Deepak Punia’s defence proved to be his undoing against his idol and Iranian legend Hassan Yazdanicharati as the Olympic-bound Indian clinched silver medal on the concluding day of the Asian Championship in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Sunday.
In the 92kg, Sanjeet claimed a bronze for India’s final medal at the event.
Billed as the most awaited battle on the night, Deepak lost his 86kg final inside the first period by technical superiority as the Iranian’s relentless attacks had the Indian youngster gasping. It was the second time that Deepak was up against 2016 Olympic champion and two-time World champion but challenged him for the first time as he had withdrawn from the 2019 World Championship final against the Iranian due to a leg injury. It was in that event that Deepak had earned a quota spot for India too.
Another Indian earning a podium finish on Sunday was Sanjeet (92kg) who almost blew away a commanding position against Uzbekistan’s Rustam Shodiev before winning the bronze play-off 11-8. He led 11-2 at one stage and seemed set to win by technical superiority. But the Indian let the Uzbekistan wrestler claw his way back and found himself under the pressure in the final seconds. Eventually the big lead helped the Indian claim bronze.
Ravinder (61kg) lost his bronze play-off to Kyrgyzstan’s Ikromzhon Khadhimurodov by technical superiority.
Overall, India won seven medals from the men’s freestyle events with Ravi Dahiya (57kg) managing to win a gold. Bajrang Punia won silver after withdrawing from the final of 65kg on Saturday. Across disciplines, India won five gold medals with four of those coming in the women’s divisions. Sarita Mo, Vinesh Phogat, Anshu Malik and Divya Kakran won their respective categories.
Deepak, who has won two bronze medals at the continental championship before, showed his defence skills before the final as he notched up a confident 2-0 win over Korea’s Gwanuk Kim in the semifinals. Kim’s several double leg attacks bore no fruit in the face of the 22-year old Deepak’s solid defence.
The Indian, who secured his Olympic quota with a World Championship bronze, earned both his points on passivity of his opponent.
Deepak’s defensive tactics also won him bouts against Uzbekistan’s Isa Shapiev (9-2) and Tajikistan’s Bakhodur Kodirov (4-3).
In the 61kg, Ravinder began with a close 4-3 win over Iran’s Majid Almas Dastan but lost 4-7 in the semifinal against Kazakhstan’s Adlan Aakarov.
The home wrestler’s relentless attack resulted in him getting out of breath in the second period but Ravinder could not take advantage of that.
Sanjeet was impressive in his 9-4 win against Japan’s Ryoichi Yamanaka but was no match to Iran’s Kamran Ghorban Ghasempour, who won by technical superiority.
Since the Iranian reached the final, Sanjeet has got a chance to fight for bronze against Shodiev.
However, 74kg national champion Sandeep Singh Mann and Sumit Malik (125kg) could not reach the medal rounds on the final day. Sandeep lost a close quarterfinal 4-5 to Turkmenistan’s Atamyrat Charlyyev while Sumit lost his quarterfinal 1-7 to local hope Oleg Boltin. He had a chance through repechage but opted out due to an injury.
(With the PTI inputs)