Bajrang Punia pinned the elusive gold for the host as he won the men’s 65 kg final 6-2 against Seongchul Lee of Korea in the Asian wrestling championship at the KD Jadhav arena of the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium Complex here on Saturday.
Cheered by the Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, his mentor, Bajrang came up with a gutsy fare after having trailed 0-2 at the end of the first session of three minutes.
Having gauged the opponent, Bajrang was more purposeful in the second session as he quickly picked up three points to be ahead after a minute and a half. He got two more points as the referee warned the Korean. With less than 30 seconds to go for the hooter, Lee's protest was dismissed, which fetched Bajrang another point.
For the vociferous crowd, which cheered heartily, it was a fitting reward, as the host had won only four silver and four bronze medals thus far in the competition. On a day, when the only gold medallist of the last edition, Sandeep Tomar twisted his ankle in the first bout of the morning session in the 57 kg category, and got pinned by Ulukbek Zholdoshbekov of Kyrgyzstan, it was a relief for the Indian to get that gold.
Sarita, who had to interchange her place with Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik in the women’s 58 kg section, did very well to reach the final even though she could not fetch any point or make an impact against
Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan, as she was beaten 6-0. She had done her bit to win the fourth silver medal, to speak for the Indian women power, after Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Divya Kakran.
Sarita did not have the right kind of opposition to prepare for the final against a quality opponent. She won her quarterfinal by a technical fall 10-0 against Asem Seydametova of Uzbekistan, and won the semifinal as well, by a technical fall 12-0, against Thi Huong Dao of Vietnam. After not conceding any point through the day, and not being tested enough, Sarita could not win a point against the
defending champiion, Tynybekova.
Bajrang, who has a World Championship medal to show for his calibre, won in 2013, fought like a lion through the day, even though he had a shaky start against Sirojiddin Hasanov of Uzbekistan in the first
bout, when he edged ahead 4-3.
In the quarterfinals, Bajrang won 7-5 against Meisam Abolfazl Nasiri of Iran, and pipped Kukgwang Kim of DPR Korea 3-2 in the semifinals. It was a fighting fare all the way, and a fitting finale in the climax when he could actually dominate against the strongly built Korean, to ensure the Indian national anthem at the medal ceremony.
The gold and silver apart, there was no further medal for the host this day.
Among the other three Indians in action on the day, Sakshi Malik’s husband Satyawart Kadian was beaten 2-2 by Magomed Idrisovitch Ibragimov of Uzbekistan, who won the last point to move ahead after the tie, in the 97 kg bout.
Kadian did get a chance in the repechage and was in fact leading 5-4 with barely half a minute left for the hooter, but conceded four more points to lose 5-8 to Batzul Ulzisakhan of Mongolia.
In the 74 kg class, Jitender won the first bout 7-0 against SAhergeldi Saparmyradov of Turkmenistan, but was edged out 8-7 by Tsubasa Asai of Japan in the quarterfinals.
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