(Photo: JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP via Getty Images).

Much-improved Jitender Kumar on Friday prevailed in an intense 74kg trial bout to qualify for the season-opener in Italy and the Asian Championship here but now needs to win a medal to shut out celebrated Sushil Kumar’s shot at the Olympic qualification.

World Championship stars Deepak Punia (86kg) and Ravi Dahiya (57kg) did not have to break much sweat as they were given direct entries in the final which they won easily. Sumit Malik (125kg) and Satyawart Kadian (97kg) also locked their places with smart victories over their opponents.

Competing in the most competitive category of the day, Jitender prevailed 5-2 in the final against Amit Dhankar.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had earlier announced that winner of the Friday’s trials will compete at the Ranking series event in Italy (January 15-18), Asian Championships in New Delhi (February 18-23) and the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Xian (March 27-29) but its President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said they can hold fresh trials ahead of the Xian event.

It means that if Jitender has to earn a shot at the Tokyo Olympic qualification, he will have to impress the WFI with medal-winning performances in Rome and New Delhi.

“If we find that performances of our wrestlers is not satisfying at the first two events, we can have fresh trials to select wrestlers for the Asian Olympic qualifier. We want to send our best wrestler, so that India can have maximum number of quotas for Olympics,” Sharan told PTI.

Sushil Kumar, India’s most decorated wrestler with two Olympic medals did not compete in Friday’s trials, citing an injury.

Sushil had beaten Jitender in a bitterly-fought trials bout for the World Championships in September 2019.

“If we are happy with performance of our wrestlers in Olympic categories, where we have not got the quota, we will not have trials. As for Sushil, no one will be allowed to go for Olympic qualifiers, without having to compete in trials,” he added.