India’s wait to find it’s first gold medallist at the Wrestling Under-23 World Championships was extended on Friday as Pooja Gehlot lost her final in Budapest. Competing in the 53 kg weight category, Gehlot lost to two-time senior world champion Haruno Okuno of Japan in one minute and 12 seconds.
The Sonipat wrestler initiated the move in the final but Okuno cartwheeled to counter and bring Gehlot down on her back. Once in that position, it was difficult for Gehlot to escape from Okuno’s grip and she got pinned.
Gehlot’s silver-medal performance matches India’s best result at the U-23 World Championships from 2017 when Ritu Phogat won the same medal in Poland.
On Thursday, Gehlot had an impressive run to reach the final. The former junior national champion defeated Ekaterina Verbina of Russia 8-3 in the qualifiers and then notched up a commanding 8-0 win over Chinese Taipei’s Meng Hsuan Hsieh.
In a back-and-forth semi-final, Gehlot finished with a 8-4 win over 2018 junior European Championships gold medallist Zeynep Yetgil of Turkey.
In other results, India’s two-time junior World Championships silver medallist Sajan Bhanwal suffered a heartbreaking loss in the 77 kg semi-final against Japan’s Kodai Sakuraba.
Sajan led 2-0 after the first period but was called for passivity in the second period. The Indian wrestler was penalised one point and the Japanese was given an advantageous position. Sakuraba was strong enough to complete a four-point throw and lead 5-2.
Sajan was running out of breath as the bout entered the closing stages. He was awarded two points for Sakuraba’s inactivity but even that was not enough as he lost 4-5.
Earlier, he had defeated Jesse Porter 6-0 to open his campaign. In the pre-quarterfinals, he overcame Azerbaijan’s Tunjay Vazirzade 3-1 before reaching the semi-final on the back of a strong 6-2 win over Per Albin Olofsson of Sweden.
In the 55 kg category, Arjun Halakurki lost in the quarter-final but later entered the repechage round. His good run came to an end when he lost to Emin Narimanovitch Sefershaev of Russia 12-14. Arjun had beaten Giovanni Freni of Italy 13-9 in the qualifiers and Sebastian Kolompar of Serbia 9-0 in the pre-quarterfinals.
Sunil Kumar also got a chance in repechage since he lost to Ukraine’s Semen Novikov 0-8 in the pre-quarterfinals and the Ukrainian reached the final of the 87 kg category. Kumar will face Aleksandar Georgije Stjepanetic of Sweden in the first round of repechage.
In the 63 kg category, Rajeet lost his opening bout to Slavik Galstyan 0-8 while in the 130 kg category, Deepak Poonia suffered a 1-6 defeat at the hands of USA’s David Orndorff in the qualification round.
Action from the Wrestling Under-23 World Championships 2019 is being streamed live on www.wrestlingtv.in