Hopes were high from the 30-wrestler strong Indian contingent that headed to Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan to compete in the World Wrestling Championships and they did not disappoint. As many as five wrestlers returned with medal in what was India’s best-ever showing at the World Championship, a positive sign as we sit just a year away from the 2020 Olympics. Let’s take a look at the winners:
- Deepak Punia
Coming into the tournament nursing a thumb and shoulder injury, Deepak Punia, competing in the 86 kg category, found himself down 0-5 in the first round against home favourite Adilet Davlumbayev but rallied back to win the bout 8-6 silencing all those in attendance. He beat Turkmenistan’s Kodirov in the pre-quarters before downing Carlos Arturo Izquierdo Mendez of Colombia in the quarters. He saw off Switzerland’s Stefan Reichmuth to earn a spot in the final, but never took to the mat owing to an injury sustained in his semifinal triumph. The grappler settled for silver and also booked his berth on the flight to Tokyo.
- Bajrang Punia
World No.1 (65 kg) Bajrang Punia was the favourite to win gold in his weight category but had to settle for bronze amid some controversy. The wrestler found himself down 2-9 against Kazakhstan’s Shaken Niyazbekov after some shoddy refereeing decisions but fought back to level the score before the clock expired. The victory, however, was awarded to the Kazakh as he had the highest scoring move of the match, much to the disappointment of Bajrang and ecstasy of the home crowd. He beat Mongolian Tulga Tumur Ochir 8-7 in an intense bout to bring home bronze.
While the world is waiting to watch the #Tokyo2020 #Olympics, it is a matter of pride that 5 #Indian wrestlers have qualified for the same. Congratulations to @Phogat_Vinesh, @BajrangPunia, #DeepakPunia, #RaviKumar & @rahulbaware1!@KirenRijiju @FederationWrest @IndianOlympians pic.twitter.com/KscC6gGNcQ
— Dhanraj Nathwani (@DhanrajNathwani) September 24, 2019
Two-time Commonwealth gold-medalist Vinesh Phogat joined an illustrious list, as she became just the fifth woman wrestler to win a medal at the Wrestling World Championships. Barring one loss in the pre-quarters against defending champion Mayu Mukaida, Phogat blazed past through the competition, humbling Sweden’s Sofia Mattsson 13-0 before beating Ukraine’s Yulia Khavaldzhy Blahinya 5-0 to set up a bout against world no.1 Sarah Ann Hilderbrandt. She displayed her defensive mastery in seeing off the top seed and then proceeded to beat two-time bronze medalist Maria Prevolarki to capture her first medal at the event.
- Rahul Aware
27-year-old Rahul Aware captured his maiden medal at the World Championships, winning bronze in the 61 kg category. Aware made it to the semis but lost out to Georgia’s Beko Lomtadze 6-10 after an intense battle. He comfortably saw off America’s Tyler Lee Graff in the bronze medal bout 11-4 to win his second medal of the year following a bronze in the Asian Championship held in Xi’an, China in April. Aware has more than doubled his tally in the past two years, having also won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
- Ravi Kumar Dahiya
Perhaps the most impressive bronze winner among the Indian contingent was youngster Ravi Kumar Dahiya who beat out an impressive set of competitors to capture his maiden senior medal. Ravi beat European Champion Arsen Harutunyan from Armenia before beating Japanese world no.3 Yuki Tanahashi in the preliminary rounds of the competition. He was knocked out of gold medal contention by Russia’s Zaur Uguev but set up a meeting against Iranian Reza Ahmadali Atrinagharchi for the bronze medal. He stunned the reigning Asian champion 6-3 and capped off an impressive senior debut with a bronze medal finish.
Written by: Sportz Interactive