Bajrang Kumar is only 20 years old, but the confidence he exuded even in defeat was an indicator that he will overcome many a hurdle in the years to come.
As he bravely fought Iran’s Masoud Esmaeil Poorjoubari, fresh from clinching silver at the World Championships at Tashkent before the Asian Games, there was no hint the Indian was getting overawed by the persona of one of the world’s top grapplers in the 61kg category.
India ended freestyle competition with five medals, which includes Yogeshwar Dutt’s gold and Bajrang’s silver.
Winner of two Asian Championships gold medals --- one of them had come in the 2010 Asian Championships in Delhi --- it was going to be a tough task for Bajrang to be able to upend the Iranian.
Though the Jhajjar-born Bajrang could not eventually stake claim to the top prize like his “friend-coach-guardian” Yogeshwar Dutt, he managed to unnerve Masoud, who had to raise his game many notches to win against the doughty Indian. Bajrang lost 6-4.
Masoud had the technique to go with the physique and he had crushed Bajrang on the two previous occasions they met, and Bajrang conceded he was certainly didn’t fancy his chances.
“All I was hoping for was to give a good display and leave everything else in the hands of God. The two previous times we met, he crushed me 11-0 and 6-0. So, I adopted a different tactic today and I am lucky I could unnerve him,” said Bajrang.
The Iranian showed his class by applying the leg hold to earn an instant point. By the end of the first round of three minutes, he was leading 2-0. It was indeed a miracle that Bajrang managed to untangle the Iranian’s hold on a number of occasions, though he had played extremely defensive.
“Yes, that was a tactic to unsettle Masoud because on the two previous occasions, I had tried to attack and he effected a turnover and I ended up being on the receiving end,” said Bajrang.
The silver comes two days after Bajrang got his appointment letter from the Railways, whose scouts had been tracking his development since the Junior Asian Championships. “First the appointment letter and now the silver...I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Bajrang before he was ushered in for the medals ceremony.
The second half was more eventful with Bajrang managing two points with a leg hold, but the agile Iranian was simply too sound technically.
The speed with which he turned disadvantage into advantage was amazing and soon he was leading 4-2. Bajrang applied a similar technique to push his rival out of the ring, but within seconds the Iranian was again in front.
With 15 seconds left, Bajrang hoped for a miracle, but Masoud’s defence was just too good.
“All day long Yogeshwar (Dutt), who is like my brother, was explaining to me how to counter Masoud. Yogi bhai played him at the London Olympics (in the second-round repechage) and beat him. So, I too was confident I could unsettle him,” Bajrang said.