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Tokyo Olympics | Bajrang Punia wins bronze, India matches best result

Bajrang Punia (blue ) wrestles Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov in the men’s freestyle 65kg wrestling bronze medal match during the Tokyo Olympics 2020, in Tokyo on August 7, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Superstar Bajrang Punia met his fellow countrymen’s expectations as he recorded a comprehensive 8-0 victory over World championships silver medallist Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan to claim a men’s freestyle 65kg bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.

Bajrang, a three-time Worlds medallist and an overwhelming favourite for a podium finish, gave a controlled performance to notch up his first medal on debut and elevate his status in Indian wrestling. 

After Sushil Kumar, Bajrang is the first Indian wrestler to win medals in both Olympics and the World championships. Bajrang was the sixth Indian wrestler ever to claim an Olympic medal.

This was the country’s second wrestling medal in Tokyo 2020, where Indian wrestlers gathered two medals in an Olympics after London 2012.

With this, the country surpassed the previous best haul of six medals achieved in the 2012 London Games.

Bajrang, who had lost to Niyazbekov in the 2019 World championships semifinals in Nur-Sultan, came back on to the mat with confidence. He was watchful even while attacking his opponent in the first period and opened his account through a passivity point. Bajrang doubled it by driving Niyazbekov out of the circle.

The 27-year-old Indian returned after the break with a lot of determination and executed his game plan of attacking the Kazakh’s right leg well. He managed a two-pointer through his first takedown with less than 90 seconds left.

With his coach Shako Bentinidis shouting ‘Only right side’ from his corner, Bajrang stuck to his task and made it 6-0 through a counter. He collected two more points and successfully defended his 8-0 lead.

After his loss in the Olympics semifinals on Friday, it was a huge sigh of relief for Bajrang and the Indian coaching staff. Shako and chief coach Jagmender Singh celebrated by hugging each other.

The second-ranked Bajrang, who injured his right knee during the Ali Aliyev memorial tournament in Russia in June, defeated Asian bronze medallist Ernazar Akmataliev of Kyrgyzstan 3-3 (via criteria) and Morteza Ghiasi of Iran ‘by fall’ to enter the semifinals on Friday.

In the semis, Bajrang lost to Rio Olympics bronze medallist Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan 12-5 to make it to the repechage round.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 3:46:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/tokyo-olympics-bajrang-punia-wins-bronze-india-matches-best-result/article35783813.ece

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