Nursultan: Bajrang Punia is slowly making his way out of the stadium. Kids stop him for selfies. Coaches from different countries tell him to cheer up and keep performing. Some even tell him that he should not have given away too many points at the beginning. Punia knows that too. After losing his World Championships semi-final 9-9 against Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov, Punia is evidently disturbed, especially about the referees decisions.
It was a bout that could have gone either way. Punia was frustrated because of Kazakh wrestler’s passivity in the second period of the bout. His coach Shako Bentinidis left after the bout in rage.
After winning the silver medal last year at the World Championships, Punia was touted to win the gold this year and he looked primed to do so before bumping into the Kazakh in the semi-final. The scoring of the bout and the fouls denied to Punia were doubtful to say the least. But Punia trailed by seven points and it was always difficult to make a comeback from there.
There was a buzz on social medal about how he and a few other wrestlers at the World Championships lost due to poor officiating. Punia’s bout was one of them. Here are the sequences where Punia lost his semi-final bout.
4:44: Niyazbekov has dragged Punia to the danger zone and then gets his hand between his legs to lift him and put him out of bounds for four points. Punia has Niyazbekov by his neck but doesn’t get the control in action. India decide to challenge the call which is lost and Kazakhstan is awarded an extra point. Punia’s corner cannot challenge anymore.
5:55: The referee cautions Niyazbekov for poking Punia. Since he had already given the Kazakh a warning in the first period, he awarded a point to Punia. The mat chairman, however, doesn’t confirm it. Niyazbekov leads 7-2.
7:14: Punia goes inside trip on Niyazbekov who is holding Punia’s singlet. According to the rules, that is straight caution to the defaulter and a point to Punia. During the eight second sequence where Punia takes two points, Niyazbekov keeps holding to his singlet which is visible to the mat chairman.
7:53: Niyazbekov puts his fingers on Punia’s face and eyes which is again called by the referee. He awards a point to Punia for the foul but the mat chairman disagrees and denies any point.
9:18: Niyazbekov once again grabs Punia’s singlet. The Kazak is let-off with a warning by the referee. The mat chairman decides to stop the bout and call the judge and referee, and later awards Punia a point. But no caution for Niyazbekov. The interval also allows the Kazak to catch his breath.
As it turned out, any one of those points would have made the difference in the end result for Punia and his livid reaction is justified.