Hardeep Singh will be the first JSW-supported wrestler to open his campaign at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics when the 98 kg Greco-Roman category kicks-off on Tuesday. The 25-year-old Hardeep will take on Turkey’s Cenk Ildem in the round-of-16 inside the Carioca Arena.
Hardeep is one of two Greco-Roman wrestlers that India have qualified for the Summer Olympics. Earlier on Monday, Ravinder Khatri exited the competition after suffering a loss to Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz in the 85 kg Greco-Roman category.
Hardeep became the first heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics from India when he won a quota at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan. The burly grappler who comes from Haryana’s Jind district, has had a good 2016, winning the silver at this year’s Asian Championship in Bangkok to go with the second place finish that he recorded in Astana.
Ildem, Hardeep’s challenger, is a seasoned competitor with two World Championship Bronze medals (2011, 2014) to his name. He is also a three-time Bronze medallist at the European Championships (2010, 2013, 2016) and was crowned the World Junior Champion in the 84 kg class in 2006.
Should Hardeep manage to get the better of the Turk, he will be facing the winner of the clash between Russia’s Islam Magomedov and Estonia’s Ardo Arusaar in the quarterfinals.
The Indian comes into Rio after an extensive preparatory period which included training stints in Georgia and Bulgaria. Hardeep said that he was excited to begin his Olympic journey and would be looking to put his best foot forward on Tuesday. “The Olympics are the biggest stage for an athlete to make a name for himself. I am looking forward to competing today and making the country proud. I am going to be wrestling against some of the best wrestlers in the world and that is a great source of motivation for me,” he said.
Action in the 98 kg Greco-Roman category begins at 6.30 pm IST and will be telecast on the Star Sports network.