Bajrang Punia had to settle for silver at the Wrestling World Championships after losing to Japan's Takuto Otoguro in the men's 65kg final at the Lazlo Papp Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest on Monday.
While he is the first Indian to win multiple medals at World Championships, double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar still remains the only Indian gold medallist, with his 2010 win in Moscow. Punia's previous medal was at the 2013 Championships at the same venue, when he won bronze as a 19-year-old in his debut.
Competing in his fifth World Championships, it is abundantly clear that Bajrang has improved tremendously since the 2013 edition. The 23-year-old won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and the Asian Games in Jakarta. He had also won titles at the Tbilisi Grand Prix and the prestigious Yasar Dogu tournament in Turkey. His only other loss this year was against Japan's Daichi Takatani at the Asian Championships, a defeat he avenged at the Asian Games.
Bajrang would readily share much of the credit for his achievement to Georgian coach Shako Bentinidis, who began working with him in February this year. Since then, Bajrang has made a marked improvement in his defence, holding out small leads in the desperate final periods of bouts.
Bajrang did the same in Budapest. His tactic has been forcing his opponents to attack before hitting them on the counter. His bouts have not been high scoring affairs - he beat Roman Ahsarin (9-4) in his opening contest, followed by a 4-0 win over Seungchul Lee, a 5-3 win over Tulga Tumur Ochir in the quarterfinals and a 4-3 win over the giant-killer Valdes Tobier in the semis - but they have been marked by defensive solidity.