Bajrang Punia won the men’s freestyle 65kg final, bringing home India’s first gold medal at the Asian Games 2018 in the process. Sushil Kumar suffered a shock defeat in his first bout against Bahrain’s Adam Batirov as there was no swiftness in the veteran’s movement and now, his fortunes hinge on the progress of Batirov.
Bajrang had booked his place in the semi-finals of the men’s 65 kg freestyle event after defeating Fayziev Abdulqosim of Tajikistan.
After having a slow start to the quarter-final match, the 24-year-old thrashed Abdulqosim 12-3 by technical superiority to storm into the next round.
The Indian’s defence was looking good but Takatani just wouldn’t let go off the Indian’s leg in the dying seconds. But it was too little too late as Punia won 11-8 to win India’s first gold of the Asian Games, despite a late challenge from the Japanese.
In the process, Punia won his fourth international gold of the year.
For a major part of his career, Bajrang was under Yogeshwar Dutt’s towering shadow. He had to wrestle at 61kg, a non-Olympic weight category, because Dutt was wrestling at 65kg. Dutt to his credit has mentored his junior colleague since he joined Chhatarsaal stadium as a kid.