Commonwealth Games: Bajrang Punia leads India’s wrestling gold rush in Birmingham-Sports News , Firstpost
India’s medal tally reached 26 at the 2022 COmonwealth Games after Bajrang Punia-led wrestling contingent won six medals on Day 8. Bajrang, Sakhsi Malik and Deepak Punia won gold.
Birmingham: India had their best day yet at the ongoing 2022 Commonwealth Games with three gold, one silver and two bronze. It was a perfect six from the six categories that were on display on the first day of the wrestling competition at the Coventry Arena in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The gold medallists for India were Bajrang Punia (65kg), Sakshi Malik (62 kg) and Deepak Punia (86 kg), while silver came from Anshu Malik 957 kg). Divya Kakran (678 kg) and Mohit Grewal (125 kg) picked a bronze each. That brought India’s medals tally to 26 medals including nine gold, eight silver and nine bronze.
In the arena, where the atmosphere was electric, it was appropriate that Bajrang Punia, one of India’s most popular and best-decorated wrestlers, started the Indian gold rush. Turning in an aggressive display, which was like seeing Bajrang of the old before his injury in 2018, he outclassed the Canadian Lachlan McNeil on points. That set the tone for the remaining Indians.
In the morning, the wrestling venue was hit by a two-hour delay after the first nine bouts. An installation in the roof, probably a speaker, fell in the area near the judges and close to the Mat. The Organisers not wanting to take chances stopped the session, vacated the Hall, and affected repairs. They re-started action after two hours. Initially, the spectators thought it was a security concern, but it was later said to be a ‘health and safety’ concern.
Two Indian wrestlers, Bajrang Punia and Deepak Punia, had won their first bouts in the elimination stage before the stoppage.
In the evening reserved for medal fights, Anshu Malik (women’s 57 kg) was the first of the four Indians in the finals. She had earlier beaten Australian Irene Symeonidis and Sri Lankan Nathmi Poruthtotage to get into the final.
Anshu making her CWG debut lost to a highly experienced Nigerian Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye and settled for silver. It was the Nigerian’s fourth CWG medal and the last three have been gold, all at the expense of Indian wrestlers – Lalita Sehrawat in 2014, Pooja Dhanda in 2018 and now Anshu.
The Nigerian dominated the fight even though the Indian tried a comeback in late stages. A late challenge also did not help as Adekuoroye won 7-3 for her third straight gold medal and fourth overall.
Explained: How points system works in wrestling at Commonwealth Games
Anshu, silver medallist at the 2021 World Championships silver medallist was. disappointed and said, “Maybe I could have attacked more in the first round like I did in the second round. In the last few minutes, I went for an all-out approach. I had lost to her in Italy as well in 2020 but it was much closer this time. I came here for gold, and I gave it all on the mat.”
India did not have to wait for long for the first gold as Bajrang emerged winner in 65 kg, followed by Sakshi Malik and Deepak Punia.
Bajrang sets the tone for the evening gold rush
Bajrang, whose medal collection would be the envy of many a jewellery showroom, won his second straight gold and a third career medal at the CWG. Bajrang had a silver in the 2014 edition in Glasgow and gold in Gold Coast in 2018.
Bajrang, the biggest name in the day’s card started the morning with a victory by fall over Nauru’s Lowe Bingham and then secured a similar result against Jean Bandou of Mauritius. In the semi-finals, England’s George Ramm lost 0-10 on technical superiority as the Indian fans in the audience were on their feet.
In between Bajrang’s first two bouts, there was a two-hour delay because of safety concerns. But order was restored after two hours.
Bajrang’s final stop for the gold was the Canadian Lachlan McNeil. But from the time they got to the Mat, there was no doubt about where the gold was headed. Bajrang had the Canadian on the run from the start and could well have won by a Fall. McNeil hung in but lost heavily on points at 8-2.
Bajrang, an Olympic medallist in Tokyo, who also has one silver and two bronze from World Championships besides a gold and silver from Asian Games, said, “The fight was good as the opponent was tough too. I had injury (knee) during the Olympics. The plan was to gradually come back to my old self. Now I will sit with my coaches and work on the weakness that I have going forward. The world championships is my next target.”
On his aggressive tactics today, he added, “After injury, I had said you will get to see Bajrang of 2018 and I am working on that.”
CWG gold at last for Sakshi
A second gold followed as Sakshi Malik, India’s first woman to win a wrestling medal at the Olympics, turned her fight around after trailing initially. Trailing after the first period, she found something extra in the second and won by a Fall against Canada’s Ana Godinez Gonzalez.
Sakshi finally completed a set of Commonwealth Games medals – she now has one each of gold (2022), silver (2014) and bronze (2018) to go with her Olympic bronze and a Commonwealth Championships gold.
At one stage Sakshi looked in danger in her 65 kg final as she trailed 0-4 ahead of the break. And then came a fantastic turnaround as the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist turned the tables. She first levelled 4-4 and went on to win by a Fall against Canada’s Ana Godinez Gonzalez, who is the 2021 World Under-23 champion.
“I was telling myself that there will be ups and downs. It happens in wrestling. I just thought that it could be my last CWG, so I wanted to win the gold. I had (won) matches earlier with seconds left in the Olympics and here I had three minutes, so I just wanted to fight till the end,” said Sakshi, who had tears in her eyes as the Indian national anthem was played at the presentation.
Sakshi now has three CWG medals like Bajrang.
Deepak Punia wins gold on CWG debut
Deepak Punia ensured a third gold medal when he won by a Fall against Pakistan’s Inayat Imam. Punia secured a 3-0 lead early and then just overwhelmed his rival. It was the first CWG for the 23-year-old Punia, who also won a World Championship silver at the 2019 Worlds in Nur-Sultan.
Asked about taking on a wrestler from Pakistan, Punia, an Armyman said, “It was a good bout and it does not matter who the opponent is.”
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