Sarita Defends 59kg Crown to Become India's 1st Two-Time Asian Women's Champion
Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 16:59 By Ken Marantz
Sarita SARITA (IND) became the first Indian woman in history to win a second Asian gold medal when she defeated an opponent who had beaten her earlier in the day.
And she did it after coming back from a five-point hole.
Sarita defended her 59kg crown by rallying to a 10-7 victory in the final Thursday night over two-time world bronze medalist Shoovdor BAATARJAV (MGL) on the third day of the six-day Asian Championships in Almaty.
"I had won the gold medal in 59 in Delhi and I am the first Indian to defend my title," said Sarita, who turns 26 on Friday. "Last year as well, I had beaten a Mongolian wrestler and now also I did the same. To get my country's flag on the top in a foreign country is the proudest moment."
With the women's tournament at the spectator-less Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sports missing powerhouses Japan and China, limited entries means all weight classes are conducted in round-robin formats.
Sarita and Baatarjav were drawn in the same group, with the Mongolian winning their first encounter 5-4 before they set up the rematch in the final with one-sided wins in the semifinals.
Sarita was familiar with Baatarjav even before the afternoon match. The Mongolian had beaten her 10-0 in the quarterfinals at the 2018 World Championships en route to the first of consecutive bronze medals.
"I had that in mind, but I also wanted to win the gold medal for myself and India," Sarita said.
In the final, Sarita scored with a stepout before Baatarjav replied with a double-leg takedown for a 2-0 lead. Early in the second period, Baatarjav launched a hip throw at the edge that was awarded 2 points and was challenged by the Indian side -- only to have the points revised to 4, with a lost-challenge point added, to give the Mongolian a 7-2 lead.
"When she scored a 4-pointer, I thought that's big," Sarita said. "I don't think it was 4. But it was okay, and I thought I have to cover that if I want to win.
"Even in the morning I had thought that I have to wrestle hard for six minutes if I want to win. There is nothing left once the bout finishes. I had to keep wrestling."
Undaunted, Sarita closed the gap with a takedown and 2-point tilt. As the end of the match neared, Sarita caught Baatarjav with a back trip for 4 with :15 left to go ahead. An unsuccessful challenge finalized the score at 10-7.
Heading into the final, Sarita said she brainstormed with her coaches to come up with a strategy to finally vanquish her nemesis.
"I learned about her weak areas and my mistakes after [the first] bout and the coaches had a word with me to correct all that," Sarita said. "We had to improve certain things and attack in a different manner. I did all that and won."
In other action, world bronze medalist Valentina ISLAMOVA BRIK (KAZ) made the most of the missing East Asians by storming to her first Asian gold with a 10-0 technical fall in the 50kg final over Jasmina IMMAEVA (UZB).
The Russian-born Islamova Brik, who secured a berth at the Tokyo Olympics with her third-place finish at the 2019 World Championships in Nursultan, scored an early takedown, then clamped down countering an arm throw attempt by Immaeva and rolled her back-and-forth four times to end the match in 1:43.
"I am feeling wonderful because this is the first time I became the Asian champion, and at home, too, so it's exciting," said the 29-year-old Islamova Brik, the mother of a 7-year-old son who won consecutive Asian bronzes in 2019 and 2020.
"Before the final, I was very nervous because I was under pressure to wrestle at home and win here. Thankfully I did it. This medal I will celebrate with my husband who is also my coach."
Asked which she treasures more, her world bronze or newly won Asian gold, Islamova Brik replied, "Both medals are very important and I can't answer that question. But if I had to choose one, it will be world bronze because it gave me a chance to go to Olympics."
Two wrestlers who earned Tokyo Olympic spots at the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, which preceded the Asian Championships at the same venue, both made it to the finals, but only one joined Greco-Roman star Hansu RYU (KOR) by achieving an Almaty double and adding the Asian gold.
Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ), who secured a ticket to Tokyo at 68kg, added the Asian senior title to three golds she won on the junior level by calmly defeating Delgermaa ENKHSAIKHAN (MGL) 6-1 in the final.
"Many people have told me that I am always relaxed and don't feel any emotions," Zhumanazarova said. "My coach is a very relaxed person, so maybe I copy him and am relaxed as well. When I am going for something big, I always try to be relaxed and not worry."
Zhumanazarova, a 2019 world junior champion, had a 1-0 lead when she was put on the activity clock. But she kept her composure and scored a lift-and-drop takedown, then padded her lead with a second takedown and a stepout.
Any celebrating, however, is on hold for now.
