Ravi Kumar Dahiya became just the second Indian wrestler to win an Olympic silver after losing 7-4 to ROC's Zavur Uguev in the men's 57kg final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Thursday. Sushil Kumar is the only other Indian to make the gold medal bout - he won silver at the 2012 Olympics in London.
This is India's second silver medal at this Olympics. They had previously won a silver through Mirabai Chanu (weightlifting), and three bronzes through PV Sindhu (badminton), Lovlina Borgohain (boxing) and the men's hockey team respectively.
This is the fourth consecutive Olympics where India has won a wrestling medal. India's previous medals in wrestling came through KD Jadhav (bronze in 1952), Sushil (bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012), Yogeshwar Dutt (bronze in 2012) and Sakshi Malik (bronze in 2016).
Deepak Punia narrowly missed out on a medal after losing 2-4 to San Marino's Myles Amine in the men's 86kg category's bronze medal bout on Thursday.
Uguev had come into the match on a 25-match winning steak and has won gold in this category at each of the last two World Championships. The Russian is a master of the mat, inventive, technically brilliant and also had a win over Ravi at the World Championships.
Uguev used all his experience in the first period to open up a 4-2 lead. He then pushed Ravi out of the mat at the beginning of the second period to increase his lead to 5-2. Ravi was then cautioned for not engaging and Uguev effected another takedown to increase the lead to 7-2. Ravi then won a couple of points to reduce the lead to 7-4. Ravi exerted a lot of pressure over Uguev in the last 90 seconds but the World Champion's defence was formidable and hard to break down.
When the draw was announced, it had seemed that fate was smiling on Ravi, who had won a bronze at the last World Championships. He faced Oscar Tigreros Urbano in the first round and then Giorgi Vangelov in the quarterfinals, both of whom were dispatched with ease, Ravi winning by technical superiority --- the official term for a 10-point margin during a bout.
Ravi then faced a much tougher opponent in the semifinal in the form of Kazakhstan's Nurislam Sanayev. Sanayev is a two-time Worlds medalist, having won silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019. He also went to win bronze at this Olympics earlier on Thursday. Against Sanayev - who entered the match with a head injury suffered earlier on Wednesday, Ravi had to employ every last bit of his skill to give himself a shot of reaching the final. A lapse in concentration led to him being trapped in an ankle lace - his 2-1 lead became a 9-2 deficit. But Ravi wasn't done. Prior to Sanayev's eight point burst, he had been pulling Sanayev one way and another, leaning on him, exhausting him. Now it seemed Sanayev had burnt himself out in extending that lead and was satisfied with parking the bus.
In his quarterfinal against Japan's Yuki Takahashi, Sanayev had grabbed his opponent's singlet to deny him leverage and claimed injury to earn rest time. He tried the same with Ravi but it didn't work.
With the match at 9-5 in Sanayev's favour, and about a minute and ten seconds left on the clock, Sanayev claimed another injury, to his leg. He took another minute and a half off but, rather than get frustrated, Ravi calmed himself down - pacing around the mat for Sanayev to return. When he did, the pressure was back on. This time, Ravi shot a double leg takedown and then transitioned to a chest wrap with the Kazakh's shoulder blades an inch above the canvas. In desperation, he appeared to bite at Ravi's bicep but there was no release, not until the referee slapped the mat and blew his whistle to announce the pin.
Second seed Deepak had lost to former world champion David Morris Taylor III in the semis of the men's 86kg category on Wednesday. Taylor eventually went on to win gold in the category.
Deepak had made the most of an easy draw by getting past Nigeria's Ekerekeme Agiomor, the African championship bronze medalist in his opening bout. The Nigerian was agile but Deepak was technically sound and won comfortably.
He then defeated China's Lin Zushen in a very tightly-contested quarterfinal to add an Olympics semis appearance to his silver medal at the last World Championships.
He opened up a 3-1 lead but Lin effected a takedown to draw level 3-3 and head on criteria. The referee awarded two points to Deepak for a throw but the decision was overturned after a successful challenge by China.
With just 10 seconds to go, Deepak would have seen his Olympic hopes dim. Then with the Chinese wrestler content to hold on for the win, Deepak ducked his hips, lifted Zushen off the mat, turned him over and got behind him with the very last action of the match. The Chinese team protested but it was almost out of frustration. The late takedown and the point for a failed protest meant Deepak had reached the semifinals of the Olympics.