Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia storm into Olympic semifinals

United States David Morris Taylor III, (left) and Indias Deepak Punia compete in the mens 86kg Freestyle semi-final wrestling match at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday
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United States' David Morris Taylor III, (left) and India's Deepak Punia compete in the men's 86kg Freestyle semi-final wrestling match at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday

Highlights

Dahiya’s sensational ‘pin down’ of Sanayev wins laurels

Chiba (Japan) : Ravi Dahiya on Wednesday became only the second Indian wrestler to qualify for the title clash at the Olympic Games, when he sensationally turned around the 57kg semifinal bout by pinning Kazakhstan's Nurislam Sanayev, here on Wednesday.

Before Dahiya, who is son of a Haryana farmer, Sushil Kumar was the only Indian to make the gold medal bout at the 2012 London Games but had to settle for a silver. The fourth seed Indian trailed 2-9 after Sanayev effected a few 'fitley' (leg lace) but as the clocked ticked away, Dahiya regrouped and got hold of his rival with a double leg attack that resulted in a 'victory by fall'.

Despite a huge deficit, Dahiya did not panic, showing tremendous mental strength and dramatically turned the bout in his favour. After the end of the first period, Dahiya had a 2-1 lead but Sanayev came prepared and attacked the Indian's left leg, getting a good grip of that turned him thrice to log six points in a jiffy.

Suddenly Dahiya's lead was gone and he was staring at a defeat but his superior stamina and technical prowess was still at work.

The remaining one minute was enough for him to turn the tide and he did it in style. He got hold of Sanayev with a double leg attack and then gripped him tightly, Kazkahstan

wrestler's back on the mat and finished the bout with a might 'pin'

He is now only the fifth Indian wrestler to have won an Olympic medal after KD Jadhav, Sushil Kaumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sakshi Malik. Jadhav had become India's first wrestler and also the first individual Olympic medallist when he won a bronze during the 1952 Helsinki Games.

After that, Sushil Kumar enhanced wrestling's profile by winning a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and bettered the colour of the medal by claiming a historic silver in 2012 at the London Games that made him India's only athlete with two individual Olympic medals. The feat since then has now been matched by shuttler PV Sindhu.

In the same 2012 edition of the Games, Yogeshwar Dutt won a bronze. Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal when she took a bronze in the 2016 Rio Games. This could well be a watershed Games for Indian wrestling with both Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia also in contention.

Deepak made the most of an easy draw by getting past Nigeria's Ekerekeme Agiomor, the African championship bronze medallist by technical superiority and then prevailed 6-3 against China's Zushen Lin in the quarterfinal. In the 86kg, the Nigerian had the power but Deepak was technically sound and won comfortably.

Against Lin, though, the 22-year-old Indian struggled. He opened up a 3-1 lead but Lin effected a takedown to make it 3-3 and head on criteria. The referee awarded two points to Deepak for a throw but the Chinese won the challenge. With just 10 seconds to go and Chinese ahead on criteria, Deepak managed to get under Lin and with his strong grip pulled both of Lin's legs in the air and threw him for a two-pointer to clinch the contest.

He will now be up against 2018 world champion American David Morris Taylor. The only disappointing result for India on the mat was the 2-8 defeat of Anshu Malik against European champion Irina Kurachikina.

Asian champion Anshu made a strong comeback after conceding a 0-4 lead against the Belarusian with two push out points. She also managed to get hold of Kurachikina's right leg but could not complete the move.

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