Wrestler Bajrang Punia won a gold medal for India at CWG 2022© AFP
Bajrang Punia gave India its first gold medal in the sport of wrestling at the ongoing Commonwealth Games 2022, as he beat Canada’s Lachlan McNeil in the men’s 65kg freestyle wrestling final. A few minutes later, 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik outwitted Canada’s Ana Gonzalez in the women’s 62kg category to add a second gold from the sport for India. The joy on the mat didn’t end there as Deepak Punia added the third gold of the night by beating Pakistan’s Muhammad Inam in the men’s 86kg category.
Bajrang is an Olympic bronze medallist (Tokyo 2020) and also has another gold and a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games to his name. He has one silver and two bronze medals to his name in World Championships. Bajrang started his Commonwealth Games career with a silver in the 61kg category in Glasgow in 2014. He won a silver in Asian Games in Incheon, the same year. He moved up to the 65kg category in 2018 and won the gold at CWG in Gold Coast and followed it up with an Asiad gold in Jakarta. The biggest moment of his career came in 2021 when he became an Olympic medallist, picking up the bronze in Tokyo.
For Sakshi Malik on the other hand, this is a first gold medal at CWG. She won a silver in the 58kg category in 2014 and a bronze in the 62kg category in 2018.
For Deepak, a World Championships silver medallist in 2019, this is a first major gold medal at a senior event.
It was a technically perfect bout from Bajrang in the final as he beat the Canadian 9-2 on points.
Such was Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang’s dominance in the 65kg competition that he won three of his four bouts inside first rounds.
The 28-year-old defending champion beat Naurau’s Lowe Bingham and Mauritius’ Jean Guyliane Joris Bandou ‘by fall’ before winning by technical superiority against England’s Geroge Ramm.
Canada’s Lachlan Maurice McNeil fought well against Bajrang but the Indian was far superior in technique and stamina.
Bajrang has been struggling to play freely since last year and his over defensive tactics put a question-mark over his ability to extend his dominance in international arena but on Friday he made his moves without inhibition.
However, the CWG is not the best platform to judge if Bajrang has got his mojo back because of the inferior field quality.
(With PTI inputs)
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