Bajrang Punia will be aiming to match Sushil Kumar's feat of winning gold in the World Wrestling Championships. (Image credit: Twitter)
Nur Sultan :
Bajrang Punia qualified for Tokyo Olympics by strolling into the semifinals while Ravi Dahiya joined him with shock victories over his more fancied rivals in the World Wrestling Championships in Nur Sultan on Thursday. Making full use of an easy 65kg draw, Bajrang steam-rolled one opponent after another to stay on course for his maiden World Championships title. He had clinched silver in Budapest in 2018. Double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar is the only Indian wrestler to have won a World Championship gold in 2010 in Moscow. Ravi (57kg) emerged an unlikely hero for India with his remarkable composure while fighting against some of toughest opponents in a challenging category, including an European champion and another a world number three wrestler.
Both Bajrang and Ravi are now strong candidates for medals. In the semifinals, Bajrang will be up against Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan while Ravi faces reigning world champion Zavur Uguev of Russia. Vinesh Phogat had booked an Olympic quota in women's 53kg on Wednesday. Bajrang did not have to work much in going past Poland's Krzysztof Bienkowski in the opening round. He easily beat his opponent 9-2.
Bajrang's next opponent was David Habat who did not bother the Indian much though the Slovenian twice had his right leg in his clutches. The first chance was in first period from ground position and then in the standing position after the break. The Slovanian, surprisingly, could not exploit the advantageous position. In the quarterfinals against Korea's Jong Choi Son, Bajrang lost a point for stepping out but won the bout comfortably 8-1 after that.
In an incredible debut, Ravi Dahiya won the first two bouts by technical superiority in the 57kg. In a remarkable turnaround he erased a six-point deficit to log 17 points in a row with his counter-attack to shock Arsen Harutunyan, the 61kg European champion from Armenia. What was impressive about Ravi was that despite trailing 0-6, he kept his cool and stayed in the bout and eventually found a way to tear apart the defence of the Armenian. There was a bit of drama towards the end when Armenia challenged the bout-finishing point.
After much delay and watching replays, Ravi was declared the winner. Ravi's first victim was Korea' Sunggwon Kim. In the quarterfinals, he was up against 2017 world champion and world number three Yuki Takahashi, one of the toughest to beat in 57kg, but Ravi showed tremendous composure to eke out a 6-1 win. The Indian did not let the formidable Japanese play his game as he restricted his famous swift movement. In the women's competition, there was no end to the woes of Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi, who lost her opening round 7-10 to Nigeria's Aminat Adeniyi.
Sakshi waited too long to attack while her powerful opponent moved quickly. Sakshi is out of the championship since the Nigerian later lost her quarterfinal bout. In the 68kg, Divya Kakran could not do much against reigning Olympic champion Sara Dosho from Japan, losing the bout 0-2.