New Delhi, February 21: Vinesh Phogat yet again fell to Japanese nemesis Mayu Muakida to go out of the gold medal race but Sakshi Malik will fight for the title after winning her semifinal bout at the Asian Wrestling championship in New Delhi on Friday (February 21).
Vinesh had lost twice to Mukaida in 2019 at World Championship and Asian Championships and the trend continued as the gritty Indian yet again struggled to break the strong defence of the Japanese.
In a tough opening round, Vinesh tried single leg attacks a number of times but every time Mukaida blocked her move and eventually got the upper body lock to subdue the home favourite.
In her last two meetings, Vinesh had not scored a single point against the 2019 world silver medallist. She managed a takedown this time before eventually losing 2-6.
The hard-working Vinesh will now fight for bronze against Vietnam's Thi Ly Kieu but even a medal won't suffice to lift her mood as she and the fans have high expectations from her.
Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, who has been struggling of late, lost her opening round 1-2 to Naomi Ruike from Japan but later overcame two weak opponents to eventually reach the final of the non-Olympic 65kg category.
She could hardly attack Naomi but outplayed Korea's Ohyoung Ha in the next round, winning by technical superiority.
In her semifinal against Uzbekistan's Nabira Esenbaeva, Sakshi led 5-0 but her rival pulled off consecutive two-point moves to make it 5-4.
Sakshi has been losing in closing stages of late but this time she managed to hold on to her narrow lead, surviving anxious last two seconds.
Also in medal contention are India's brightest youngsters Sonam Malik (62kg) and Anshu Malik (57kg).
Sonam, who had defeated Sakshi in the trials, showed good tactical mind in her resounding win against Korea's Hanbit Lee and also in the 2-5 defeat against world bronze medallist Yukako Kawai.
She pulled off a superb point-scoring move from a disadvantageous position and resisted the 2018 U-23 world champion Yukako in a good fashion. She will now fight for bronze against Aisuluu Tynbekova.
Anshu Malik opened up her campaign against Kyrgyzstan's Nuraida Anarkulova, winning by technical superiority but was outplayed by reigning world champion from Japan Riskao Kawai. She will have to beat Sevara Eshmuratova from Uzbekistan to grab a bronze.
In the non-olympic 72kg, Gursharanpreet Kaur is in bronze medal contention. She beat Uzbekistan's Svetlana Oknazarova but lost to Kazakhstan's Zhamila Bakberzenova.
She still made it to the semifinal in which she lost to Japan's Mei Shindo. She is now up against Mongloia's Tsevegmed Enkhbayar.