alina to extend Jaipur Ninjas lead to 3-1.

Vinod Kumar Omprakash then helped Jaipur take an unbeaten 4-1 lead with a 2-0 win over David Tlashadze of Delhi Sultans.

Vinod not just defended well but also managed to gain a couple of points – one each in two rounds to emerge victorious in men’s 70kg.

The surprise package of the Jaipur Ninjas, Utkarsh Kale, who fought aggressively against the Olympic and world champion Vladimir Khinchegashvili of Punjab in the previous match, failed to put up a similar show against the world championship bronze medallist Erdenebat Bekhbayar of Mongolia.

Although Kale gave his opponent a tough fight but went down 1-2 in men’s 57kg.

Excited to come back to the mat after a gap of five months, Sakshi said Olympic medal had given her confidence a huge boost and she was waiting to wrestle again.

“I am really excited to make a comeback. A wrestler does not feel good to be away from the mat for long and I am really happy to be back,” said Sakshi.

“My confidence has increased manifold after winning the medal at the Rio Games. The Olympics experience has taught me a lot. I was very confident of doing well and I used all my experience to win my bout comfortably against Pooja,” she added.

As a captain, Sakshi not only have to think about her own bouts but also strategise for her team, but the star wrestler said that coaches and support staff would be there to help her.

“Before every game we make strategies looking at the opposition. Every match is different with each team having its strengths and weaknesses and we would make strategies accordingly. Me, the coaches and the think-tank will sit together before the next match and discuss what went wrong against Jaipur.

“Today we lost two close bouts. Had those bouts gone in our favour, the result could have been different but we will try and win the next ones,” explained Sakshi.

Pooja, on her part, said she lost against a very strong wrestler.

“I am making comeback after one and a half years as I had undergone a surgery. It is not right to say that I had given up from the beginning, knowing that I had to face Sakshi. It is just that I am taking time to get adjusted. And of course there is no doubt that Sakshi is a very strong wrestler,” said Pooja.

Ritu Phogat of Jaipur, who was cheered by her sisters – Geeta, Babita and Vinesh – all of whom were present at the stands, said she would be looking to do well in the remaining bouts.

“I couldn’t get the grip today that I would have liked to against Mariya Stadnik. Somehow things did not work in my favour but I am hoping to work harder and win my next bout,” said Ritu.  

Source: Zee News