Tokyo Olympics: Ravi Kumar Dahiya ensures at least a silver medal for India; enters men's freestyle 57kg wrestling final
Tokyo Olympics: Ravi Kumar staged a grand comeback as he first reduced the deficit to 5-9 and then pinned the Kazakh wrestler down with a great move to eventually win the bout 'by fall'.
India were assured of at least a silver medal in the men's freestyle wrestling 57kg category as Ravi Kumar Dahiya staged a great comeback against Kazakhstan's Nurislam Sanayev to make his way to the final.
The bout started in a cagey fashion with both wrestlers registering points in the initial minutes of the first round and sizing up the opponent. But Sanayev, soon after, set himself on course to victory as he pocketed eight points in a row by pulling off the dreaded 'fitele' move. Sanayev grabbed Ravi by the ankles and rolled the Indian wrestler four times, which gave him the eight points to take the advantage to 9-2.
Ravi Kumar may have been down at that point but he certainly was out yet. He then staged a grand comeback; first reducing the deficit to 5-9, as he pushed the Kazakh out of the mat. This move of Ravi left Sanayev bamboozled as he also hurt his leg.
Also watch, Olympics: How wrestler Ravi Kumar made a comeback to seal another medal for India in Tokyo
The Indian wrestler, then, made his psychological advantage count as he pinned the Kazakh wrestler down with a great move to eventually win the bout 'by fall'.
He will be the fifth wrestler from India to win an Olympic medal after KD Jadhav (bronze in 1952), Sushil Kumar (bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012) and Yogeshwar Dutt (bronze in 2008) and Sakshi Malik (bronze in 2016).
Ravi is a two-time Asian Championships gold medallist and a bronze medal winner at the World Championships in 2019.
The other Indian wrestler who qualified for the semi-final, Deepak Punia, wasn't as lucky as he was defeated by technical superiority in the semi-final by American David Taylor in the men's 86kg category.
The American wrestler was too good for the inexperienced Indian, who was never in the fight.
How Ravi ensured a silver for India
Despite a huge deficit, Dahiya did not panic, showing tremendous mental strength and dramatically turned the bout in his favour.
After the end of the first period, Dahiya had a 2-1 lead but Sanayev came prepared and attacked the Indian's left leg, getting a good grip of that turned him thrice to log six points in a jiffy.
Suddenly Dahiya's lead was gone and he was staring at a defeat but his superior stamina and technical prowess was still at work. The remaining one minute was enough for him to turn the tide and he did it in style.
He got hold of Sanayev with a double leg attack and then gripped him tightly, Kazkahstan wrestler's back on the mat and finished the bout with a might 'pin'.
Even in his previous bouts Dahiya was dominant as the 23-year won both his previous contests on technical superiority en route the final.
Dahiya outclassed Colombia's Tigreros Urbano (13-2) in his opener and then outwitted Bulgaria's Georgi Valentinov Vangelov (14-4).
He is now only the fifth Indian wrestler to have won an Olympic medal after KD Jadhav, Sushil Kaumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sakshi Malik.
Jadhav had become India's first wrestler and also the first individual Olympic medallist when he won a bronze during the 1952 Helsinki Games.
After that, Sushil Kumar enhanced wrestling's profile by winning a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and bettered the colour of the medal by claiming a historic silver in 2012 at the London Games that made him India's only athlete with two individual Olympic medals.
The feat since then has now been matched by shuttler PV Sindhu.
In the same 2012 edition of the Games, Yogeshwar Dutt won a bronze.
Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal when she took a bronze in the 2016 Rio Games.
This could well be a watershed Games for Indian wrestling with both Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia also in contention.
(With PTI inputs)