Bajrang Punia won India's first first medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships after losing in the final of the 65kg weight class to Japan's Takuto Otaguro in Budapest on Monday.
In what was a high scoring and attacking match, Bajrang was trailing from the start and had his work cut out by the end as he lost by a 9-16 margin. The 19-year-old Japanese grappler was the champion at the Cadet Worlds in 2015.
While Bajrang missed out on the opportunity to became the second Indian wrestler to win a gold medal at the World Championships after Sushil Kumar, he did become the only Indian grappler to win two World Championships medals – his first medal, a bronze, had come in Budapest itself at the 2013 edition.
“It was so near and yet so far,” the 24-year-old reacted after his defeat. “Having reached the final, I expected to win gold but I will have to be satisfied with a silver medal. I am happy to have bettered my bronze medal effort, achieved five years ago at the same venue."
It was, undoubtedly, one of the most aggressive finals at the championships. The Japanese grappler attacked from the word 'go', logging his first point on step out and then added a four-pointer thanks to a lift to surge to a 5-0 lead. But Bajrang, equally aggressive, got his first two points with a takedown and narrowed down the lead to 6-7 by the end of the first period.
But soon the balance tilted in favour of the Japanese who scored three points to go up 9-6 on a take down and a step out. With time running out, the onus was on the Indian, who used all his tricks and force to go for the leg and upper body but the Japanese defended stoutly, including adopting ‘delayed tactics’.
No doubt, they fetched the Indian two points with a couple of warnings to Otuguro, but in the end it didn’t matter.
He had entered anxious moments in a semi-final and quarter-final encounters.
Bajrang had managed to edge past Cuba's Alejandro Valdes Tobier of Cuba 4-3 in the semi-final, a bout in which was leading 4-1 until the final few seconds. In the quarters too he had conceded late points to his Mongolian opponent, Tulga Tumur Ochir. In fact, he had dropped three crucial points late in the match, before wrapping up the match with a scoreline of 5-3.
Earlier in the year, Bajrang had won gold medals at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
A dejected coach Jasminder Singh said it was not India’s day at Budapest. “Yes, we all would have wanted him to win gold, but a silver medal is no mean achievement. But Punia has been consistent throughout the season and has wrapped up this season with two major titles and a silver medal in the world championships here. And this is what every wrestler dream about,” said the coach, applauding Punia’s efforts in the season.
Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 11:55:40 IST