Friday, March 24, 2023

Wrestling World Championship 2021: Nandini Salokhe ready to make Vinesh Phogat’s weight category her own

Nandini Salokhe will be one of the favorites to book a spot in Vinesh Phogat’s weight category for the World Championships. The Maharashtra wrestler, who won the Nationals in the 53 kg weight class in January, has been practicing for the Vinesh Phogat challenge at Kohlapur’s regional SAI center.

Her coach Dada Lavate says Nandini understands what’s at stake at the selection trials and is ready to give her best. In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Dada Lavate said:

“We have been watching Vinesh Phogat’s videos closely. Yes, there are many good wrestlers in 53 kg but there is no doubt Vinesh is the best. If she participates, Nandini will in all likeability face her in the final. We have our plans for her too.”

However, there are doubts over Vinesh Phogat’s even after the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) allowed the wrestler to compete at the trials.

“Her name is there in the list. She has not informed us about her withdrawal, so we don’t know if she is coming or not. From our side we have allowed her to contest,” WFI official said.

The selection trials for the Worlds are slated for August 31 at Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi.

Vinesh Phogat and Nandini Salokhe have faced each other several times during training and various trials. Their most recent encounter was at the Matteo Pellicone Rome Rankings in March in the first round. Vinesh Phogat defeated Nandini Salokhe by a pinfall.

Dada Lavate says that although Vinesh won his ward got a valuable lesson in her debut senior international competition.

“She did give Vinesh competition. Yes, Vinesh won but we got experience which will help us now,” he said.

Nandini Salokhe’s advantage at the World Championship selection trials

Lavate said Nandini’s biggest advantage is her weight. Unlike many competitors in her weight class, the 24-year-old does not have to cut weight. Instead, she added an extra pound to wrestle in 53 kg. This gives her an edge over other wrestlers and also helps her move between 50 kg and 53 kg, which are both Olympic weight categories.

“She usually weighs 51 or 52 kilograms which is good because she does not have to undergo any weight cut if she decides to compete in Vinesh’s category. Even if she wants to compete in 50 kg, she just drops very little weight. It really adds to her advantage,” Dada Lavate explained.

The Kohlapur-born wrestler had competed in the 50 kg – as Vinesh had already confirmed 53kg berth – for the Olympic qualifier trials. However, she suffered an elbow injury in the final against Seema Bisla and had to pull out. Seema eventually qualified for the Olympics at the World Qualifiers.

“She was leading 7-2 and was very dominant throughout the competition. But then she suffered an elbow injury and therefore had to withdraw,” Dada Lavate said.

On why Nandini does not compete in 50 kg, Lavate added:

“She can compete in that weight class too. But Swati Shinde, who trains with Nandini, competes in that bracket and therefore she contests in Vinesh Phogat’s weight class.”

Dada Lavate feels Nandini will have a psychological advantage over Vinesh given she has nothing to lose compared to the 2019 world medalist.

“Nandini is still young. Vinesh Phogat, on the other hand, is a senior and will have a lot to prove especially after the Olympics debacle. I think Nandini will have the psychological edge too,” he said.

The world championships will be held in Oslo, Norway between October 2 and 10.

Also Read: Wrestling World Championships: WFI allows Vinesh Phogat to compete, Deepak Punia pulls out


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