Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Bajrang Punia goes down in men's 65kg freestyle wrestling semis, to fight for bronze
- Bajrang will now compete in the bronze medal bout on Saturday. If he manages to win, it would be India's second medal in wrestling in Tokyo, with Ravi Kumar Dahiya winning a silver medal in the 57kg category on Thursday.
Bajrang Punia lost to Azerbaijan's Haji Aliyev in men's freestyle 65kg wrestling semifinal match at the Tokyo Olympics. The Indian grappler was no match to the technical finesse and power of Aliyev, who concentrated on the ankle hold to win several points in the bout. Bajrang will now compete in the bronze medal bout on Saturday. If he manages to win, it would be India's second medal in wrestling in Tokyo, with Ravi Kumar Dahiya winning a silver medal in the 57kg category on Thursday.
Bajrang won the first point of the bout after the Azerbaijani failed to collect a point in the 30 seconds time period. But reigning Asian Games and CWG champion was no match to Aliyev's strength thereafter as the Azerbaijani pulled off two great technical moves to hold Bajrang from the back to go up 4-1 at the end of the first period.
The nimble-footed Azerbaijani held Bajrang by his leg at the start of the second period and pulled off a great move to all but seal a place in the final by going up 8-1. Bajrang came back by taking 2 very tough points to make it 3-8. Aliyev picked up another point to make it 9-3, but Bajrang kept his hopes alive by making it 5-9 with around 45 seconds to go.
Aliyev defended strongly and eventually won the bout 12-5 on points to progress to the final. A tired and devastated Bajrang challenged for some points but it was lost and he eventually threw in the towel.
Earlier, Bajrang Punia put his tactical acumen and strength to good use in the second period to pin Iran's Morteza Cheka Ghiasi for a semifinal berth. A timely take-down move helped him beat Kyrgyzstan's Ernazar Akmataliev in his opening bout.
Bajrang is a three-time world championships medallist. He won a bronze in the 2019 World Championships and had won a silver in 2018, both in the 65kg category. He had won a bronze at the world championships in 2013 in the 60 kg category.
He is also the reigning Commonwealth and Asian games champion of the 65kg category, having won the gold medal in 2018 in both the Games. He had won a silver medal in the 61kg category in the CWG and Asiad in 2014 respectively.
Bajrang, a disciple of former Indian wrestling great and 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, Yogeshwar Dutt.