Bajrang loses semifinal in controversial manner

Bajrang loses semifinal in controversial manner
Bajrang Punia

Debutant Ravi emerges an unlikely hero for India with semis spot as both wrestlers qualify for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) (PTI): Bajrang Punia lost his semifinal bout against home wrestler Daulet Niyazbekov under controversial circumstances after sealing his Tokyo Olympics quota along with Ravi Dahiya, who made his presence felt in a star-studded field at the World Wrestling Championships here on Thursday.

Bajrang's frustrated coach Shako Benitidis kicked the coach's block in anger after the 65kg bout ended 9-9 following a nerve-wracking six minutes. Since Niyazbekov was given a bigger throw of four points in the bout, he was declared the winner. In the fiercely-fought bout, the referee gave ample time to tiring Niyazbekov to catch his breath and he was not given caution at least thrice. Instead Niyazbekov was awarded four points when it was Bajrang who effected a throw at the edge of the circle.

"I challenged it and they should have given at least two points to Bajrang for that hold," said coach Benitidis. Several times, Bajrang raised his hands in frustration but to no avail. The last edition silver medallist Indian will now fight for the bronze on Friday.

Ravi, who felled a few stars on his way to the 57kg semifinals, lost 4-6 to reigning world champion Zaur Uguev of Russia and will also fight for the bronze. Ravi also made it to the Tokyo Olympics in the 57kg after stunning Arsen Harutunyan, the 61kg European champion from Armenia and 2017 world champion and world number three Yuki Takahashi of Japan.

Making good use of an easy 65kg draw, Bajrang steam-rolled one opponent after another earlier in the day to reach the semifinals. Bajrang did not have to work much in going past Poland's Krzysztof Bienkowski in the opening round. He easily beat his opponent 9-2. Bajrang's next opponent was David Habat who did not bother the Indian much though the Slovenian twice had his right leg in his clutches. The first chance was in first period from ground position and then in the standing position after the break.

The Slovanian, surprisingly, could not exploit the advantageous position. In the quarterfinals against Korea's Jong Choi Son, Bajrang lost a point for stepping out but won the bout comfortably 8-1 after that. In an incredible debut, Ravi Dahiya won the first two bouts by technical superiority in the 57kg. In a remarkable turnaround he erased a six-point deficit to log 17 points in a row with his counter-attack to shock Arsen Harutunyan, the 61kg European champion from Armenia.

What was impressive about Ravi was that despite trailing 0-6, he kept his cool and stayed in the bout and eventually found a way to tear apart the defence of the Armenian. There was a bit of drama towards the end when Armenia challenged the bout-finishing point. After much delay and watching replays, Ravi was declared the winner. Ravi's first victim was Korea' Sunggwon Kim. In the quarterfinals against Yuki Takahashi, one of the toughest to beat in 57kg, Ravi showed tremendous composure to eke out a 6-1 win.

The Indian did not let the formidable Japanese play his game as he restricted his famous swift movement.

Sakshi Malik loses in opening round: Ace wrestler Sakshi Malik on Thursday came out with a disappointing performance as she lost 7-10 to Aminat Adeniyi of Nigeria in the opening round of the women's freestyle 62-kg weight category. The Rio Olympic bronze medallist was slow to get off the blocks and conceded a 0-6 lead before scoring her first take down. She did fight back in the second round but the gap was too big to fill as she eventually lost 7-10.

Sakshi will now have to pray that Adeniyi manages to reach the final so that she can have a shot at the bronze medal via repechage. Earlier, Divya Kakran also had a difficult opening bout against Olympic champion Sara Dosho of Japan as she lost the bout 0-2 in the 68-kg weight category. Divya would be hoping that Dosho reaches the final and she can make it to the repechage round.

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