Tomohiro Inoue (JPN, 66 kg) and Xiao Di (CHN, 98 kg) both took home gold as the Greco portion of the Asian Olympic Qualifier came to a conclusion earlier today in Astana, Kazakhstan. Inoue, who has seen his up’s and down’s at 71 kg, felt right at home in the lower weight class, hustling past Jin Chol Pang (PRK) in the quarterfinal before downing Kazakhstan’s Magomed Chuhalov 2-1 to clinch a Rio qualifying berth for the Japanese team. Chuhalov was a tough customer, displaying excellent defense standing up while also coming close with a turn during the first period. But Inoue held strong and when a second period par terre opportunity of his own arose, he took advantage of it with the match’s decisive points.
“It’s been my dream to compete in the Olympics and I’m happy,” Inoue told the Japanese Times. “I was nervous like never before in the first bout. I felt I couldn’t stay that way, so I wanted to wrestle as I usually do in the semis.” And it was that semifinal bout which sealed the deal for Inoue and Team Japan, as 66 kg is now no longer a qualifying concern.
Xiao Di (world no. 5) had a smoother route to gold, as it was the 98 kg semifinal bout between Hardeep Hardeep (IND) and Margulen Assembekov (KAZ) which provided the lead-in. This weird affair saw Assembekov up 2-0 after the first period on a gutwrench. Hardeep came out hard in the second, attempting to bully Assembekov around the mat, picking up a passive point in the process. Shortly thereafter, the Indian wrestler got behind for a takedown and a 3-2 lead. Assembekov was noticeably fatigued and rose slowly to his feet. Then there was a push-out. Then a takedown. Then another push-out. And another takedown. This was basically the story, as Assembekov essentially withdrew from the bout. The final score will read 11-2 due to the bevy of points Hardeep picked up, but this was as close to a white towel being thrown in as you’re gonna get.
Either Hardeep himself was tired out from pushing around a debilitated Assembekov or the Indian contingent felt like getting out of dodge with their qualifying spot secured, because there was no match to be had in this Asian Olympic Qualifier final. Xiao brought home the championship via default. While making it to the finals of a spring qualifying tournament is always the goal, the fact the gold medal match wasn’t even contested is somewhat of a letdown.
As mentioned previously, we are going to do an extended summary of the Asian Olympic Qualifier and more coming soon. It was an interesting few days in Astana that saw a stunning upset or two as well as a few really entertaining bouts that could provide a glimpse at what’s to come in Rio. So be sure to check back!
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