India’s star wrestler Bajrang Punia lived up to the expectations on him by winning the country’s first gold medal at the 18th Asian Games that began in Indonesia on Sunday.
Punia brought smiles and relief to the Indian camp which was jolted by the early exit of star wrestler Sushil Kumar.
An in-form Bajrang won his maiden Asian Games gold in the 65kg category but a ‘rusty’ Sushil lost his last chance to add an Asiad gold to his collection of medals after losing his qualification bout 3-5 to Bahrain’s Adam Batirov in the 74kg category.
(Details of India’s events on day one in our live blog here.)
Bajrang took an early 6-0 lead before Takatani fought back to make it 6-2. Bajrang, as he often does, started at his aggressive best. But the Japanese wasn’t going away without a fight. Takatani took another two points to make it 6-4 and had another opportunity but Bajrang defended well and the score remained 6-4 till the end of the first period.
In the second period, Takatani managed to get through Bajrang’s defence early, grabbed the ankle and made it 6-6. But Bajrang, showing great defensive technique, fought back to make it 8-6. Then, both wrestlers took two points during one move to make it 10-8. It went down to the final seconds and the Indian got another point when Japan’s desperate review failed. It ended 11-8 in the Indian’s favour and cue celebrations.
Bajrang came into the Games after winning three tournaments – Commonwealth Games, Tbilisi Grand Prix and Yasar Dogu International – and carried on with his superlative show. Such was his domination that the 24-year-old from Haryana won all his bouts, till the final, by technical superiority.
He outclassed Uzbekistan’s Sirojiddin Khasanov (13-3), Tajikistan’s Fayziev Abdulqosim (12-2) and Mongolia’s N Batmagnai Batchuluu (10-0) to storm into the gold medal bout.
This is Bajrang’s first gold medal at the Asian Games (second medal overall), following up on the gold at Commonwealth Games earlier this year.