Tokyo Olympics: Silver for Ravi, heartbreak for Deepak Punia and Vinesh on a day of misses for Indian wrestler
Chiba (Japan), Aug. 5 (PTI): Ravi Dahiya on Thursday became only the second Indian wrestler to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games but Vinesh Phogat’s redemption dream came crashing down after a shock quarterfinal exit and Deepak Punia let slip a bronze in the last 10 seconds of his play-off bout here on Thursday.
There were huge expectations from Dahiya for a gold medal after his phenomenal semifinal victory but the reigning world champion Zavur Uguev of Russian Olympic Committee dashed those hopes with a comfortable 7-4 win the men’s freestyle 57kg title clash.
Dahiya had lost to Uguev at the 2019 World Championship also.
Sushil Kumar, who is now in jail on charges of a murder, is the only other Indian wrestler to have made the final at Olympics.
Dahiya tried every possible trick in his bag but Uguev defended extremely well and kept consolidating his lead with his timely point-scoring moves.
Looking at a bigger picture, Dahiya’s silver medal will further inspire the young generation but star Indian wrestler Vinesh was left to endure a second consecutive heart-breaking quarterfinal exit from the Olympic Games after a massive upset defeat at the hands of Belarus’ Vanesa Kaladzinskaya.
Vinesh had no answer to the supreme defence of Vanesa, who got her revenge from the Indian at the biggest stage after suffering a similar embarrassing defeat ‘by fall’ earlier this year in Ukraine.
Later, Vanesa lost her semi-final to China’s Qinyu Pang on criteria after scores were tied 2-2, a result that brought curtains on Vinesh’s campaign at the Tokyo Games.
The top-seeded Vinesh, who was a hot favourite for a medal, needed Vanesa to beat the Chinese to rejoin the 53kg competition through the repechage round and push for a bronze.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Vinesh had suffered a quarterfinal defeat against China’s Sun Yanan after enduring a leg injury and was stretchered out of the mat.
In the men’s freestyle 86kg category, Deepak Punia came agonisingly close to winning a bronze medal on his Olympic debut but conceded a take-down in last 10 seconds of the play-off against San Marino’s Myles Nazem Amine to miss out on achieving the feat.
Deepak’s defence was superb throughout the bout but the San Marino wrestler grabbed the decisive two-pointer after getting hold of the Indian’s right leg and converted it into a take-down in dying moments of the bout.
The 22-year-old Indian, son of a milk peddler in a Haryana village, was leading 2-1 before that take-down but it was not meant to be his day.
Deepak made good use of a favourable draw to reach the semifinals but lost to the formidable American David Morris Taylor.
He earlier got past Nigeria’s Ekerekeme Agiomor, the African championship bronze medallist by technical superiority and then prevailed 6-3 over China’s Zushen Lin in the quarterfinal.
Young Anshu Malik also bowed out of the 57kg competition after losing her repechage round 1-5 to Russia’s Valeria Koblova, the Rio Olympics silver medallist.
Anshu never looked intimidated by a stronger opponent and was leading the bout at one stage on criteria but towards the end, the Russian pulled off a two-pointer to nose ahead.
The 19-year-old Indian had lost her opener to European champion Irina Kurachikina but after the Belarusian progressed to the final, she bounced back to be in contention.
India’s gold medal hopes now rest on Bajrang Punia, who will begin his campaign on Friday against Kyrgyzstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev.
Bajrang has got a decent draw and reaching the semifinals should not be a problem for him.
Seema Bisla is now the only Indian woman wrestler left in the fray. She will begin her campaign in the 50kg category, where she will face Tunisia’s Sarra Hamdi, the African championship bronze medallist.
If she crosses the first hurdle, she will up against world champion Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan.