Asian Games 2018: Bajrang Punia wins Gold to emulate mentor Yogeshwar Dutt; other wrestlers draw blank
India’s biggest medal hope in men’s wrestling, Bajrang Punia, has delivered on his promise. Punia won the gold medal in the 65 kg freestyle wrestling event by beating Japan’s Daichi Takatani 11-8 in the final bout.asian games 2018 Updated: Aug 20, 2018 13:43 IST
India’s biggest medal hope in men’s wrestling, Bajrang Punia, delivered on his promise on the first day of the Asian Games. Punia won the gold medal in the 65 kg freestyle wrestling event by beating Japan’s Daichi Takatani 11-8 in the final bout. This is India’s first gold medal of the 2018 Games. Punia first outclassed Uzbekistan’s Sirojiddin Khasanov 13-3, winning by technical superiority. He followed that up with another gallant show in the quarter-final as he subdued Tajikistan’s Abdulqosim Fayziev 12-2 to storm into the last four. He was in his elements again in the semi-final bout as he overpowered Mongolia’s Batmagnai Batchuluun 10-0 to win his third straight bout via technical superiority. (Medal Tally)
The 24-year old from Haryana’s Jhajjar got the better of Takatani of Japan in a closely fought final bout. Punia sped away to a 6-0 lead before the Japanese wrestler fought back to tie the bout at 6-6. But Punia’s resilience eventually paid off as he put in a great defensive show towards the end of the bout to hold on to a great victory.
All the bouts were an indicator of Punia’s tactical acumen on the mat. He is not the strongest wrestler in the category but the Indian talisman makes up for it with his tactical genius. He had won a silver medal in the 61 kg category in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. In the run up to this year’s event, Punia stamped his class in the 65 kg category by winning the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast earlier this year.
Punia, who has trained under 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and 2014 Asian Games gold medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, told Hindustan Times before leaving for the Games that he wants to emulate the feat of his mentor. Dutt had won a gold medal in the same category four years ago.
“I want to repeat what Yogi bhai’s achievement of 2014. He advises but never puts pressure to win gold. He just tells me that my hard-work should reflect on the mat. And the nation’s prayer is with us, I will give my hundred per cent,” Punia had said.
Pawan Kumar was the only other wrestler who came close to winning a medal. Kumar started his journey in the 86 kg category by winning his opening bout 8-0 against Vuthy Heng of Cambodia. He though lost his quarter-final bout rather tamely, 0-11, to Iran’s Hassan Yazdanicharati. With Yazdanicharati entering the final of the category, the Indian wrestler qualified for the repechage. He beat Indonesia’s Fahriansyah in the repechage round 2 to enter the bronze medal match. Kumar was beaten comprehensively, 1-8, by Mongolian wrestler Uitumen Orgodol to end India’s hopes of a second medal in men’s wrestling.
In other results, veteran wrestler Sushil Kumar lost in the first round of the 74 kg category to Adam Batirov of Bahrain 3-5 in a closely fought match. Batirov was later eliminated which put paid to any hopes of Sushil winning a bronze medal via repechage.
Sandeep Tomar showed potential in the 57 kg category by winning his first bout 12-8 against Rustem Nazarov of Turkmenistan. He though went down, despite a great fightback, to Reza Atrinagharchi of Iran in the quarter-final. He was eliminated after Atrinagharchi failed to reach the final of the category.
Mausam Khatri received a bye in the first round of 97 kg category but lost his quarter-final to Ibragimov Magomed of Uzbekistan 0-8. With Magomed failing to reach the final, Khatri was eliminated from the competition.
First Published: Aug 19, 2018 15:41 IST