Bajrang Punia wins silver to become first Indian with two World Wrestling Championship medals
Bajrang Punia entered the history books as he won silver and became the first Indian wrestler to win two medals at the World Wrestling Championships on Monday. Punia had won a bronze medal in the 2013 edition.
Punia lost 9-16 to Takuto Otoguro of Japan in the final of the 65 kg freestyle event.
The Japanese raced into a 5-0 lead at the start of the match and although Bajrang did cut Otoguro’s lead to one pointa at one stage he was always fighting an uphill battle against an opponent who had injury issues later in the match.
“It was so near and yet so far,” was how the 24-year-old reacted, speaking from Budapest. “Having reached the final, I expected to win gold but I will have to be satisfied with a silver medal. I am happy to have bettered my bronze medal effort, achieved five years ago at the same venue,” added Punia.
Coach Jasminder Singh, disappointed as he was, said it was not India’s day at Budapest. “Yes, we all would have wanted him to win gold, but a silver medal is no mean achievement. But Punia has been consistent throughout the season and has wrapped up this season with two major titles and a silver medal in the world championships here. And this is what every wrestler dream about,” said the coach, applauding Punia’s efforts in the season.
The Indian grappler had earlier knocked off Alejandro Valdes Tobier of Cuba 4-3 to enter the 65 kg Freestyle final on the second day of the World Wrestling Championships at the Papp László Sportaréna in Budapest on Sunday night. In a close bout, the Indian staved off a late threat from his Cuban rival who narrowed down the lead from 4-1 to 4-3 before the 2013 Budapest bronze medal winner emerged as a deserving winner to prove the Hungarian capital to be a happy hunting ground for him.
In the quarter final Bajrang beat Tulga Tumur Ochir of Mongolia 5-3. In a thrilling quarterfinal, the Indian held upper hand until the last minute, leading 4-1. But Punia conceded to his Mongolian opponent three crucial points, including one for the neutral position and two for the takedown within 40-odd seconds, almost stopping the Indian’s progress.
But luckily, Punia held his nerves and even thwarted a challenge by the Mongolian in the last second, thus earning an additional point.
Punia has had a great 2018 so far, having already won gold medals at the Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games.