Bajrang Punia wins India's first gold at Asian Wrestling Championship


New Delhi -- Bajrang Punia provided India's first gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship as he posted a come-from-behind victory over Seungchul Lee of Korea in the men's 65kg freestyle category.

Sarita, though, had to settle for a silver medal in the women's 58kg category.

After registering a 6-2 win in the final, Bajrang celebrated by taking a victory lap with the tri-colour on his shoulders.

In his gold medal bout, the 23-year-old Indian conceded two points in the opening half to lag behind 0-2 at the break.

However, Bajrang made a strong comeback in the second half as he did not allow his rival from Korea to earn any more points.

He first pushed his opponent out of the mat to take one point and then took the Korean down for two more to lead 3-2.

From there on, Bajrang displayed an attacking game and never let his rival come back into the contest. He subsequently added three more points to his credit to wrap up the bout in style.

London Olympics medalist Yogeshwar Dutt was present at the gallery to witness his prodigy win the gold medal.

"I asked him (Bajrang) to attack all the time and not be defensive and that paid dividends. Winning a gold medal in the Asian Championships is a really big thing," Dutt said.

Bajrang earlier made the final of his weight division with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Kukgwang Kim in the semifinal round.

Putting up a brilliant show on his way to the gold medal round, Bajrang got the better of last edition's Asian Championship gold-medallist Meisam Nassiri of Iran 7-5 in the quarterfinal after beating Uzbek wrestler Sirojiddin Hasanov 4-3 in the qualification round.

However, gold eluded Indian women wrestlers even as this was their best ever performance at the Asian Championship with six medals, including four silver and two bronze. In the 2003 edition, India had won a total of five medals that included two silver and three bronze.

Sarita lost 0-6 to Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan. Having climbed down two kilograms to 58kg from 60kg after Sakshi Malik and she interchanged their respective weight categories, Sarita came up with a fine performance before going down tamely in her gold medal bout.

"Coming down two kilograms is not a big deal. It is natural for us to jump up and down 2-3 kilograms and right now my original weight is 58kg, so I was comfortable fighting in this category. I want to continue the good show and prepare to qualify for the World Championship in August," Sarita said.

She failed to put up a fight and was completely outplayed by the Kyrgyzstan wrestler. Sarita was lagging behind from the very beginning as her rival clinched two points twice in the first half by taking her down to lead 4-0 at the break.

In the second half also, the wrestler from Kyrgyzstan continued to dominate and earned two more points to seal the match in her favour.

Sarita had thrashed Uzbekistan's Asem Seydametova10-0 in the quarters before defeating Thi Huong Dao of Vietnam 12-0 to make the gold medal bout.

In men's 97kg category, Satywart Kadian, Sakshi Malik's husband, went down in his repechage bout to lose out on a place in the bronze medal play-off. He lost to Batzul Ulziisaikhan of Mongolia 5-8 in a closely-fought contest.

In the qualification round, Satywart lost to Magomed Ibragimov 2-2, but since the Uzbek grappler made the gold medal round, the Indian got a chance to fight in repechage.

Meanwhile, Olympian Sandeep Tomar suffered a knee injury to bow out of the tournament early in the men's 57kg.

Tomar was in a winning position when he sustained the injury and that resulted in him losing 5-6 to Ulukbek Zholdoshbekov of Kyrgyzstan.

In the men's 74kg, Jitender crashed out of the tournament after losing to Tsubasa Asai of Japan in the quarterfinal round 7-8.