Wrestling World Championships: Bajrang Punia anxious to avoid last-minute slip-ups against Takuto Otoguro in final

India’s top male wrestler, Bajrang Punia, put himself a step away from winning the country’s second gold medal ever at the at the World Championships after edging past Alejandro Valdes Tobier of Cuba 4-3 in their 65kg freestyle final on Sunday at Budapest’s Papp Laszlo Sportarena.

After the win, Bajrang admitted that he would have to be more careful on conceding points at the fag end of matches. The Indian was leading 4-1 at one point in his semi-final against the Cuban, but allowed his opponent a two-point takedown with 36 seconds left on the clock. This gave him, and the Indian contingent, some anxious moments.

India's Bajrang Punia after winning his semi-final bout against the 2017 World Championship Bronze medalist Alejandro Valdes Tobier. Image courtesy: WFI

Bajrang Punia after winning his semi-final bout against Alejandro Valdes Tobier. Image courtesy: WFI

“I am really relieved after two close bouts. I knew he is a good wrestler, but he was really desperate in the second period. He attacked unexpectedly which helped him gain two points in the last minute,” Punia said from Budapest after his semi-final. “When your opponent is down, he normally goes for an all-out attack in the last minute. I was trying to defend my lead. But I need to be careful about this in the final. I have lost crucial points in the last couple of bouts in the dying seconds and can’t repeat the same,” added Punia.

Earlier, in his quarter-final, the Indian had the upper-hand until the last minute, when he was leading 4-1. But Punia conceded three points to his Mongolian opponent, Tulga Tumur Ochir. He eventually won with a scoreline of 5-3.

The 2013 bronze medal winner said he would definitely go for the gold on Monday, saying, “I want to win gold like Sushil (Kumar). I want to do it for my country and I need all my countrymen’s blessings.”

For the record, India’s only gold at the Worlds came in 2010, courtesy Sushil Kumar.

Bajrang will face Takuto Otoguro of Japan on Monday in the final, who beat Akhmed Chakaev of Russia 15-10 in the other semis.

Asked if he had watch the Japanese grappler in action at the 2018 Worlds, Punia said: “I watched a bit of it after my match. He was overpowering against his Russian rival. I will watch his video and plan how to tackle him along with my coaching staff,” added Punia.


Updated Date: Oct 22, 2018 14:38 PM

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