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Nisha Dahiya secures India's fifth Paris Olympic quota in woman wrestling

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Nisha Dahiya became the fifth Indian woman wrestler to qualify for the Paris Olympics after prevailing over Romania’s Alexandra Anghel in the 68kg semifinals at the World Olympic Qualifiers here on Friday. This will be the first time India will have five women wrestlers at the quadrennial extravaganza.

This was a day after all six Greco-roman wrestlers came up with forgettable performances.

Nisha, a World U-23 bronze medallist and Asian Championships silver-medal winner last year beat Anghel 8-4 by points to enter the final and secure another Olympic quota for India.

This will be the first time that five Indian woman wrestlers will be competing in the Olympics.

Against Anghel, Nisha zoomed to a 8-0 lead with a flurry of attacks in the first period. She began with a right leg attack and converted that into a takedown. She quickly followed that up with a two-pointer and rolled her rival for a comfortable 6-0 cushion.

Before the end of first period, she had taken what became an unassailable 8-0 lead. The second period was all about defence after a double leg attack did not turn into points. The Romanian, who is a silver medal winner at the European championship, woke up from her slumber to launch attacks and had Nisha in trouble. First she managed a takedown and then found another scoring move. With time running out, Anghel went for a kill, turning Nisha on the mat while aiming for a ‘fall’ but the Indian freed herself from the grip to thwart the danger.

Nisha did well to defend her lead in the remaining 55 seconds of the bout.

Nisha had earlier defeated Belarusian teenager Alina Shauchuk, competing as an independent athlete, on points 3-0 to secure a place in the quarterfinal.

Nisha, 25, then overcame the challenge of ninth-ranked wrestler from the Czech Republic Adela Hanzlickova, a multiple European Championships medallist, on points 7-4 to book a place in the semifinal against Anghel, ranked 58th in the world.

In a bout lasting the full distance, Nisha, who trains in Rohtak at the famous Sir Chhotu Ram stadium where Sakshi Malik also trained, took a quick 3-1 lead in the first round of three minutes and despite a fight-back by Adela, managed to win with ease.

However, Mansi (62kg) came up against a far superior opponent in eighth-ranked Belarusian opponent Veranika Ivanova, who achieved a victory by fall in the pre-quarterfinal round with 25 seconds remaining on the timer.

Mansi can still secure a place in the bronze-medal round through the repechage route and hope to win an Olympic quota but for that Veranika will have to enter the final.

Four Indian women wrestlers have already secured Paris berths. While Antim Panghal obtained an Olympic quota in 53kg category with a bronze-medal finish at the World Championships last year, Vinesh Phogat (50kg), Anshu Malik (57kg) and Reetika Hooda (76kg) clinched the spots for the country at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in March.

India’s Greco-Roman grapplers had failed to impress on the opening day of the Qualifiers here on Thursday, bowing out in the preliminary rounds in all six weight categories.

Sumit (60kg), Ashu (67kg), Vikas (77kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg), Nitesh (97kg) and Naveen (130kg) had all lost their bouts.

Indian men’s freestyle grapplers will hope to offset the below-par showing of their Greco-roman compatriots when they step on the mat on Saturday.

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