Ravi Dahiya uploaded a message on social media on Sunday, stating he was “pleased to inform you that I’ve won my third consecutive gold for the country at the Asian Championships 2022.”
Attached with it was a photograph of him holding his gold medal, carrying the same stoic face he put up when he posed for cameras as the silver medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year.
It was a social media post delivered by the often-quiet, straight-talking wrestler, to the point.
“The tournament was very good and I had planned to win the gold for India,” he told UWW after his win, in another plain-speak statement.
“Every opponent was very strong. It went according to my plan. But at the start, it was a little difficult, but as I moved forward towards the final, I did what I planned and thankfully I won the gold for India for the third time.”
But as the continental event ended later in the day in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the results table would provide another straight-forward message to the Indian wrestling fraternity. Of the 17 medals the contingent won in a tournament deemed a litmus test for the Asian Games later this year, Dahiya’s was the only gold medal.
There were five silvers and 11 bronze medals to complete the tally for a country that boasts a rich history in the sport.
Dahiya, the 24-year-old from Sonipat was a favourite to win gold. But so were the likes of Bajrang Punia and Anshu Malik.
Shortly after Dahiya came up with a 12-2 technical fall win over Kazakh wrestler Rakhat Kalzhan in the 57 kg men’s freestyle final, Bajrang, in the 65 kg final lost 3-1 to Iran’s Rahman Amouzadkhalili.
This was just a few days after Anshu, too, lost her women’s freestyle 57 kg final to Japan’s Tsugumi Sakurai.
In Anshu’s case though, to be fair, she did come up against a grappler from a country that has become a hub for producing world beating wrestlers. Consider that in the 10 women’s weight categories, Japan won seven gold and two silver medals.
And Sakurai competed in the final with the confidence of a player at the top of her game. She took just 54 seconds of the bout to pin Anshu and take home the gold.
In Bajrang’s case though, it was a lack of match-time and fitness issues that made the difference.
“Bajrang is not where we would have liked to see him at this stage, but there are a lot of reasons behind that,” his coach Sujeet Mann said to 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. 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.”
Now that the water has been tested, the wrestlers and their support staff will need to assess the pros and cons to iron out the flaws before the Asiad in September.
Dahiya, despite the gold though, still has the feeling of being unsettled, and wants to experiment with different weight categories in the run-up to Hangzhou 2022.
“It is difficult to maintain the weight at 57kg,” he said.
“The Asian Championships were very important and I had not wrestled at 57kg for a long time so I decided to drop down. I will try to wrestle one or two ranking series events at 61kg, but for (the) Commonwealth and Asian Games, I have to drop down to 57kg.”
Not many, though, can afford the same luxury of experimentation. And he’s the only Indian wrestler to have proven why at the Asian Championships
| Men's freestyle 57 kg|| Ravi Kumar Dahiya||Gold|
| Men's freestyle 65 kg|| Bajrang Punia||Silver|
| Men's freestyle 79 kg|| Gaurav Baliyan||Silver|
| Men's freestyle 86 kg|| Deepak Punia||Silver|
| Women's freestyle 57 kg|| Anshu Malik||Silver|
| Women's freestyle 65 kg||Radhika||Silver|
| Men's freestyle 70 kg || Naveen||Bronze|
| Men's freestyle 92 kg|| Viky Chahar||Bronze|
| Men's freestyle 97 kg|| Satywart Kadian||Bronze|
| Greco-Roman 55 kg|| Arjun Halakurki||Bronze|
| Greco-Roman 63 kg||Neeraj||Bronze|
| Greco-Roman 67 kg|| Sachin Sahrawat||Bronze|
| Greco-Roman 82 kg|| Harpreet Singh||Bronze|
| Greco-Roman 87 kg|| Sunil Kumar||Bronze|
| Women's freestyle 55 kg|| Sushma Shokeen||Bronze|
| Women's freestyle 59 kg||Sarita||Bronze|
| Women's freestyle 62 kg||Manisha||Bronze|