With a month to go for the World Championships, two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and two-time Worlds medallist Bajrang Punia delivered contrasting results on Friday. Bajrang Punia, India's best bet among the men, indicated his strong form by picking up his fourth gold medal of the year at the Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia.
Punia beat Iran's Pejman Biabani 2-0 to claim the 65kg title. A day earlier, he beat Georgia's Akaki Kemertelidze 12-0. Punia has been defeated just once this year - by USA's Yianni Diakomihalis at a one-off match in New York in May. Prior to his win in Georgia, the 25-year-old has picked up victories at the prestigious Ali Aliev Tournament, the Dan Kolov tournament and the Asian Championships as he bids to improve on his silver medal from the 2018 World Championships.
Meanwhile, Sushil had a poor start to his campaign towards the World Championships as he was pinned on his return to competitive action after a first-round exit at the 2018 Asian Games. Sushil's return lasted all of 90 seconds as he was pinned by reigning Asian Games Champion Bekzod Abdurrakhmonov of Uzbekistan in the 74kg quarterfinals of the Medved International tournament in Belarus.
The Uzbek wrestler, who won bronze at the 2018 World Championships, got hold of Sushil's right leg and earned four points. He then pushed the Indian out of the mat to add two more. Another leg attack by Abdurrakhmonov had Sushil flummoxed and soon the Uzbek pinned the lndian to end the bout in just 90 seconds.
The result was a morale-sapping one for the 37-year-old Sushil, who is still not guaranteed a place at the World Championships. He has to take part in selection trials later this month to earn the right to represent India at the tournament .