Asian Games gold medallist and World No. 1 Bajrang Punia (65kg) showed his mettle to come back from a 2-7 deficit against Asian Games bronze medallist Sayatbek Okassov and take the gold medal as India opened the campaign with three medals on the first day of the 2019 Asian Wrestling Championships in Xi’an, China.
The Kazakh grappler made a fiery start to put Bajrang under pressure but the Indian was able to turn it around late in the second round to clinch a thrilling 12-7 win. This is Bajrang’s fifth medal from the Asian Championships after a gold in 2017, silver in 2014 and a couple of bronzes in 2013 and in 2018.
Punia, who also won a silver medal at the World Championships last year, was in no mood to relent and stamped his authority throughout the day. In the semi-finals, he conceded a point in the first period before notching up a commanding 12-1 Technical Superiority win over Uzbekistan’s Sirojiddin Khasanov.
Bajrang dedicated the medal to his countrymen, “I have been training to adopt new techniques; am happy that I could implement those and I am very happy that I could win the match and a gold medal here.”
The Asian Games Gold medallist further added, “There is lots to work on and my focus is to prepare for the World Championship, which also is an Olympic qualifier.”
Earlier in the day, he accounted for former world junior champion Peyman Biabani and Charles Fern of Sri Lanka.
Parveen Rana (79kg), however, failed to make it a double delight for India as he went down 0-3 to Teymouri Bahman of Iran in the final and had to settle for the silver.
“I am happy that I could change the colour of my medal. There are quite a few important tournaments coming up and this win will further motivate me as I aim to win a berth for the World Championships later this year and qualify for Olympics, said Parveen.
Rana, who also has a bronze from the 2012 Asian Championships, brought forth his robust defence in the semi-finals to thwart the attack of Galymzhan Usserbayev of Kazakhstan on his way to a 3-2 win.
The Delhi grappler began his campaign earlier in the day with wins over Yuta Abe of Japan and Tugs Erdene Denzensharav of Mongolia.
In 97kg, Satyawart Kadian dominated China’s Haobin Gao 8-2 in convincing fashion in the bronze medal play-off to secure his third Asian Championships medal. The 25-year-old, also a 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, made it to the bronze medal bout after his quarter-final conqueror, Batzul Ulziisaikhan reached the final.
It was a heartbreak for Ravi Kumar in the 57kg category. The Under-23 Wrestling World Championships silver medallist had a huge chance of upsetting the 2017 world and Asian champion Yuki Takahashi and led 3-1 in the bronze medal contest only to see the Japanese perform a takedown in the last couple of seconds to get the 5-3 win.
Ravi had made it to the bronze medal play-off after beating Chia Tso Liu of Taipei 4-0 in the repechage.
Rajneesh (70kg) was the only Indian who was not in contention for any medal on Day 1 of the championships, having made an early exit.
On Day 2, Rahul Aware (61kg), Amit Dhankar (74kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Vicky (92kg), and Sumit (125kg) will be in action.
The six-day gala Asian Wrestling Championships will continue till April 28. India has sent a 30-member squad and will look to improve on their 8-medal tally from last year.