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Commonwealth Games 2022 | India puts on a remarkable show in wrestling

Naveen Malik celebrates winning the Commonwealth Games wrestling men’s freestyle 74kg gold.

Naveen Malik celebrates winning the Commonwealth Games wrestling men’s freestyle 74kg gold. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The increase in gold medal count at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games should be an encouragement for the Indian wrestling contingent even though there were depleted fields in a few weight categories.

India, which again secured medals in all 12 weight categories, improved its gold medal tally from five to six with men contributing four and women two.

Making his mark

Promising wrestler Naveen Malik, a 70kg Asian bronze medallist who claimed the men’s 74kg title, was the find of the Games. The 19-year-old, who had shocked formidable opponents such as Jitender Kumar, Gourav Baliyan and Sagar Jaglan to win the selection trials, made his mark in Birmingham.

“The 74kg trials had wrestlers from both 74kg and 79kg. Coming from 70kg, Naveen surprised everyone by winning the trials. He has proved himself here with his exceptional performance,” men’s coach Vinod Kumar told The Hindu on Sunday.

While Olympics silver medallist Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg) cruised to his maiden gold, Worlds and Olympics medallist Bajrang Punia (65kg) overcame a lean patch to showcase his aggressive game and clinch his second successive gold.

Worlds silver medallist Deepak Punia (86kg), who recovered from an injury, displayed his improved defence to take his first gold. Deepak’s personal coach Virender Kumar said the Olympics setback must have played on the young wrestler’s mind and held him back from exhibiting his attacking game.

Deepak Nehra (97kg) and Mohit Grewal (125kg), who had an injury in his left leg, showed glimpses of their talent while bagging bronze medals.

National women’s team head coach Jitender Yadav was relieved to see seasoned wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat breaking psychological barriers to assert their class again.

“They are world-class wrestlers who had psychological issues. It was a big challenge to bring them out of that. I am glad that they performed freely and were successful,” said Jitender.

Jitender said Worlds silver medallist Anshu Malik could have landed a gold.

“I expected better results from Anshu (57kg) and Pooja Gehlot (50kg). But Anshu had an elbow issue, while Pooja had a sore ankle. Still Anshu could have won gold, even though her Nigerian opponent was a two-time defending champion. Anshu is an up-and-coming talent,” said Jitender.

Divya Kakran (68kg) won her second consecutive bronze and Pooja Sihag (76kg) her first to help India perform remarkably well.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2022 10:18:45 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/commonwealth-games-2022-india-puts-on-a-remarkable-show-in-wrestling/article65740637.ece