Deepak Punia struck gold in his maiden Commonwealth Games campaign as he reigned supreme in the men's 86kg freestyle category in Birmingham on Friday, defeating two-time CWG gold medallist and defending champion, Muhammad Inam of Pakistan. This was India's third gold in wrestling at CWG 2022 so far, with Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia winning earlier.
Facing off against the defending champion, Deepak did not look circumspect at all, with plenty of aggression, forcing the experienced Inam into a passivity warning, and even managed to push him out of bounds in the interim, thus scoring two. Inam continued to be forced onto the defensive by Punia, as they played out the first period.
40 seconds into the second period, Deepak chased Inam with an attempted takedown, with the Pakistani wrestler eluding him. The Indian eventually forced him out of bounds in a standing position, scoring another point. Deepak held off Inam's challenge as the second period progressed, eventually attempting a takedown in the final seconds but it was a moot point as he went on to win by points, 3-0.
Earlier, Deepak had defeated Mathew Oxenham of New Zealand and Sheku Kassegbama of Sierra Leone by technical superiority. He went on to beat Alexander Moore of Canada by points (3-1) in the semifinal to make it to the gold contest.
Deepak had narrowly missed out on the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He'd led San Marino's Myles Amine for a large majority of the contest but succumbed to a last-gasp takedown and was relegated to a fifth-place finish.
Deepak had a fairly good year in 2022. He began the year with a bronze medal at the Yasar Dogu tournament in Turkey. He followed it up with a silver medal at the Asian wrestling championships in Mongolia in April, after losing to Kazakhstan's Azamat Dauletbekov. This was Deepak's second consecutive silver and fourth continental medal,
He then won bronze at the U23 Asian Wrestling Championships in Kyrgyzstan after defeating Kazakhstan's Maksat Satybaldy in June.
Deepak's biggest medal prior to his gold tonight was his silver medal at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships.