New Delhi: Amit Kumar (55kg) and Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg) became the first set of Indian wrestlers to book their London Olympics berths by clinching a gold and silver medal respectively at the Asian Qualifying Tournament on Friday, even as the fancied Sushil Kumar (66kg) failed to make the cut in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The finalists in each weight category in the ongoing event won tickets to the 2012 London Games and Asian champion Yogeshwar and Amit were the only Indians who were able to do so in the freestyle event.
Amit ensured himself a ticket to London after he overcame Chinese Xiaobin Hong in the semi-finals. The wrestler, after getting a bye in the round-of-16, got the better of Yemen's Basheer Ahmed Mohammed Al Yamani in the quarters before overwhelming the Chinese in the semi-finals. The Haryana-lad then blanked Shinichi Yumoto of Japan 5-0 in the summit clash to get the gold medal.
The fancied Sushil Kumar (66kg), however, failed to make the cut in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Yogeshwar, meanwhile, stormed into the finals of the tournament after beating Mongolia's Mandakhnaran Ganzorig. Yogeshwar looked in command from the word go, overcoming host wrestler Ulan Nadyrbek Uulu in the first round and making easy work of Uzbekistan's Dilshod Mansurov in the quarters. But the grappler settled for a silver after losing 1-3 to Masoud Mahmoud Esmaeil Poorjouybari of Iran in the title bout. The Indian had lost to the Iranian in the World Championships final as well.
"I am happy to have qualified and this should now give me a few months of good tension-free training to get ready for London. I would like to thank the Mittal Champions Trust which has been by my side through this long road from when I didn't even know if I would ever compete again. I now have my sights firmly set on an Olympic medal," Yogeshwar said.
It was, however, a disappointing day for former world champion and Beijing Olympics bronze-medalist Sushil as he lost in the semi-finals. The wrestler beat Kazakhstan's Innokentii Innokentev in the first round before overwhelming Zalimkhan Yusupov of Tajikistan in the second bout and was looking good to make it to the finals until he stumbled upon Kazakhstan's Akzhurek Tanatarov. Sushil, however, ensured a medal for himself when he defeated China's Ye Erlanbieke Katai 3-1 in the repechage bout to clinch the bronze.
Yogeshwar started at the bottom of the field in the 12th spot and won 2-1 against Nadyrbek. He won the first round 2-1, then lost the second 0-3 before rounding it off 5-3. Against his next opponent Mansurov Dilshod, Yogeshwar rallied from 0-1 to scrape through in the second round 2-1. He then steamrolled his opponent 6-0 in the final round. In the semi-finals, Yogeshwar defeated Ganzorig Mandakhnaran in two straight rounds (1-0, 7-0) to secure his London qualification.
This was a second missed opportunity for Sushil, who had last year failed to defend his World Championship title. He now has just a couple of chances to make it to the marquee event in London.
India's disappointment did not just end with Sushil's exit as Narsingh Yadav (74Kg), Pawan Kumar (84kg) and Mausam Khatri (96kg) also crashed out in the first round of the tournament.
Besides the Astana event, India will also get the chance to field their wrestlers in two other qualifying events - in China (April 27-29) and in Finland (May 4-6).