Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Kumar Dahiya completed a continental hat-trick as he clinched his third straight Asian Championship gold medal with a dominating performance in the 57kg category in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on Saturday.

Ravi won the title clash by technical superiority defeating Kazakhstan’s Rakhat Kalzhan 12-2 with a comprehensive performance. And with it, he became the first Indian freestyle wrestler to win three gold medals at the Senior Asian Championships.

Shortly after, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia had the chance to join Ravi on three gold medals but it was a for the decorated wrestler in the 65kg category.

In the third final featuring India, Gourav Baliyan (79kg) nearly produced a stunning fightback but it wasn’t quite enough to hand him the title. The 21-year-old fought back from 0-8 down to nearly produce a miraculous win but a 9-9 scoreline in the end gave Iran’s Ali Bakhtiar Savadkouhi gold medal on criteria. The Iranian had a four-point move earlier in the bout and that proved decisive despite Gourav finishing as the much stronger wrestler.

Ravi conceded early lead in all his bouts, but as he has shown the knack to do it, found ways to bounce back and outsmart his rivals in a category that he has made his own at the Asian level. He had won gold in New Delhi (2020) and Almaty (2021) as well.

In the quarterfinal, he had defeated Japan’s Rikuto Arai via technical superiority 14-5 and then with a comprehensive 12-5 win over Mongolia’s Zanabazar Zandanbud in the semi-final he made it to the title clash.

Even in the gold medal bout, it was his opponent Kalzhan who took a 2-0 lead with exposure points and for considerable time held on to that lead. However, Ravi just needed time to figure out the weakness for his opponent and once he did, it was one-way traffic. The Indian registered a series of two-pointers either side of the half-time and the bout ended early in the second period to secure India’s first gold medal of the tournament this year.

Shortly after Ravi’s gold, Rahman Amouzadkhalili of Iran proved to be a tough opponent to crack for Bajrang in the 65kg final. The Junior world champion (61kg) won the low-scoring bout that finished 3-1.

In the earlier bouts against Abbos Rakhmonov (UZB) and Haji Mohamad Ali (BRN) too, Bajrang did not seem to be at his best and his coach put it down to rustiness.

“I agree that Bajrang is not where we would have liked to see him at this stage, but there are a lot of reason behind that,” Bajrang’s personal coach Sujeet Maan told PTI.

“He missed a few tournaments and practice due to injury, there was no physio with him, so we lost time. We also could not train at a high-altitude place to prepare well for this tournament,” he added.

“It takes time to get back to best. Bajrang was competing after many months, so it’s natural that there’s a bit of hesitation.”

In Gourav’s final, he couldn’t quite find that one late move to move ahead on the scoreboard. Earlier in the semifinal he came back against Kyrgyzstan’s Arsalan Budazhapov from trailing 4-5 and around 14 seconds to go, found a take-down move to make it 6-5 and eventually won 8-5.

There were two more medals added to India’s tally. In 70kg, Naveen clinched bronze medal while Satywart Kadiyan (97kg) too got on the podium with a bronze in 97kg.

More to follow...