Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia’s hopes of a gold medal on Olympic debut came to an end as he went down 5-12 to Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan in the semifinal of the men’s 65kg freestyle category on Friday. His hopes of a medal though are still alive, as he will fight for the bronze medal on Saturday.

Punia scored the first point of the bout as his opponent was put on the clock for passivity but it was Aliyev who dominated thereafter, getting past the defence of the Indian.

Rio Olympics bronze-winner Aliev consistently attacked Punia’s legs and twice got himself into position from where he could roll the Indian comfortably for easy two-point throws and headed into the break with a 4-1 lead.

Aliyev then made it an even bigger advantage of 8-1 after trapping Bajrang in a leg lace.

Punia fought back and scored two two-pointers in the second period with two take-downs to reduce the deficit but it was not enough as his opponent kept attacking and jis required big move never came. Under 30 seconds left in the bout, Punia desperately looked for an attack but Aliev did not let him do that by gripping him in strong body-lock.

A final challenge after the two were locked in a tussle went against him and he shook hands with three seconds left on the clock.

He will likely face Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan in the bronze medal match. Niyazbekov had beaten Bajrang in the semi-final of the 2019 World Championships but lost to Punia earlier this year.

The Indian began the day by edging past Kyrgyzstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev and then pinned Iran’s Morteza Cheka Ghiasi to reach the semifinals. Read more about that here.

Tokyo 2020, wrestling: Bajrang Punia storms into SF with comeback win, Seema Bisla out in 1st round

With PTI Inputs