Third Indian wrestler to win a medal after K.D. Jadhav and Sushil Kumar

Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt clinched the bronze medal in the men’s 60 kg freestyle category winning three rounds of repechage after losing to four-time world champion Besik Kudukhov of Russia in the pre-quarterfinals, at the ExCel Arena on Saturday.

It was a brilliant performance by Yogeshwar, who had made the quarterfinals of the last edition in Beijing. He followed Sushil Kumar in winning the Olympic bronze medal. It was the third medal from wrestling for an Indian in the Olympics as K. D. Jadhav had won it in 1952.

To win three bouts in the repechage within an hour was a tough task in itself, and the 29-year-old accomplished it with a touch of class, as he rolled the Korean semifinalist, Ri Jong Myong on the mat to win 6-0 points in the decisive third period of the bronze medal contest.

It was the Korean who had won the first period as he pushed the Indian off the mat.

In the second period, Yogeshwar won the crucial point in the first minute and held on to the advantage to force the decider. There were no points for about 40 seconds and Yogeshwar put the opponent down for the first point and just rolled him around to force the referee to stop the bout as he reached six points.

The Korean was the Asian championship bronze medallist, and not a big issue for Yogeshwar Dutt who had earlier got past the world championship silver medallist Franklin Gomez Matos of Puerto Rico in the first round of repechage by not conceding a point in the two periods. Both the times he scored the point in the ‘clinch’.

Close call

In the second round of repechage, it was a close call as Masoud Esmaeil Poorjouybari of Iran won the first period in controversial circumstances. It was Yogeshwar who was credited three points in the 30-second period, but on protest from the Iran camp, the jury overturned the verdict and gave the points to the opponent.

Unperturbed, Yogeshwar took a 3-0 lead quickly in the second period, and time ran out as his opponent struggled to add two points.

In the decisive third period, he was once again at his best as he pushed his opponent out of the mat, even as the Iranian ran away from a strong grip, and kept adding point after point to emerge a 4-0 winner.

After Geeta Phogat and Amit Kumar had failed to capitalise on the ‘repechage’, Yogeshwar asserted his expertise and experience in overcoming the odds to win the bronze medal. He put both his arms up in triumph even as the Indian camp jumped for joy, happy with the fifth medal and fourth bronze.

In wrestling, all those who lose to the eventual finalists compete in two halves for the two bronze medals. Since he had lost in the second round of the main draw, Yogeshwar was drawn to meet Matos who had lost to the Russian multiple world champion in the first round.

It was a bit discouraging that Yogeshwar, who had come through a career-threatening knee injury, failed to record a point against the tough Russian Besik Kudukhov, but did well to stretch the first period to ‘sudden death’. The Russian managed to win technical points in the second period to cruise ahead.

In the first round of the main draw, Yogeshwar had started well by beating Anatolie Ilarionovitch Guidea of Bulgaria, the former World championship silver medallist, 7-3 on technical points after a sedate start.

Yogeshwar lost the extended first period, but scored two points to clinch the second period to force the tie-break. In the third period, the Indian wrestler was able to score five points to two by his opponent to clinch the issue 3-1 on classification points.

It was a commendable fare from Yogeshwar as he consistently fought well, particularly in the third period when the physical and mental energy of the wrestler are put a test of fire. Yogeshwar indeed passed an acid test, and some of the credit should go to Mittal Champions Trust which supported him when he was down, and treated him in South Africa for six months so that he could get back to his best and win that elusive Olympic medal.

Yogeshwar’s class was evident when he qualified for the Games beating two-time World champion and Asian Games champion along the way, announcing his readiness for the ultimate challenge in sport.

With a bit of luck, it could have been a better medal, but after the men boxers had failed to win anything, it was a welcome relief for the wrestlers to open their account with a bronze, in sustaining the good work from Beijing.

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