An in-form Sushil Kumar notched up his first-ever gold medal in the Asian wrestling championship as host India garnered its second yellow metal of the meet at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex wrestling stadium here on Thursday.
Sushil (66 kg freestyle) outsmarted Korean Dae Sung Kim, a bronze medallist in the championship last year, in two rounds (4-0, 2-0) to stamp his class.
The win would ease the Olympic bronze medallist, who had overweighed in the last edition in Pattaya (Thailand) and had been pulled up by the Union Sports Ministry.
“It feels good to win the gold. Last time, I had overweighed by just 400gm and got pulled up. However, the federation had stood by me,” a relieved Sushil said after helping India to one of its best performances in the championship.
Sushil's progress was smooth. He overpowered Adilet Ramanov of Kyrgyzstan (2-0, 6-0) and Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan (5-0, 6-0) to make the semifinals.
In the last four, Sushil tamed an attacking Chun-song Yang (2-0, 5-0) and reach the final. Yang, an Asian bronze medallist last year and a gold winner in 2008, had almost pushed Sushil out of the ring in the second round.
However, the Indian made a quick recovery to wriggle out of the North Korean's clutches and banked on his swift movement and tight grip to put Yang on the mat.
In the title clash, Sushil was clearly the superior wrestler. The soon-to-be 27 Indian was lucky to win the toss after the first round went into the tie-breaker. In the second, he earned points by attacking the Korean's legs and then counterattacking him.
“My gripping was good. I was conscious of not making any mistake in the final,” Sushil said.
Rahul Mann (55 kg FS) defeated Mongolian T. Davaahyug (0-5, 4-1, 4-0) to reach the quarterfinals, but went down to Korean Woo-Joo Lee (4-1, 2-1) to be out of the medal race.
Anuj Kumar loses
Last year's bronze medallist Anuj Kumar (84 kg FS) could not live up to the expectation. He did not have any problem in getting past Turkmenistan's Maksat Bayramov (1-0, 7-0). However, the experienced Indian lost to Chinese Feng Zhang (0-2, 0-4) in the quarterfinals.
In 120 kg FS, Rajeev Tomar, after getting a bye, withdrew midway through his bout against Marid Mutalimov due to a leg injury. Tomar was trailing 0-1 against the Beijing Olympic bronze medallist from Kazakhstan when he picked up the injury. Later, Tomar lost to S.M. Azarshakib of Iran (0-1, 1-1) in the bronze medal match.
Meanwhile, chaos continued to persist on the second day of the championship. According to a Wrestling Federation of India official, spectators could not get essential items like food and water as the caterers were not allowed to operate.
The mixed zone, the area where one can meet the wrestlers, continued to be out of bounds for the mediapersons.
Officials of the WFI and Press Operations held a meeting with some top police officials and apprised them of the needs of the scribes to smoothly carry out their work.
The medal winners: Freestyle: 55 kg: 1. Shinichi Yumoto (Jpn), 2. Nasibu Kurbanov (Uzb), 3. Woo-Joo Lee (Kor), Kyong-Il Yang (PRK).
66 kg: 1. Sushil Kumar (Ind), 2. Dae Sung Kim (Kor), 3. Ikhtiyor Navrujov (Uzb), Unurat Purebjav (Mgl); 84 kg: 1. Ehsan Lashgari (Iri), 2. Semyon Semyonov (Kaz), 3. Shinya Matsumoto (Jpn), Feng Zhang (Chn).
120 kg: 1. Marid Mutalimov (Kaz), 2. Chluunbat Jargalsaikhan (Mgl), 3. S.M.
Azarshakib (Iri), Aiaal Lazarev (Kgz).