Nisha Dahiya seals fifth quota in Paris 2024 for Indian women’s wrestling

Source: X

Nisha Dahiya capped a wonderful day’s work by sealing India’s fifth quota in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games women’s wrestling competition in the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey. The 24-year-old’s three victories in the day ensured that India would have representation in five of the six weight classes in Paris.

After a dramatic come-from-behind 7-4 win against the World No. 9 Adela Hanzlickova (Czech Republic) in the 68kg quarterfinal, Nisha did well to hold her nerve and post an 8-4 verdict over Alexandra Nicoleta Anghel (Romania) in the semifinals to be the first to get one of the three quotas available in the weight division in the competition here.

India had won four quotas earlier through Vinesh Phogat (50kg), Antim Panghal (53), Anshu Malik (57) and Reetika Hooda (76).  Antim was the first to ensure a ticket by finishing in the top five in the UWW World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, last year. The other three claimed quotas for India in the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier in Bishkek last month.

In the quarterfinals, Nisha survived a pin by keeping a shoulder up but conceded a 0-3 lead to the Czech at the half-way stage. The Indian clawed her way back with three two-pointers to take a handy 6-3 lead before she conceded another point by going out of bounds. The Czech challenged and asked for four points for a headlock but Nisha had stepped out first.

There were two things that would have pepped up Nisha before and during the bout. She had beaten Adela 13-8 on her way to the semifinals in the 2022 World Championships in Belgrade. And she has a record of being able to stage fightbacks, not the least being in the 2023 Asian Championships semifinals where she rallied to beat China’s Feng Zhou 7-6.

She won the silver medal in the Asian Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, in April 9, 2023, but missed the Asian Games later in the year. She beat Radhika in the trials to earn herself two shots at securing an Olympic qualification for India in the 68kg class.

In the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier in Bishkek last month, Nisha did not make it to the semifinals despite winning two of her three round robin bouts, including a handy victory over North Korean teenager Sol Gum Pak, who went on to earn Olympic qualification. Her loss by fall to Kazakhstan’s Meerim Zhumanazarova pegged her back in the triple tie.

Her career has resembled a roller-coaster ride. She was not even 18 when a National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel handed her a ban in April 2017 as she tested positive for banned substance, Meldonium. She had claimed that she injected an intravenous muscle relaxant on the advice of her brother.

Months after she returned in 2021, she earned a 65kg podium finish in the World U-23 Championships in Belgrade. Ukraine’s Anastasiia Lavrenchuk who beat Nisha in the semifinals and went to win the final, tested positive for a banned substance in a retest of the 2021 sample and was banned in March this year. Nisha’s medal was upgraded from bronze to silver.

Almost as soon as she returned to India, she had to post a video on social media to confirm that she was safe and sound. She had to resort to this after reports emerged that she and her brother had been shot dead in a wrestling academy in Sonipat. Nisha has handled all situations with equanimity and that helped her on Friday evening in Istanbul.

In the 62kg class, Mansi Ahlawat lost her pre-quarterfinal bout with World No. 8 Veranika Ivanova (Individual Neutral Athlete) 0-5.  She waited with hope for the Belarusian to win her semifinal so that she herself could get in to the repechage, but that wait was in vain as the top-ranked wrestler lost on points to Romania’s Kriszta Tunde Incze.