Bajrang Punia moves out of mentor Yogeshwar Dutt's shadow with CWG gold

It swung between gold and nearly-gold on the mat for India. Bajrang Punia jogged off the podium, a tri-colour resting around his shoulders, a gold medal winking back at the sharp camera lights. Pooja Dhanda sobbed while trying to relive her bout and all a sweat-soaked Mausam Khatri spoke of was a missed anthem moment.

Commonwealth Games: Schedule | Results | Medals tally | Full coverage | Live streaming & highlights

Each of them had walked off the platform with a medal, a few with delirium, some others with disappointment. But for each of them it was about finding a space, making a name and stepping on to a bigger stage.

For Bajrang, this is more than the medal. It was about finally stepping out of his mentor Yogeshwar Dutt's shadow. Initially competing in the 61 kg, he moved up to Yogeshwar's weight category, 65 kg, after the Olympic medallist got married. Now, with Yogeshwar taking a step back from the sport, the 24-year old has the weight class to himself.

"I was 20 and inexperienced when I won a silver in Glasgow four years ago. Now that I've played so many tournaments I think I've gained more understanding."

It took Bajrang little over two minutes to pin down his Welsh opponent Kane Charig and wrap up a gold medal 10-0 on technical superiority. "Oh yes, I just wanted to finish the bout as soon as I could. Bahut tagda tayyari ki thi, woh kaam aa gaya aaj. (My solid preparation came in handy).

He kept none of the credit for India's sole wrestling gold medal on Friday to himself though, offering it all with a touch of emotion and worshipful reverence to the man he credits for his journey in the sport.

"I've grown as a wrestler under Yogeshwar and whatever I am and whatever I've achieved is because of him. He decided to retire so that I could wrestle in his category but if in future he ever decides to make a comeback, I will move away from this weight category. I won't wrestle with him. You can call it love for a brother or respect for a teacher."


For young Pooja Dhanda, defending champion Odunayo Adekuoroye was quite a handful in the 57 kg category. The singing-dancing-wrestling gold medallist from Nigeria raced to a 3-1 lead in the first few minutes following a takedown and a tentative Pooja, who couldn't pick up any points for her attack in the first round, was soon staring at a 6-1 deficit. In the dying minutes, she managed to pin Odunayo to get to 6-5 but that was all the time there was for a fightback.

"I had beaten her (Odunayo) at the Pro Wrestling League and came into this bout thinking I had a good chance against her. If I could perform in Round 2 like I did in Round 1 the result and the medal would have been very different," she said in between sniffles, pressing her palms over her eyes. "Of course I'm proud to have a medal. But I think I just couldn't attack enough or the gold would have been mine."


Heavyweight wrestler Mausam Khatri, who struck upon big money two years ago after winning the Bharat Kesari Kushti Dangal and a one crore prize money, shook his head with a gutted look on his face, sweat dripping off his chin. What hurt him was that he'd beaten his final bout opponent, South Africa's Martin Erasmus in the past. "At the Commonwealth Championships he'd lost to me. So it's disappointing when you think you're in line for a gold and have to go back home with a silver. It's hard to make peace with that."

His eyes though lit up when talking of the changes in his life after turning 'crorepati'.

"Yes, I found a wife after that."