Jakarta: Bajrang Punia infused new blood into Indian wrestling with his gutsy show that saw India opening the 18th Asian Games campaign with a gold medal on the first day of competitions, at the Convention Centre Assembly Hall in the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium Complex here on Sunday.
Pride of Indian freestyle wrestling was at stake after Sushil Kumar made a meek exit earlier in the afternoon and soon after two more Sandeep Tomar and Mausam Khatri too crashed out from the five who were in action.
The 65-kg wrestler Bajrang, however, kept his focus after receiving first round bye and won three rounds in a space of two hours to set up final against Daichi Takatani of Japan. His every bout was well fought with Bajrang showing growing confidence after every round.
Leg clinch was Bajrang’s pet weapon, but while both sweated out there on the mat the Indian proved his strength in holding off Takatani after winning three back-to-back leg-clinches to go 6-4 up before the end of the first period.
The Japanese shot back after resumption and made it 8-8, but Bajrang was up for the task before he took the decisive 10-8 lead going into the final 45 seconds before final second frenzy saw him earn one more point for the 11-8 score-line.
Pawan misses bronze
Pawan Kumar was handed a lucky chance of winning a medal when he made it to the Repechage round after his quarterfinal slayer Hassan Yazdanicharati made it to the gold medal bout.
The Indian had beaten Heng Vuthy of Cambodia 8-0 in the first round and then thrashed Fahriansyah of Indonesia 11-0 in the repechage first round to set up bronze medal contest against Uitumen Orgodol of Mongolia.
Pawan seemed out of sync and was down 0-5 before Orgodol struck the vital blow to win 8-1.
Results: Men’s Freestyle:
57-kg (Sandeep Tomar)
Round 1: Bye; Round 2: bt Rustem Nazarov (Tkm) 12-8; Quarterfinals: lost to Reza Atrinagharchi (Irn) 9-15.
65-kg (Bajrang Punia):
Round 1: bye; Round 2: Sirojiddin Khasanov (Uzb) 13-3; Quarterfinals: Abdulqosim Fayziev (Tjk) 12-2; Semifinals: bt Batmagnai Batchuluun (Mgl) 10-0; Final: bt Daichi Takatani 11-8.
74-kg (Sushil Kumar):
Round 1: lost to Adam Batirov (Brn) 3-5; Round 2: Batirov bt Abdul Ghafar Qaderi (Afg) 15-5; Quarterfinals: Batirov lost to Yuhi Fujinami (Jpn) 2-8.
86-kg (Pawan Kumar):
Round 1: bye; Round 2: bt Heng Vuthy (Cam) 8-0; Quarterfinals: Hassan Yazdanicharati (Irn) 0-11. Repechage: R1: bt Fahriansyah (Ina) 11-0; Bronze medal match: bt Uitumen Orgodol (Mgl) 8-1.
97-kg (Mausam Khatri):
Round 1: bye; Round 2: lost to Magomed Ibragimov (Uzb) 0-8.