"For me, it's the mat and then we eat and sleep, and that's all. I don't do anything else," Zhumanazarova said. "There is no party or anything until I win the Olympics gold. That's my main goal.
"Yes, there are strong opponents in 68kg, but in sports, anything can happen and we have seen it in history that any strong sportsperson can lose. I think anyone who is in strong physical form will win in Olympics."
Olympic qualifier Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) saw her bid for an Almaty double at 76kg quashed when Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) used the move-of-the-day to score a victory by fall in the final.
Medet Kyzy had Syzdykova's leg in the air when the Kazakh suddenly jumped and kicked out a leg while rolling back, which flipped Medet Kyzy onto her back. Syzdykova then clamped down for a fall in 1:48.
"The final was a tough bout as I had only three weeks of training and we were helping the Kazakhstan team to qualify for Olympics," Syzdykova said. "But my coach said that we have to go for it and win. I was wrestling only tactically and next time I’ll do better."
For Syzdykova, the victory avenged a 6-1 loss to Medet Kyzy in the group stage, and gave her a first gold among six career Asian medals. It was also her first major title since moving up to 76kg in 2018.
"I won the Olympic medal at 69, but now cutting the weight is not good for me so I changed," she said. "I have been wrestling for 16 years and I don’t know what else to do. I love it."
Dulguun MUNKHBOLD (MGL), who had already clinched the 55kg title with a pair of falls in the afternoon session, capped her run to a first Asian gold with a third pin, decking Hyungjoo KIM (KOR) at 2:41 after leading 5-0.
Munkhbold, in progressing from Asian bronze medalist in 2019 and silver medalist last year, sprawled at the edge to counter a Kim tackle, then reversed gears and bulled her onto her back.
With that result, the final match of the 55kg round-robin suddenly became a showdown for the silver and bronze medals, and Madina USMONJONOVA (UZB) came away with the glitzier hardware.
Usmonjonova twice stuffed a front headlock throw attempt by Aisha UALISHAN (KAZ), and clamped down after the second one to secure a fall with :36 left in the match and a 4-1 lead.
India came away with two bronze medals, with Seema SEEMA (IND) winning at 50kg -- the day after turning 29 -- with a 10-0 technical fall over Yung Hsun LIN (TPE), and Pooja POOJA (IND) beating Seoyeon JEONG (KOR) 5-2 at 76kg in a repeat of their match at the Asian Olympic qualifier, where neither finished in the top two.
Nine years after winning an Asian junior bronze, Eun Sun JEONG (KOR) earned a senior one with a 7-2 win at 68kg over Azoda ESBERGENOVA (UZB).
Nuraida ANARKULOVA (KGZ), a 2019 world junior bronze medalist, took the 59kg bronze by beating Dilfuza AIMBETOVA (UZB) 7-0.
The women's tournament finishes up Friday with competition in the 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 65kg and 72kg divisions.
The day will see a clash between reigning champions, as Divya KAKRAN (IND), the 2020 champion at 68kg, has moved up to 72kg and is looking to dethrone Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ). The two will face each other in the second round of the four-woman round-robin.
Day 3 Finals
50kg (6 entries)
GOLD - Valentina ISLAMOVA BRIK (KAZ) df. Jasmina IMMAEVA (UZB) by TF, 10-0, 1:43
BRONZE - Seema SEEMA (IND) df. Yung Hsun LIN (TPE) by TF, 10-0, 2:17
55kg (4 entries)
GOLD - Dulguun MUNKHBOLD (MGL), 3-0
SILVER - Madina USMONJONOVA (UZB), 2-1
BRONZE - Aisha UALISHAN (KAZ), 1-2
Key match: Dulguun MUNKHBOLD (MGL) df. Madina USMONJONOVA (UZB) by Fall, 5:23 (14-0) in Round 1
59kg (6 entries)
GOLD - Sarita SARITA (IND) df. Shoovdor BAATARJAV (MGL), 10-7
BRONZE - Nuraida ANARKULOVA (KGZ) df. Dilfuza AIMBETOVA (UZB), 7-0
68kg (6 entries)
GOLD - Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) df. Delgermaa ENKHSAIKHAN (MGL), 6-1
BRONZE - Eun Sun JEONG (KOR) df. Azoda ESBERGENOVA (UZB), 7-2
76kg (6 entries)
GOLD - Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) df. Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) by Fall, 1:48 (4-0)
BRONZE - Pooja POOJA (IND) df. Seoyeon JEONG (KOR), 5-2